Just months before Scotland tees up for the Ryder Cup, the golfing stars of the future proved the sport is in tip top shape as they shone in East Lothian.
Filled with nail bitingly close putts, brilliantly played birdies, runaway victories, two holes-in-one and a dramatic final round, spectators would have been forgiven for thinking they were watching professionals at work.
Instead it was the finest pint sized golfing prodigies from across the globe showcasing their talent at this year’s U.S. Kids Golf European Championship which returned to East Lothian for its sixth year.
Alasdair Good, tournament co-ordinator, said: “It’s been another absolutely fantastic week for junior golf in East Lothian as the championships have grown to become a staple event on the junior golfing calendar.
“Not only have the quantity of players increased, the quality of play has also been of a tremendous standard, with some exceptional scores recorded across the age ranges.
“It was also reassuring to see that the winning scores were pretty close to par which means that our job of setting up the courses so they were proportionate to each age group worked well.
“I have no doubt in my mind that some of the talent on display this year will go on to compete on the professional circuit but in the meantime I look forward to welcoming them back next year to the championships, which now truly feel at home in East Lothian.”
Competitors from eight countries – United Kingdom (who had five age group winners), USA (4), Denmark (2), Slovenia (1), Czech Republic (1), Slovakia (1), Thailand (1) and Finland (1) – were all crowned European Champions.
Proving the sporting flair runs in the family, 9-year-old mini celeb, Allan Kournikova (brother of tennis ace Anna) scooped up his fourth consecutive victory in impressive style with no less than a 22-shot lead finishing -3 for the three rounds.
The competition also saw Rina Tatematsu from Thailand retain her crown in the Girls 12 category carding rounds of 73, 78 and 70 on Gullane No.3.
Chris Vonderkall of U.S. Kids Golf said: “Everyone involved in the championships agreed that this was the best year yet as everything seemed to effortlessly fall into place. It really is a true testament to everyone who worked so hard in the months leading up to the tournament.
“Not only was the golf outstanding but the camaraderie and etiquette of the young golfers was a joy to see and it was fantastic to watch friendships rekindle from previous years and new friendships form.”
“I’d like to thank everyone involved for their sheer enthusiasm and dedication to the smooth running of the tournament and I’d like to congratulate every player who took part as I’m sure it will be an experience they’ll never forget.”
With the odds of scoring the ultimate ace stacked at 3500 to one, two 7-year-old juniors, proved lady luck was on their side during the tournament, both recording holes-in-one at Longniddry.
The UK’s very own Luke Schmidt from Barnsley was the first player out of the 580 strong field to card a hole-in-one on the par-3 4th hole, with the impressive feat matched by Thailand’s Supapon Amornchaichan the following day on the 6th hole.
History was also made by fellow English player Jack Dirkin, who was the youngest player ever to take part in the competition aged just four.
Other Brits proving their mettle included Charlie Daughtrey from Rotherham who was crowned the Boys 13 champ, Conor White who picked up the Boys 15 -18 title and Kasumi Tran who brought home the bacon for the girls in the 8 & under category.
The winning competitors who topped their categories went on to compete in the Van Horn Cup. Modelled on the Ryder Cup, this event saw the international team beat the European entrants for their second consecutive win.
The Championships – played over five of Scotland’s most famous golf courses; Gullane No.2, Gullane No.3, Craigielaw Golf Club, Luffness New Golf Club and Longniddry Golf Club – is organised by the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation which is dedicated to promoting golf to young players and their families the world over.
In addition to picking up the individual European Championship trophies, each age group winner also won a place to the prestigious U.S. World Championship, which is being held at Pinehurst, North Carolina, later this summer.
About U.S. Kids Golf
The U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, a Georgia non-profit recognized as a 501(c)(3) charity, was created in 2001 and provides services that include competition and instruction. The Foundation organizes more than 750 golf tournaments for kids each year with over 10,000 individual players ages 5-18. These tournaments include Local Tours in more than 50 cities, 10 Qualifiers across the nation, seven Regional Championships, a European and Malaysia Championships and the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship and Teen World Championship, which are held each year in Pinehurst, N.C.
The vision of the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation is to provide kids and their families the opportunity participate in the game of golf through instruction and competition. They believe that family interaction is critical in the development of young golfers and encourage parents to serve as caddies for their kids during tournaments and to develop positive coaching techniques.
U.S. Kids Golf, LLC is based in Atlanta and manufactures equipment and related golf products designed for kids. It was created in 1997 when Founder/CEO Dan Van Horn found that his children were losing their interest in golf due to not having the proper equipment. In addition to more than 4,000 golf shops and retail locations in the United States, the company’s products also are available in over 75 countries worldwide.
For more information or to register for the U.S. Kids Golf European Championships, visit www.uskidsgolf.com.