Jake's ready to lead
By Danny Lockwood It was a slightly early combined birthday and Christmas present that Garforth junior Jake Wallis received in mid-December, when he took a phone call from Philip Woodcock. Woodcock is the Chairman of the Yorkshire Boys team. Some of the young golfers he’s had under his wing are now household golfing names. Yorkshire is the largest golfing county in England with a storied history and a destiny always to fulfil, so being chosen to lead one of its teams is always an honour. It’s one that is bestowed upon very few. So when Chairman Woodcock contacted Jake to offer him that honour – and responsibility – in mid- December, the new Captain-to-be was still only 15-years-old. The boys’ team is under-18s. Jake turned 16 on December 23, but not even Santa Claus himself could have a dropped a more prized gift down the Wallis family chimney in Swillington, outside Leeds, for Christmas 2021. Many would consider it a daunting prospect, indeed. In that regard however it’s interesting to consider Jake’s reply when asked who his own golfing heroes are. A Tiger, Bryson or Rahm perhaps? Local heroes like Matt Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett? “I’d say Justin Thomas. Him and Dustin Johnson,” Jake replies. “I like watching them, I like how they handle themselves under pressure. They are very calm and don’t let things bother them.” Not so much starry-eyed hero-worship then, as a cool and calculating head on young shoulders. Jake admits that composure is a quality he tries to harness and it was tested last summer when he teed off not for the boys’ team, but the county’s men – aged 15, remember – against Northumberland at his home club of Garforth. Club members naturally attended in their numbers to offer support. “There were definitely a few nerves on the first tee but as I got into playing and calmed myself down I got over that,” he said. Jake had partnered Cookridge Hall’s Tom Broxup in the morning foursomes and recorded a 4&2 win over Austin Buchanan and Morgan Blythe as Yorkshire raced to a 4.5-1.5 lead. He halved his afternoon match with Buchanan to complete a dream debut as Yorkshire romped home by a convincing 14-4 margin. Jake began playing under the watchful eye of dad Graham at Oulton Hall aged 7, he first reached a single-figure handicap at 12 and is currently +2. He has been coached for several years by Lee Morrisroe, one of Garforth’s two head professionals alongside Gareth Johnson. The partnership has certainly yielded excellent results so far. Back in 2020, aged just 14, he beat a raft of older, more experienced White Rose juniors to lift the Yorkshire Boys Championship at Scarcroft Golf Club. Despite being in the middle of his GCSE year at Garforth Academy, Jake didn’t hesitate to accept the Yorkshire captaincy. A student who prefers maths and the sciences – plus PE naturally – he intends to stay on for his A levels. “I was shocked at first really,” he admitted. “But I felt quite honoured.”
He’s a young man with a clear vision of how he’d like the coming years to look. “I’d hope to turn professional in the future,” he said. “First, I’d like to go play in the US [college system] and experience that.” Indeed, on his county men’s debut where Dan Bradbury made an appearance while home from the USA, Jake managed to speak briefly with the Wakefield man about his time there. Boys chairman Philip Woodcock praised Jake’s calm demeanour and his ability to handle pressure. “He’s a very pleasurable young man,” he said. “He takes notice of what we say, he’s a very good team player, and he takes knocks and set-backs very well indeed. Jake just gets on with it which is good to see. You’ve got to handle pressure and Jake has shown that he can.” In the meantime there are a lot of balls to be hit on Garforth’s driving range and putts to be rolled on his indoor mat, before the 2022 season tees off proper. Jake’s thoughts for his captaincy year? “I just want to represent Yorkshire well in everything I play in, and hopefully as a team we can be successful. I would like to be a good role model for the younger players coming through. I just want to concentrate on what’s ahead.” As for thoughts on the journey so far? “I’d just like to thank all of the members at Garforth who have been fantastic since I joined the club, really supportive of me,” said Jake. No doubt the good members of Garforth Golf Club believe the pleasure has been all theirs.