KNOWN as The McGregor Trophy, the England Golf junior championship returns to its spiritual home at Radcliffe-on-Trent, in Nottinghamshire, next week.
So any spectators who attend over the three days from July 16-18 can expect to see players who will graduate to the European Tour – and most likely prove to be winners in waiting.
The likes of Jim Payne – one of only two players to have successfully defended the McGregor in 37 years – Steve Webster, Graeme Storm, Oliver Fisher and Paul Waring, who won the Nordea Masters in Sweden last summer, adorn the honours board at the club, which created the first national Under 16 event, and was adopted by the English Golf Union in 1993.
Two years later Rose, a member at North Hants, would claim The McGregor at Radcliffe-on-Trent – just days before the future US Open winner would become the only player to land the U16 and U18 titles in the same season by winning The Carris at Burnham & Berrow.
As well as attracting the best young players from England many of the Continent’s top teenage talents head for these shores in July to test themselves in The McGregor, including the younger Molinari brother, who won in 1996.
Dutch golf had high hopes for Wouter de Vries when he won the trophy at Rotheram in 2003, while the likes of Middlesborough’s Michael Skelton, Ealing’s Yasin Ali and Combe Wood’s James Heath, all became leading English junior and men’s internationals after claiming the English U16 crown.
In more recent times, Goodwood’s Marco Penge claimed the title at Seacroft in the North East, in 2015, while Denmark’s Rasmus Hjogaard has graduated to the European Challenge Tour – along with his twin brother Nicolai – just three years after Rasmus’ win at Royal Ashdown Forest.
Denmark’s John Axelson who won in 2014 – the last time Radcliffe-on-Trent hosted The McGregor – was runner-up in the medal honours after the 36-hole strokeplay qualifier at The Amateur Championship, at Portmarnock, last month.
Last year’s champion – Stoke Park’s Conor Gough, who won at Kedleston Park, in Derbyshire – went on to become the 2018 Boys’ Amateur Champion, while runner-up Ben Schmidt, from Rotherham GC, became the youngest-ever Brabazon Trophy winner in 70 years, in May.
This year’s championship will feature players from 16 countries. Among those aiming to keep the trophy in English hands is Hagley’s Hugh Adams, from Worcestershire, who won the English U14s Reid Trophy last year.
Adams showed his strong nerves then, coming through a four-hole play-off to take the title at Reading GC.
Others likely to be in the mix are Dubai-based Josh Hill, who was in England’s winning team at the 2018 Boys’ Home Internationals and the U16 internationals Josh Berry, from Doncaster GC, Stoke Park’s Tom Gregory, and Welwyn Garden City’s Reis Suart – plus Royal Liverpool’s Matthew Dodd-Berry, who won the Midland U16 Championship earlier this year.
Among the international challengers will be players from the other home countries and many European nations, with Spain and Italy both sending large squads.
The championship returns every five years to Radcliffe-on-Trent, where it began in 1982, and was played for the first 17 years.
The McGregor Trophy is played over 72 holes. The full field plays 18 holes on each of the first two days with the leading 40 and ties qualifying for the final 36 holes on the last day.