Essex’s Charlie Croker birdied four of the final five holes to claim a stunning victory at the English Boys’ County Champion of Champions.
Playing on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa Golf Club, the 15-year-old posted rounds of 71 and 68 for a 36-hole total of 139 (-7) and a one shot victory over Cumbria’s Joey Hornby
The event featured the boys’ champions from 30 counties in England – and was once again a terrific advert for junior golf in this country. Croker, from Thorndon Park Golf Club, looked to have drifted out of contention when he carded a double bogey six at the third hole in his afternoon round. At that stage, he was six shots behind leader Hornby.
Hornby, playing alongside Croker, had signed for a six-under par round in the morning and had made a steady start to his second round. But as Hornby stayed on track with a series of pars, Croker jumped on board a birdie train. He picked up shots at the sixth, eighth and ninth, and then found some extra energy to go on a final charge He knocked in a birdie at the par-five, 14th, a six-footer at 15 was sunk, as was a similar length putt on 17.
As Croker made his way to the 18th tee there was a three-way tie for top spot. Hornby remained on six-under par alongside Croker, while Northumberland’s Mogan Blythe – in the group behind – was on a charge of his own. Four birdies on the stretch of holes from seven through 14 had put the Hexham golfer joint top of the leaderboard. Blythe had other chances too. A birdie putt on the 15th grazed the hole, his 12-footer on the 16th horseshoed out and a 10-footer on the penultimate hole was bang on line but short of pace. With all three players locked together on the same score it came down to who finished the strongest.
Hornby made his 16th par of the afternoon round on the final hole to stay at -6. Croker, found the green in two and easily two-putted for another birdie That left Blythe needing a four for a play-off, but after finding two bunkers on the closing hole had to settle for a bogey six and a share of third spot alongside Lancashire’s Noah Cambridge.
After collecting his trophy, Croker said: ” I was a bit out of it after making a double on the third, but there was still hope. I was playing nicely and I did think there was still a chance I could go low and thankfully that’s what happened. I was proud of myself that after a bad start, I played really well coming in to win.”