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England Stands United In The Amateur Game

by Colin Callander - April 29, 2013

At the start of this month, a group of England Golf’s Elite and “A” squad members gathered for a get-together at the Ganton Golf Club, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, where they spent several days practising and playing on this magnificent inland links.

These group gatherings occur on a regular basis but this one had a dual purpose because not only was it set up to enhance squad spirit, but also to provide its members with a chance to get to know Ganton ahead of this year’s Home Internationals.

Last year, Scotland, the host nation, snatched the Raymond Trophy from England, the holders, on count-back and, after meeting the players at Ganton, it is clear they consider it one of this year’s priorities to get it back.

“It’s all about bragging rights and at the moment Scotland has them,” admitted Neil Raymond, a member of last year’s losing side and the man who has won the Brabazon Trophy for the last two years in succession. “In the amateur game, we’re lucky enough to play a lot of team golf, but there is something special about the four home countries playing against each other.

“A couple of years ago, Scotland beat Ireland to enable us to win the trophy but last year the tables were turned and it hurt. It would be fair to say that everyone on the English side hated losing and is determined to win it back.”

Raymond travelled to Ganton alongside Garrick Porteous, Nick Marsh, Jamie Rutherford, Jordan Smith and Toby Tree. Those players, together with the likes of Seb Crookall-Nixon, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jack Hiluta, Craig Hinton, Nathan Kimsey, Harry Ellis, Max Orrin, Callum Shinkwin, Ben Stow, Ben Taylor and Josh White will all harbour hopes of playing not just for England in the Home Internationals, but also in the Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America a couple of weeks earlier.

Nathan Kimsey

Only the players who perform well in the biggest events stand a chance of getting into Nigel Edwards’ side to face the Americans in September, and Porteous, Tree, Kimsey and Orrin did themselves no harm whatsoever when they overhauled a strong French team, comprising Adrien Saddier, Thomas Elissalde, Pierre Mazier and Romain Langasque, at the recent European Nations Cup at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande.

Kimsey also won the recent Terra Cotta Invitational event, at Naples Golf Club in Florida; Tree defended his title at the Gauteng North Open in South Africa; and Porteous was second at the New South Wales Medal. Another player to shine has been Raymond, who was runner-up to Ireland’s Reeve Whitson in the Spanish Amateur, reached the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Amateur and was third at the New South Wales Medal.

Raymond has a chance to make history this year by winning a third successive Brabazon Trophy title at Formby but both The Amateur Championship, played at Royal Cinque Ports and Prince’s, and the Lytham Trophy, at Royal Lytham and St Annes, will have new champions following the defection of the holders, Alan Dunbar and Daan Huizing, to the professional ranks.

This year, 16-year-old Harry Ellis will have the chance to become the first player since Paul Casey in 1999-2000 to win successive English Amateur titles when he tees up at Frilford Heath, near Oxford. Youth is also likely to be at the fore in the English women’s game where Georgia Hall, last year’s British Girls’ champion and the current World No. 6, will be bidding for supremacy alongside the likes of Bronte Law, Alex Peters, Lauren Taylor, and Sarah-Jane Boyd, the winner of last year’s Ladies’ British Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

Boyd, the Cornish champion from Truro, caused something of a surprise when she won the British Ladies’ title at Shandon Park, but no eyebrows were raised as Hall added to her Girls’ triumph with victories at the Roehampton Golf Cup, the Hampshire Rose (shared with Nikki Foster) and the Critchley Salver. She was also runner-up in the English Women’s Championship and a semi-finalist at both the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship and the French Lady Junior Championship on her way to a deserved (but ultimately unsuccessful) nomination for the BBC’s prestigious Young Sports Personality of the Year Award.

The bulk of those successes came too late for the then 16-year-old from Remedy Oaks to earn a place in the victorious 2012 Curtis Cup team at Nairn but she will be a certain starter for GB&I at this year’s Vagliano Trophy at Chantilly and will be at the top of the list when England’s team is announced for the European Ladies’ Team Championship, to be played at Fulford Golf Club, near York, on July 9-13.

England’s ladies go into the 2013 season as the holders of their version of the Home Internationals and they would like nothing better than to add the European title on a course that used to stage the old Benson & Hedges tournament on the European Tour and counts the likes of Tony Jacklin, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Greg Norman and Sandy Lyle among its roll call of winners.

The European Ladies’ Team championship will feature up to 20 six-strong national sides, all of whom will play two rounds of stroke-play qualifying to determine their places in the various match-play flights.

It is fair to say that Sweden will start out as favourites having won three out of the last four championships, at home at Stenungsund Golf Club in 2008, at the La Manga club in Spain in 2010 and at Golf Club Murhof in Austria the last time the event was staged in 2011. But the home team can take comfort from its previous record when it was staged in England.

Altogether, this year’s hosts have won the competition eight times, including at Ganton in 1971 and Wentworth in 1991 on the only two other occasions when it was held in England. Since then the team has been runner-up three times — in 1999, 2005 and 2009 — and officials are so keen to get back to winning ways that they convened a squad session at Fulford attended by many of the top players just a few days ago.

“The English Ladies’ Championship is one of the most important events on this year’s calendar and it’s something we’d dearly love to win,” confirmed Lynne Fraser, England’s Golf’s marketing manager. “The whole idea of the squad session is to give the girls the chance to play Fulford ahead of the Championship. We want to make home advantage count.”

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