BREAKING NEW GROUND
Golf Monthly|October 2021
The innovative mixed English U18 Championship saw 132 players battling it out for a single trophy at Farnham Golf Club
MATT CRADDOCK

After the trials and tribulations of a Covid-hit 2020, the English Women’s Amateur was unfortunately cancelled and the decision was made to combine the Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships at Woodhall Spa. The event turned out to be a great success, which got James Crampton, director of championships at England Golf, thinking.

“We decided we were going to continue with that going forward,” Crampton says, “and I came up with the idea of running an Under-18 Championship where the boys and girls play directly against each other.”

In the past, England Golf’s junior events and championships have been open to international players, with representatives from over 20 countries regularly attending. This new English U18 Championship, open to home players only, was a perfect opportunity to replicate a format that has worked in its men’s and women’s events.

Farnham Golf Club in Surrey was assigned the task of staging the ground-breaking event. Its last ‘big’ competition was held some 26 years ago, the 1995 R&A Senior Amateur Championship. But, with the club celebrating its 125th anniversary, it seemed an ideal venue for this new event.

“For a while now we’ve been keen to host some elite events,” says Ben Beagley, general manager at Farnham Golf Club. In preparation for its quasquicentennial anniversary (yes, there is a word for a 125-year anniversary), the course had undergone a major facelift, quite literally, with new eco-bunkers armed with AstroTurf faces and a different style of sand being plotted around the 6,500-yard layout.

“We’ve been delighted with how the course has been progressing and thought we were ready for something fairly major. We wrote to England Golf, the Rose Ladies Series, and Surrey Golf to put ourselves forward. The timing for this event was absolutely perfect because, at that point, it was just a concept. They hadn’t finalized anything or even approved it, but I had a reply from England Golf saying there’s a possibility of this tournament on the horizon and would we be interested in hosting it? We thought ‘absolutely’ immediately!”

Living up to its billing

With a brand new championship and course in place, all that was needed were golfers. This didn’t prove to be too difficult as an entry list of some 330+ eager juniors had to be whittled down to a final 132, with a handicap ballot put in place – the final standing being +1 for boys and 2 for girls.

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