JTG Nations Championships

18th April 2022

Our Golf At Goodwood Juniors travelled to Forest Pines Golf Club in Lincolnshire for a week they will never forget, becoming the Junior Teams Golf Nations Champions.

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The journey started for our juniors last year when they won the West Sussex League which qualified them into the South Regional JTG Championships, which they later won, which put them into the National Finals. We then qualified for the Home Nations Finals by finishing in the top four which was played at Ramside Hall in Durham.

The Home Nations finals consisted of club teams from Scotland, England and Wales. The week started on Monday with a practice round in challenging conditions. The team started the Strokeplay qualification tournament incredibly well. It was clear that the three loops of 9 holes at Forest Pines were going to be a challenge for all the competitors due to the tight, tree lined fairways. The courses are rated among the toughest in the UK and it was clear that the boys would need to play sensible and strategic golf to progress in the tournament. The format of the event was four x 9 holes stroke play competitions with the best six of eight (one gross and five x net) scores counting. The team came out on top of the field in both the 9-hole competitions on day one which set them up well to qualify for the matchplay stages. Performances of note on Day one came from Freddie Gillett who carded a net 30 and 33 and Joe Sykes who was a combined 1 under par for both rounds. 

Day two was about maintaining the position in the top four to secure a chance of competing in the Championship Semi Finals. The team continued to play sensible golf and to keep the big scores off their cards. This was the strategy that was discussed and it was great to see the boys demonstrate real maturity in how they played the course. The day’s notable performances came from Tom Bisatt, Jack Berry and Cody Jackson who all played one of the nine under handicap to keep Goodwood out in front. Once all the scores were eventually collated and verified Goodwood came out of the stroke play stage in 1st place with a 16 shot gap to the team in second. This meant they headed into the Semi-Finals full of confidence.

The format of the matchplay was complicated and took some understanding! Essentially the first six matches counted and then matches seven and eight acted as ‘play off’ matches in case the scores were tied. The order was determined by handicap and shots were given in accordance with updated handicap indexes which were updated overnight. Unfortunately this meant some cuts for the team with Freddie Gillet being cut three shots ahead of the matchplay and all bar one of the team receiving cuts. 

We were drawn against the Scottish Champions, Drumpellier from Glasgow, in the semi-final. Shots were pretty evenly distributed across the team although Joe Sykes had to give eight shots to a 2 handicapper which seemed particularly harsh! Live scoring was in play for the matchplay stages and it was clear from early on the match would be tight. Drumpellier were up in the first few matches but Goodwood came back strongly in the bottom three with Jack Berry and Freddie Gillett turning early deficits around. Confusion reigned about matches seven and eight with the Goodwood support assuming both counted and with Drumpellier up in both around the turn it didn’t look good for Goodwood. 

The first three matches went the way of Drumpellier but Berry, Pollard and Gillett won their matches leaving a tense culmination to the match due to the uncertainty about matches seven and eight. As Cody Jackson approached the 16th green in match seven 1up we found out that the seventh match counted and match eight only counted if match seven was halved. The change in emotions was palpable as we knew Goodwood had the upper hand. The youngest member of the team, Cameron McLeod, was putting up a strong performance in match eight but a solid back 9 from his opponent took the spoils on the 16th which meant it all came down to Cody Jackson’s match. Cody produced a great iron into the par 3 16th and his opponent struggled leaving Cody with a shot out for the match which he duly converted. The camaraderie that had grown over the week shone through in the aftermath with the team celebrating together and genuine joy for one another was great to see. 

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We soon found out the opponents in the Final would be Llantrisant from South Wales who had beaten the previous year’s Champions, Peterborough Milton. We quickly realised that their handicaps were a lot higher than Goodwood’s so shots would need to be given in abundance. A tactical decision took place with Joe Sykes about his position and it was decided that the Goodwood Captain would go as the 7th player and our first wildcard player. 

The boys woke early for more team photos and TV interviews which certainly got the juices flowing. They were very much enjoying the experience and the fact no-one was taking it too seriously really helped. Tom Bisatt went off first followed by Zach Hauffe, Freddie Gillett, Jack Berry, James Pollard and Cody Jackson. Joe Sykes went as the first wild card followed at the back by Cameron McLeod. The early stages were nip and tuck and the spectators expected another close game especially with all the shots being given. Towards the end of the front 9 Freddie Gillett and Jack Berry started to open up commanding leads, unfortunately James Pollard came up against a strong opponent who, despite a handicap in the 20’s, was only a couple over par for the first 7 holes. 

Having experienced the 3-3 result in the morning we were keen to avoid a repeat especially with Joe Sykes giving 26 shots at number 7 in the order. Tom Bisatt showed his class in the back 9 and won a number of holes to take his match 3 & 2, Freddie Gillett and Jack Berry won in similar fashion which gave us a commanding 3-0 lead. Llantrisant clawed two matches back but the ever reliable Cody Jackson pulled away from his opponent around the turn and secured the winning point on the 14th green. 

What looked like it was going to be a close game didn’t materialise and the team were able to celebrate an incredible achievement.  To have performed so well, playing very sensible golf on a very difficult course was a great testament to the ethos that Golf At Goodwood has driven through the junior programmes over the years. To have four of the team that started playing at Goodwood when they were five years old was fantastic and recent with graduates from the Level Up programme also in the team it really emphasises the excellence that Goodwood has in its Junior ranks. 

The team got to receive the trophy on the 18th green in front of the TV cameras and some excitable comments shared on camera which rounded of a fabulous week. The excitement will build again when the boys get to watch themselves on Sky Sports in the next few months which will be a fitting climax to a great week.

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