After a postponement for wet weather two weeks ago the “Junior Team Golf” England Final at the Romanby Golf and Country Club, Northallerton (North Yorkshire) got under way on Sunday 25th October.
Filmed by Sky Sports, Peterborough Milton, winners of the Midland Regional Qualifier earlier in the month, and reigning Northants Junior Club Champions, were facing tough opposition on the 6,663 yards course. The team had been almost drowned in severe storms during Saturday's attempted practice round and although dry on Sunday, strong winds and very soft fairways made for a difficult day's golf.
The competing teams were from far and wide, Essex, Cornwall, Dorset, West Yorkshire and the local favourites Rudding Park based in Harrogate, and good scores were difficult to come by as the players battled the conditions and testing course layout. The host club had their members out in force accompanying each of the 12 matches, checking scores, dealing with bunkers, and flags, and great credit goes to the Club and Junior Team Golf's officials and the 36 players for a fantastic day's golf enjoyed by parents and golfers alike.
Milton's team did not get off to the best of starts as lead player Jacob Williams (h/c 2) found the trees on the heavily wooded first hole. Jacob was to make a double bogey at the first and have a difficult few holes eventually going out in 43 shots. Behind him Rylan Thomas (h/c 4) was in great form dropping only one shot on the tough par 5 5th hole and lipping out for a birdie at the 581 yard 9th to card 37. Euan Herson (h/c 6 Team Captain) was also off to a flier, level par after 4 but then double bogied the 5th, though steady pars helped him towards a 39 front 9 and level nett par. Kai Raymond, PMGC's youngest player h/c 8 also started well but a few errors crept in to keep him at 43 for the front 9. One group back Charlie Pearce (h/c 8) was having ha dream start to a round that was to set up what was to become PMGC's best individual nett score of the day. He began with a massive drive at the first and narrowly missing birdie. But for a 3 putt he would have been level par gross after 6 holes. He drove the next, a tempting 251 yard par 4 which had out of bounds to the right, leaving a short tap in eagle putt of less than four feet which he executed perfectly. He almost birdied the next par 3, and made light of the long par 5 9th going out in 35 shots, 1 under par. Lastly, Matty Mills (h/c 20 playing off 18 maximum) had also made a good start. Milton's hero from the County Championships, and level par performer in the regional finals, Matty had played the first 8 holes in just 36 shots, but a series of lost balls on the 9th cost him a 10 on his card though 46 meant he was still playing to handicap !
At halfway PMGC were well behind Rudding Park, but possibly lying joint 2nd , so with two teams progressing to the Home Nations Final supporters were cautiously optimistic. While Jacob was steadying the ship over the back 9, with a more respectable 38, his 81 total meant PMGC needed some strong play. With hopes pinned on Rylan, the news filtered across that he had fallen foul of the thickly wooded 590 yards par 5 12th. Encountering serious tree trouble he eventually came off with a 9. Many players would have folded, but Rylan bounced back with par, birdie, par, par and a finish which included a scrambled par 4 out of the trees at 17 and a sensational recovery on 18 out of the light rough. Swinging close to the trees he flew in a superb wedge, holed out for birdie and a gross 75 (nett 71). Meanwhile Euan who had dropped 4 shots in two holes on the back 9 rallied to grind out a gross 80, and useful nett 74, though a top 2 finish was looking out of reach as good scores came in from Rudding Park, Falmouth(Cornwall) and The Warren (Essex).
However, a couple of groups behind, Charlie Pearce was maintaining early his strong display and despite the odd setback, another calm par at the 18th and a back 9 of 40 gave him a 75 gross and the best nett score of the day at 67. Suddenly Milton were right back in the mix, although Matty Mills was unable to repeat his heroic performances from the preceding rounds he still finished with a super par and a 99 gross (nett 81).
With the organisers working over time and the mathematics too difficult to calculate, the PMGC total (1 gross plus best 4 nett) looked to be a couple of shots too many to make the top two. However, Rudding Park had fallen away, and Falmouth were announced as runners-up and, to the great shock and delight of the Peterborough contingent, Milton were announced as the winners and England Champions for 2020.
The winning margin looked to be as little as perhaps 1 or 2 shots but we now qualify for the Home Nations Final – to be held at Forest Pines in 2021- with the title of Junior inter-club England Champions.