England players Lottie Woad (pictured) and Will Horne have admitted this week’s ground-breaking English Under 18 Championship has captured the imaginations of the best boy and girl golfers in the country.
The innovative mixed championship – featuring 66 boys and 66 girls competing together for one trophy – takes place at Farnham Golf Club in Surrey from 25-27 June.
The inaugural event has been described by England Golf’s Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Tomlinson as ‘one of the highlights of our championship season.’
Modest Golf Management – owned by musician and golf enthusiast Niall Horan – is supporting the championship by offering a place at either a Challenge Tour or LET event for the leading boy and girl competitor.
Meanwhile, Alice Hewson – third in the recent Scandinavian Mixed event on the European Tour and Ladies’ European Tour – has backed the concept of the English Under 18 Championship as a positive step forward for the amateur game.
The boys and girls tee it up together in groups of three from Friday in a 72-hole scratch stroke play championship in the quest to find one winner.
As well as being featured extensively on England Golf’s social media channels, Content Live will be on site to broadcast live coverage each day from the course.
For England girls’ squad player Woad – a member at Farnham since the age of seven – the championship has added importance.
She said: “I’m looking forward to it as a new event and I think it’ll be cool to be a mixed event. It’s great to have it at your home club. I’ve played here all my life.
“Among the England girls’ squad we’ve been talking about it. We hope to beat the boys’ squad and all the rest of the boys!”
When entries opened in April, the response was phenomenal and it was over-subscribed within days.
The final field was decided on the basis of handicap index. The cut for boys came at +1 and two for girls.
Horne, from Thorndon Park Golf Club in Essex, reckons the event will be a huge success and fiercely competitive.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea to bring the two genders together,” he confirmed.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s on a great golf course and it will be a great competition.
“I think it appeals to the players because it’s unique and a new event and everyone wants to get stuck in and try it.
“There will be a lot of competition between boys and girls! No-one wants to lose.”
Thanks to the new WHS course and slope ratings it has been possible to decide appropriate tee sets for boys and girls and make sure that the test is equal for all competitors.
England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson said: “This promises to be one of the highlights of our championship season.
“I know the boys and girls are excited at the prospect of playing against each other for the one trophy.
“Let me assure you, the whole team at England Golf is just as excited to see how it unfolds over the three days!
“It promises to be a fantastic spectacle – a real celebration of junior golf and a chance to showcase the rising stars of the English game.
“To have a new and innovative championship where the best boys and girls from all over England practice together, tee it up together over three days and go head-to-head for the one prize is something England Golf is immensely proud to present.
“In Farnham Golf Club we have found a brilliant host club for the inaugural event and I’d like to thank them for the boundless energy and the enthusiasm they have shown when working with my team to pull this together.
“Modest Golf Management’s continued dedication to junior golf can be shown by their decision to support us at this event for the next three years with the offer of a place at either a Challenge Tour or LET event for the leading boy and girl.
“What an incredible added incentive!
“Golf is a sport that is modernising, breaking down old barriers and offering fresh opportunities for anyone who loves the game. This championship is another hugely positive step in that direction.
“I cannot wait to watch the drama unfold from Friday and, with the event being streamed live, I hope that golf fans from around the country will be able to get a flavour of the event for themselves.”
The recent success of a similar event on the main European Tour augurs well for this championship.
Former England Golf women’s international Hewson was third in Sweden and reckons the Under 18 Championship is a fantastic idea.
She said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the Scandinavian Mixed. It was an incredible event and such a great opportunity for the men’s and women’s game.
“I was with the England girls at a training weekend recently and I was very impressed with them. They all hit a long ball and were very consistent. It will be an exciting week and who knows who will come out on top?
“I’d have loved that opportunity when I was an amateur and it will be fun for all of them.”