Harley romps home thanks to stunning final-round 63
SURREY: Friday October 8th
FORMAT: 54-hole strokeplay
Walton Heath’s Old course has witnessed some pretty special golfing exploits over the years and today another chapter was added to its illustrious history as 16-year-old Harley Smith came within one shot of equalling the course record.
The Essex player won the Daily Telegraph/Justin Rose Junior Golf Championship by 13 shots thanks in no small part to a bogey-free, closing 63. In fact the England U-18s/U-16s champion missed a six footer at the last to match the score set by Lancashire’s Jack Senior, who was playing in the South of England Amateur Championship in 2010 when he got to 10 under.
The course hosted the 1981 Ryder Cup – and arguably the greatest golf team ever assembled – and has also been the venue for plenty of other top-level professional events. However for one so young to dismantle a great track to that extent is just as remarkable as the golf that wowed the British crowds at the Surrey venue 40 years ago.
Harley finished the 54-hole tournament on 16 under par with home player Kris Kim and Northumberland’s Angus Buchanan (Slaley Hall) both closing on three under. Previous winners of the illustrious event include Andrew Coltart (86), Justin Rose (97), Oli Fisher (05) and Matt Fitzpatrick (12).
The champion said: “I had a three-shot lead going into the final round and I just said to myself: ‘steady start’ because it is so easy for shots to go, especially if you hit it in the heather.
“Obviously I have got off to a great start and to be five under after eight was amazing. The previous two days I had played the back nine in seven under par so I knew a score was out there if I started well.
“And I played really well. Today’s round was my best of the year.”
Harley’s previous lowest score (outside of his home club) was five under par and he came agonisingly close to getting to the magic 10 under mark.
He added: “I hit two good irons into 17 and 18 and gave myself a 12-footer and then a six-footer but just misread them both. I didn’t know what the course record was but it was really nice to give myself so many opportunities. I drove the ball really well.”
An eagle at the eighth was his third three in succession and he turned in 30.
He then “made up and down” from 120 yards at the 12th before filling his boots with three par fives in the next four holes. At each one he had a long-range eagle putt but still came away with birdies to get to -9 before parring the last two.
Harley, who this week was again included in the England Boys squad, is now looking forward to rounding of his season at the Irish Open (next weekend) and then the Faldo Series Grand Final.