LILY HIRST produced a commanding performance to become the first Yorkshire player to win the English Girls’ County Champion of Champions tournament, at Woodhall Spa.
The Woodsome Hall golfer and Yorkshire junior champion carded rounds of 72 and 78 over the demanding Hotchkin course to win by six shots from England Girls’ squad member Rafiah Banday, from Surrey.
It is the biggest win of a career that started aged five at Outlane Golf Club, which became her back garden when her parents took over as steward and stewardess. She still lives in the clubhouse with mum Caroline and dad Nicholas who has moved on to a similar role at Normanton Golf Club.
“I just wandered out one day when I was about five and started to play…having the course right next to the house was fantastic and I soon fell in love with the game,” said Hirst.
Her coach is Outland professional Rob Booth, so she doesn’t have to travel far to keep her game in check.
Hirst’s decision to plot her way around the testing layout kept her well ahead of the pack. She explained: “I focused on keeping it risk-free throughout the first round and that one-under-par score really laid the platform for my win. It feels really good to have become the first player from Yorkshire to win this title.
“The bunkers, which are deep and extremely dangerous, were very much in play, so I concentrated on avoiding them and putting it in the right place on the greens, which are also tough. I attacked a bit more in the second round and was disappointed to run up a triple bogey on the front nine and then three-putt from 15ft for a bogey on the 10th by running my birdie putt too far by, but I steadied myself on the back nine.”
She didn’t expect to win, but found she wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the result. Hirst said: “It was a massive surprise, I thought I might finish in the top 10 so I’m really surprised to win. I was so shocked [coming off the 18th] I looked over to my dad and he had a massive grin on his face.”
“We had talked about trying to finish in the top 10 at the start of the week and my dad said, ‘aim for that and let your golf do the talking for you’.”
It proved to be sound advice from the nine handicapper who rarely gets the better of his one handicap daughter during their regular games.
“I give him a few shots, but usually beat him,” added Lily.
The 16-year-old is studying for a B-Tech in Business and Sport and Exercise Science at Huddersfield College, but has her eyes set on following her golfing idols Justin Rose and Charley Hull. “I would like to turn professional and play on the ladies circuit, but the coaching side of the game is also very appealing to me so we will see what happens.”
The prospect of qualifying for the final of the Justin Rose Telegraph Junior Championship in Portugal in November is her next challenge. “I’m currently in eighth place in the girls’ qualifying leaderboard, so fingers crossed.”