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Champion finish for Hillside’s Clarke

HILLSIDE’S Oliver Clarke birdied the last two holes on the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa to score a one-shot win in the English Boys’ County Champion of Champions tournament.

He pipped Dorset’s Bradley Cox (Broadstone), who was playing his first England event; while Wiltshire’s Jake Bolton (Ogbourne Downs) climbed into third place with his closing three-under 70, the low round of the day.

Clarke, 18, is an England boy international who signs off from junior golf with this win and he said: “This is great, I couldn’t ask for more. “I’m especially happy for the county because they’ve been so good to me over the years – I’ve been playing for Lancashire since I was 11.”

He finished the 36-hole tournament on one-over after rounds of 74 and level par 73 – despite a continuous downpour and lack of sleep.

“We couldn’t get here in time for a practice round,” said Clarke. “We left at 3am this morning and I couldn’t sleep on the way down so I played on about three hours sleep.

“I was expecting to be half decent in the first round but I thought I might lose energy in the second – but I didn’t.”

After this morning’s round Clarke was three behind Cox, who opened with two-under 71, and the afternoon round developed into a battle between the pair. Clarke caught the Dorset player with birdies on five and six but dropped back with a triple bogey on the 13th after getting into trouble with a bad drive. Cox, who was playing ahead, was soon finishing his round and signing for a two-over total. Behind them George Gill from Warwickshire was also well in contention.

“I realised I needed to get it in gear and somehow I managed to do it,” said Clarke.

He birdied the long 14th despite having to play his second shot from well below his feet, then he holed a 12ft birdie putt on 17, before pulling off a remarkable up-and-down for a winning birdie on 18, chipping out of a dip and from under a tree to 10ft.

This was Clarke’s only appearance at the Boys’ Champion of Champions – although he has held the Lancashire title before, in addition to the county U14 and U16 championships. On the previous occasion he qualified he was unable to play because he was representing England in Canada.

Photo of Oliver Clarke courtesy of Leaderboard Photography.