It’s all go for January after the R&A and USGA published their finalised Rules of Golf. So what’s coming in? Steve Carroll outlines the changes.
American Golf crowns 2016 Junior Champions
American Golf is delighted to announce 14 year old Kyle Honer as its national Junior Champion for 2016. Kyle, a member at Roganstown Golf Club, Co. Dublin, faced down stiff competition from the U.K. and Ireland’s best young golfers to take the overall title at the Headquarters of PING, Gainsborough Golf Club in Lincolnshire.
Over 500 junior golfers took part in this year’s championships, battling it out for a place in the final in a series of qualifying events across U.K. & Ireland. This was the second year running as a finalist for Kyle after he qualified for the 2015 final of the American Golf Junior Championship as a ‘Star of the Future’ with a handicap of 36. He returned to qualification in 2016 where he finished second in the event held at his home club, Roganstown. Kyle, now playing off 22, played fantastic golf throughout the final, keeping his cool in front of Sky Sports’ cameras, taking the 2016 overall title by 3 shots from Yorkshire junior Dylan Shaw-Radford.
After his resounding victory Kyle commented, “The American Golf Junior Championship has been really good fun and a great experience. From the qualifier to the final it was well organised they really made us feel like professionals. I won the Munster Championship a couple of days before so I was quite confident but I didn’t expect to win the American Golf Championship as it’s the biggest competition I’ve ever played in. On the plane home the pilot announced that I’d won and the whole plane gave me a round of applause which was pretty cool.”
The Best Gross category at the final was treated to some top quality competition and a thrilling finish. Stirlingshire junior golfer Lachlan Reynolds eventually secured victory with a fantastic round of 72. Lachlan, who represents Dumbartonshire Golf Union at County level took the title with a birdie on 18, just giving him the edge on countback against Welsh rival Jacob Harrington Wara who matched his 72 but saw his birdie putt on the last slide just wide.
Lachlan, another returning finalist commented, “I played in the American Golf final last year at Gainsborough doing the tour of the Ping factory and really loved the experience and although I didn't play very well, it was my first big competition. I really wanted to come back this year with a good score, the whole experience is amazing. I love the goody bag and Ping tour, which we did again and the cameras there make it all so professional.
"I do enjoy seeing some familiar faces too and making new friends. I thoroughly enjoyed my round and loved getting a birdie on the 18th to win the scratch. I am looking forward to trying out my new Ping Wood as all my clubs are Ping. Thank you very much to American golf for the experience.”
The Girls title went to 13 year old Shire Golf Club member Elle Gibson who played the round of her life to score an incredible net 63 playing off 16. On winning the title Elle commented, "This was my first time playing in a national final. I really enjoyed the day, everyone was really friendly which helped to calm my nerves!
"It was great having my Dad caddy so he could share the experience too. I didn't expect to win, so that was a bonus and I'm really happy I get to come back to play in the final again next year."
Two special awards were contested on finals day, marking out the PING Star of the Future in under and over 8’s categories. Golfers in this category had progressed from qualifying by being the golfer who best embodied the spirit and character of the game of golf. The Stars of the Future then took to the Gainsborough fairways to contest a gross score shootout over 9 holes. In the Over 8 category Sean Keeling of Roganstown came out on top with a very strong score of 40 while in the under 8’s Sam McIntyre of Oulton Hall Golf Club triumphed with an impressive gross 47.
Daniel Gathercole, Director of Marketing and Communications at American Golf continued, “We’ve been treated to some fantastic golf from a set of incredibly impressive youngsters today. Every golfer has approached the day with spirit and sportsmanship and there has been some tremendous golf on show. With a setting like Gainsborough and with Sky’s camera’s watching there has been a lot of pressure and every golfer, without exception, has been a credit to themselves.”
The Junior Championship is a vital part of American Golf’s drive to get more people out playing golf more often. 2017 will see a series of free events aimed at encouraging juniors and families to pick up a club when American Golf introduces its Family Cup, Pitch & Putt Championship and Adventure Golf Championship alongside the Junior Championship. These perfect introductions to competitive golf for experienced Junior golfers and absolute beginners alike will complement the schedule of free events for senior golfers which includes Long Drive, 9 Hole, Seniors, Ladies, Scratch and Individual Championships.