Three young UK golfers have cemented their credentials as stars of the future by retaining their titles at a prestigious junior tournament in Scotland.
11-year old prodigies Eloise Healey and Max Martin fought off stiff competition at this year’s U.S. Kids Golf European Championship to emerge victorious in the Girls 11 and Boys 11 categories, while Surrey youngster Samantha Fuller triumphed in the Girls 9s.
The youngsters had all won European Championship titles at last year’s competition and were aiming to be the first competitors to retain a U.S. Kids Golf title on home soil.
In the end, Liverpool junior Eloise, Birmingham youngster Max and Samantha, from Kingston-upon-Thames, proved too good for the rest of the competitors in their age groups at this year’s tournament and emerged as runaway leaders.
The competition was organised by the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, which aims to promote the game of golf to young players and their families around the world. Officials said that the 2009 competition had been a tremendous success and that they were looking forward to hosting the event again in 2010.
Dan Van Horn, president of the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, said: “This has been a great event which has showcased the very best junior golf from around the world.
“The officials and staff from all of the golf clubs which have hosted this year’s championship have once again been tremendous. They have showed that they care passionately about developing young talent and have helped ensure that all of the competitors and their families had a very enjoyable tournament.
“The conditions have been slightly challenging during the week, but the players will have learned from the experience of playing in the East Lothian wind. I’m sure this will help them become better players in the future and I expect many of them will be eager to come back to tackle the courses again next year.
“The U.S. Kids Golf European Championship was designed to help young players bond and enjoy their time together on and off the course. Although they’re competing against each other, it has been wonderful to see so many young players form new friendships during their time in East Lothian.
“Our inaugural event last year was a great success and this year has been even bigger and better. We’re now looking forward to bringing the event back to Scotland in 2010.”
Hole in One
Tournament organisers also hailed the standard of golf on display during the event, which included a number of sub-par rounds across the courses and even a hole-in-one by young Indian competitor Seher Kaur Atwal in the Girls 10s section.
Alastair Good, tournament co-ordinator and head professional at Gullane Golf Course, said: “The standard has been excellent this year and we’ve been very impressed with the way that these young players have performed. The conditions haven’t been easy, but many of the competitors have done very well on the course during the week.
“We were also delighted to see a hole-in-one by one of the players, which is always a highlight of any golf tournament. A hole in one at the age of 10, and during the added pressure of it being a competition round, is a tremendous achievement that many of her competitors – and the spectators watching – would be jealous of, so well done to Seher Kaur.”
Among the home-grown talent that emerged victorious in the competition was Rotherham junior Charlie Daughtrey, who triumphed in the Boys 8s section. Fellow Brit Marco Penge, from Horsham in West Sussex, won the Boys 10 section after shooting a 7-under round of 65 during the final day of the competition.
Irish competitor David Brady won the Boys 12 section, while other UK winners included Jake Spearpoint in the Boys 14s, Ryan Hampton in the Boys 9s and Amelia Taylor in the Girls 14s.
The competition attracted the attention of the Scottish Government, with sports minister Shona Robison attending the event to see some of the talent on display.
She said: “In the year of Homecoming and at a great time for golf in Scotland, I am delighted that this tournament returned to the home of the game.
“Golf is a big part of our culture, our identity and our economy in Scotland and taking up the sport is a fun and exciting way for children to enjoy being active and healthy. Clubgolf, our National Junior Golf Programme continues to make tremendous progress getting boys and girls involved in the game. Two thirds of primary five children in Scotland were introduced to one of our favourite national pastimes last year.
“This championship provides a huge boost to the local economy in East Lothian and help cements Scotland’s reputation for encouraging and developing the game of golf amongst young players. I hope that the competition will also boost tourism and encourage children from around the world taking part in the event and their families to return to visit Scotland in the future.”
The event was held over five historic courses in East Lothian – Gullane no.2, Gullane no.3, Killspindie, Luffness New and Craigielaw – and saw players compete for the title of European Champion, as well as for places at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst later this year.
During the competition, the courses are modified for each age group in order to provide the same level challenge – so holes are progressively shorter as the age groups get younger. It ultimately allows the players to reach the greens in the same number of strokes as the top pros on the PGA tour.
The tournament has been organised by the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation – an organisation launched in 2001 to provide opportunities for kids to play and learn the game through local tours and tournaments. Since holding its first tournament in 2000, the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation now runs some 400 events each year with 2008 World Championships attracting more than 1,200 players from 34 countries.