With well over 200 people attending, what a truly fantastic afternoon the recent RookieTour end of season prize presentation at Pine Ridge was. The tables were covered with 212 prizes to be collected and a busy afternoon was in store.
The presentation was launched by Terry Christy, President of Surrey County Golf, who commented on the healthy state of Surrey junior golf and that he believed that future European Tour players were sitting in the audience.
Next up was U14 Manager Steve McNeill giving a review of yet another record breaking RookieTour season. 2016 was no different from previous years since the tour started in 2007, as in every area the numbers had again equalled the previous season. In 2016 there were 215 registered players representing 61 different Surrey golf clubs, with the youngest player being a mere 6 years old. Each year a huge number of new players come and play on the tour, as older players leave new ones arrive.
From its conception in 2007 the RookieTour continues to develop and evolve. For 2016 there were 12 regular season events plus the end of season “Race to the Stars” which this year was played at Royal Wimbledon Golf Club, making 13 events in total. The average number of entries remained similar to previous years with 105 players per event. In 2009 it was just 46. The tour has come a long way since then! The highest entry was at Hoebridge with 147 boys and girls taking part.
In 2016 a total of 72 players competed in the Young Improvers Group (YIGs), a series of events for U13 boys and girls with club handicaps of 37-54 or no handicap at all.
After the RookieTour review there was a general review of U14 golf in Surrey during 2015. With the U12, U13 and U14 County Champions being awarded their trophies. The U12, U13 & U14 County teams - all of whom had had fantastic years - were also congratulated. The teams and squads are drawn from the RookieTour which is a fantastic shop window for the players to catch the eye of the team managers and coaches.
This year the presentation for the Rookie League was incorporated into the presentation. The Rookie League is a team matchplay knockout competition. In 2016 the U14 Rookie League runners-up were Royal Wimbledon, and the winners were Farleigh, the first Club to retain the trophy. This year for the first time a Rookie League for U18 players was held. The U18 Rookie League runners-up were Shirley Park and the inaugural winners were Wentworth.
There followed a question and answer session with Angus Flanaghan, an ex-RookieTour player who won both the U14 Scratch and Handicap Order of Merits in 2013 and has gone on to win the Carris Trophy, England Boys U18 Strokeplay Championship, at Hunstanton this year and was also selected to play for England in the Home Internationals at U18 level. Angus, who was interviewed by John Noble, Surrey Head Coach, proved an inspiration for many of the players in the room, as well as their parents.
After the review of the year the fun began with those present being invited, in what seemed a never ending stream of talented young golfers, to come up and collect their prizes.
After several years of experience of handing out huge numbers of prizes the operation was what could only be described as organised and slick, although at times it must have looked chaotic! In all eight large tables had to be used due to the sheer number of prizes, with the Surrey U14 Junior Committee members and attendees from Surrey Ladies Golf Association handing out the prizes.
After all the 2nd and 3rd place competitors had come up in multiples to receive their prizes it was the turn of the 1st place winners from each event to come up to collect their prizes and trophies. And with five different competitions at every RookieTour event, plus the winners from the four YIGs events there were plenty of trophies to pick up and lots of big smiles!
One Hole-in-One prize was awarded this year to Aidan Millham for his ace at Hoebridge.
The Birdie Trophy, the idea of long standing Junior Committee member Peter Barratt, who also donated the fine trophy, was awarded to Shergo Kurdi, who scored 19 gross birdies during the course of the RookieTour season.
The Sinclair Salver, awarded to the player who in the opinion of the committee has demonstrated good etiquette and has upheld the traditions of golf throughout the year was awarded to Jack Kurzberg.
Finally the five 2016 Order of Merit winners were invited up to receive their prizes. Rocky Chapman claimed the U12 Boys scratch competition. Leo Vorobyev picked up the U12 Boys handicap Order of Merit. Sarah Mardani took the U14 girls handicap. Amir-Ali Safari was the winner of the U14 Boys handicap Order of Merit. And finally Shergo Kurdi won the U14 scratch Order of Merit trophy.
Before closing the presentation Steve McNeill gave all those present a short preview of the 2017 tour. Brochures for the 2017 season were handed out at the end of the presentation and will be published shortly on the Surrey web site.
There can be no doubt the NikeGolf RookieTour run by the Surrey County Golf is a great success and is very likely to be the largest junior golf tour of its kind in the UK if not Europe.