Land of Open glory as juniors swing for accolades

DRIVE TIME: Alex English, the best Under-14 on the day, tees off. msfp-10-04-12 RA-100
DRIVE TIME: Alex English, the best Under-14 on the day, tees off. msfp-10-04-12 RA-100
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NEARLY 150 junior golfers showcased their talents on the rolling fairways and lush greens of Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club on Tuesday in the biggest tournament of its kind in East Anglia.

Just a couple of days after American Bubba Watson had captured the golfing world’s imagination with a superb display at Augusta to clinch the Masters, the inspired cream of junior golfers from around the region set out to follow in his footsteps.

With many of the field having burning ambitions of making a living out of the game they love, 147 juniors ranging from 12 to 18 years old went head-to-head in the boys and girls categories playing a round each on the Gainsborough and Constable courses for a total of 36 holes.

And although the homegrown players did not clinch any of the main silverware this year, Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Secretary Adrian Bullock hailed another successful Junior Open at the Essex-affiliated club who have European Tour player Jamie Moul as their playing professional – with so many clamouring to play in the event they had to limit numbers.

“The standard of golf was very high and it was a fabulous day’s golf,” he said. “We had the best ever field competing with 63 golfers with single figure handicaps from both the boys and girls.

“We had 147 playing with over 180 juniors wanting to play — unfortunately we had limit the numbers.”

Amid sunny and windy conditions on the two championship courses in the Cleveland sponsored event, the boys’ gross champion came from just down the A131 with Braintree’s Todd Clements hitting his way to a 150 gross score. The runner-up was Mark Fosker from Felixstowe with 151.

The girls’ gross champion was Ashley Greenham, from West Essex, with 154 while the runner-up was Ashley Croft from Thorpe Hall with 160.

Meanwhile, notable home performances were headed up by 12-year-old Alex English (handicap 17), who won the under-14 net prize and best under-14 Gainsborough gross score with scores of 82 and 90.

Fourteen-year-old Sam O’Brien, an Essex county player who plays off a handicap of three, hit a gross of 159, just nine off the winning score.

Charlie Sergeant, an under-18 player who is a previous Stoke-by-Nayland Junior Open champion and plays off a handicap of four, also finished just outside the winning score, with a gross of 158.

Jack Chalmers, also classed as an under-18 player, who plays off a handicap of nine, scored gross 162, while Stoke’s under-18 junior captain Ben Kenell (handicap 14) carded 179 gross with one round under his handicap and one round over.

The Stoke-by-Nayland Junior Open has run since 1992 and gradually risen to the biggest junior event in the eastern region and one of the largest in the country. Next year’s event has already been scheduled for Tuesday, April 9.

Awards for the day, presented in the Devora Suite in a presentation ceremony attended by junior golfers, directors, official guests and parents, also included the Team Gross going to West Essex and the Team Net going to Branham Broom.