England regional squad players Charlie Hilton and Jess Baker came through nerve-tingling finishes to scoop the honours in the Midland U16 boys’ and girls’ championships at Hawkstone Park, Shropshire.
For both players (pictured) it was their first big win – and both demonstrated how well they can cope with pressure.
Hilton, from Ifield, Sussex, played the final three holes in one-under to force a play-off against Yorkshire’s Tom Osborne (Lindrick). He won the boys’ title on the first extra hole.
Baker, from Gosforth Park Ladies, Northumberland, was one-under for the last nine holes, overtaking the long-time girls’ leader, Mia Eales-Smith (Lindrick), and winning by a single stroke.
Hilton, an England U16 international, was leading by two shots after 36 holes but after three holes of the final round he was three over and he dropped another shot on the seventh.
“I just told myself to stay positive and keep going and I held it together well,” said the 16-year-old. He kick-started his round when he holed a confidence-boosting 9ft putt for birdie four on the 8th but, with three holes left, he knew he trailed Osborne by one.
The 16th, a short par four, offered Hilton a chance to catch up – and he took it, playing his pitch to about 3ft and holing the birdie putt to draw level. Two pars at 17 and 18 gave him a 54-hole total of level par and took him into the play-off which he won with a par on the first hole.
“It was good, I was really happy,” said Hilton, who now faces “revision, revision, revision” before taking his GCSE exams.
Baker, meanwhile, trailed the girls’ leader by three with nine holes left to play. But the 14-year-old began her charge with birdies on 10 and 11, followed by a string of pars which took her into the lead and even allowed her the luxury of a last-hole bogey.
Baker drew on the experience of last year’s English U14 girls’ championship when she was in contention, only to fall away and finish in a tie for seventh place. “I crumbled a bit under the pressure, but I’ve learned from that and I just went for pars. I didn’t try to do anything extraordinary, I just ground out a round,” she said.
Both players have also been helped by their England Golf regional U16 squad training which helps the players deal with pressure situations. Hilton trains with the South East squad while Baker is in the North squad.
Third place in the boys’ championship went to Dominic Clemons (Gog Magog, Cambridgeshire). Four players tied fourth: Ben Schmidt (Rotherham, Yorkshire), Remy Miller (Prestbury, Cheshire), Charlie Daughtrey (Rotherham, Yorkshire) and Tom Gregory (Stoke Park, BB&O).
In the girls’ championship Mia Eales-Smith (Lindrick, Yorkshire) was runner-up; Harriet Barker (Carus Green, Cumbria) was third and Katie Sibley (Carlisle, Cumbria) was fourth.
The team prize for the best regional squad was won by Thames Valley, with the best three scores from four counting over the first two rounds of the championship. The runners-up were Yorkshire, followed by the South East.