Seventh heaven for Ben
Yorkshire’s Ben Schmidt became just the fourth golfer in history to win both the Brabazon Trophy and the Carris Trophy in the same calendar year when he won the English Boys’ Under 18 Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Moor Park Golf Club.
The teenager from Rotherham Golf Club, who also plays at Waterfront Golf, became the youngest ever winner of the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship (Brabazon Trophy) at Alwoodley in June and he completed a rare double when he claimed his second national title of the season in the boys’ equivalent in Hertfordshire.
His latest win saw him rise to a lofty seventh in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and must have strengthened his chances of a wildcard pick for the Walker Cup next month at Royal Liverpool.
He was not part of the initial 26-man squad or the revised 16 but was invited to the last get together at Hoylake – he couldn’t attend because it clashed with the Carris. However it’s hard to see how the selectors can leave him out.
He’s now ranked four places above Scot Euan Walker, who is in the 16, and the next highest ranked English player is Sheffield born Joe Pagdin in 30th spot. But he did not make the cut when it came to the final 16 and the next English player is Tom Sloman at 33rd, who is in the squad.
“I would love to make the team, but I will just have to wait and see,” said Schmidt who turned 17 a few days after his win at Moor Park. “It might take one more win this year, but I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.”
His wins in both the Brabazon Trophy and the Carris Trophy mean he joins Patrick Hine (1949), Sandy Lyle (1975) and Peter Baker (1985) as the only players to have achieved that feat.
Schmidt started the last day as favourite after opening with rounds of 72, 67 and 72, but in the end he had to battle all the way after dropping three shots over the first five holes before recovering to post a level par 72 and finish tied with Spain’s Rodrigo Martin on five-under par 283.
Martin holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green to tie with Schmidt but on the first extra hole he carved his tee shot into the trees on the right of the fairway and ultimately failed to get up and down from the edge of the green. Schmidt hit a wedge to 20-feet and two-putted for a winning par.
“It’s been a tough day,” Schmidt admitted. “I’ve not played my best golf, or anything like it, but I dug in and eventually found something on the back nine to help me get across the line.
“I didn’t really feel comfortable all day,” he added, “but I got the job done and I’m very pleased with that. It’s great to get another win under my belt.
“My goal this year was simply to play as much good golf as I could. I put a lot of work in over the winter. I was hoping that would pay off but not for one second did I think it would be anything like this. It’s been a bit mad but I’m really enjoying it.”
His puts his confidence down the stretch to a win early last year in the Yorkshire Boys.
“That wasn’t a big event in the scheme of things, but I came from behind there and it made me realise how important the back nine is. It gave me that winning feeling and thankfully it has continued.”
His performance at Alwoodley was witnessed by former Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards who is now England Golf’s Performance Director and Yorkshire secretary Jonathan Plaxton, a former chairman of the R&A selection committee.
Alister MacKenzie created a fearsome back nine at Alwoodley, but Schmidt took it apart, fearlessly hitting arrow like tee shots followed by superb approach shots, and the powers that be must have been mightily impressed.
“Playing the back nine so well all week at Alwoodley has been massive for my confidence and I drew upon that in the Carris,” he said.
The next stage of his amazing year will take place at Pinehurst when he tees it up at the US Amateur on Pinehurst’s no.2 and no.4 courses (Aug 12-19) and he goes there full of confidence. “I played there in a US Kids event and I’m really looking forward to going back.”
Once again, the Houlgate team of coach Frank and son Luca, who is Ben’s regular caddie, will be there to support him and Houlgate Snr is rightfully proud of his pupil who along with Luca and Charlie Daughtrey is a member of the Wath Comprehensive Golf Scholars’ programme.
If Ben emulates fellow Yorkshireman Matt Fitzpatrick, who became the first English winner since 1911 when he won at Brookline in 2013, he might just be the first name on the team sheet to face the Americans.