Yorkshire’s Ben Schmidt put the seal on a remarkable season with a three-shot victory in the English Boys’ County Champion of Champions tournament at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire.
The 16-year-old from Rotherham Golf Club played the 36-hole event in four-under par, with rounds of three-under 70 and 72. His closest rival was Lancashire’s Greg Holmes (Royal Birkdale) on one-under, while Suffolk’s George Fricker (Ufford Park) was third on level par.
Schmidt started his season’s successes with victory in the Yorkshire boys’ championship and soon followed up with second place in the English U16 boys’ open for the McGregor Trophy. He went on to win the men’s scratch tournament for the Lee Westwood Trophy, where he succeeded in a play-off which included a chip-in for a half and a winning birdie on the second sudden death hole.
PICTURE: LEADERBOARD PHOTOGRAPHY
Recently he has helped Yorkshire to victory in the Boys’ County Finals and claimed the runners-up trophy at the Italian U16 championship. He is also one of the first students to enrol in the newly created Wath Comprehensive Sixth Form Golf Scholars’ Programme.
The curriculum includes spending 13 hours a week at nearby Waterfront Golf where the students have a set programme for play and practice including six hours of tuition with Waterfront owner and PGA professional Frank Houlgate.
It all added up to a huge confidence boost and he arrived at Woodhall Spa – the home of England Golf – in the most positive frame of mind. “I was looking to win. I knew I’d had good form all season, and this was pretty much my last individual event, so I wanted to get it under my belt.”
In the first round he hit the greens, made the putts and capitalised on the par fives, giving himself a two-shot cushion over the field. In the afternoon he was very steady and very philosophical when his rivals – as expected – came at him.
Holmes was three-over in the first round but shot a charging four-under 69 this afternoon, while Fricker managed to tie Schmidt after 15 holes, with both players on three-under at that stage.
However, Fricker dropped back with his bogey, double, birdie finish; while Schmidt played the last three holes in par, birdie, par.
“I saw the leaderboards around the course and I knew it was close,” said Schmidt. “But I knew if I could finish level par (for the round) they would have to finish three or four under for their second round. If that happened I couldn’t fight it – but it was nice to get another birdie on 17 to seal things.”
With all the pressure on, Schmidt played a wedge from around 120 yards which finished just 5ft from the hole and he duly claimed his birdie. Playing the long 18th – where he went for it in the morning to score a birdie – he exercised caution, settled for a par and made certain of his victory.
For Schmidt, the best part of his season has been his performance with the putter. “I’ve never been the greatest putter, but I worked on it through the winter and when I had a week in Spain for pre-season training. It’s been massive for me, I feel more confident and that’s been the key this season.”
And his best result? It’s the Lee Westwood Trophy – for the manner of the win. “It was incredible,” he said.