One of England’s brightest young prospects sealed a truly memorable triumph

Wire-to-wire victor Stiggy Hodgson proved a class apart at the 2008 Duke of York Young Champions Trophy. The 18-year-old, who was in magnificent form all week at Dundonald Links, ended junior golf’s most prestigious international tournament a staggering 11 shots clear of his nearest challenger, Arnaud Abbas of France.

Hodgson, who follows in the footsteps of previous English winners Oli Fisher and Sam Hutsby, finished with a 54-hole total of 212, four-under par. The reigning Carris and McEvoy Trophy winner took the tournament by the scruff of its neck in the opening round with a three-under-par 69 and despite the increasingly difficult conditions, he rarely looked in any difficulty. A measure of the Champion’s quality was that he was the only person to keep a double-bogey off his card.

“I’m absolutely delighted to win a tournament as big as this, this is incredibly special, it’s one of the four biggest junior tournaments in the world” smiled Hodgson. “It may not have looked like it but there was lots of nerves and tension about today but I knew if I didn’t loose concentration I would win. I’ve been flushing my irons all week and when that happens I know I’ll score well because everything else was in good order.”

Hodgson, who made eight birdies in his first two rounds, recovered from a nervy opening seven holes to birdie the 395-yard par-4 8th before following it up with a spectacular three at the 9th, where he pitched to within four feet, to reach the turn in level-par. Another birdie at the tough 410-yard 13th was matched by a single bogey at 17 before a regulation five at the last secured the 18-year-old his third major trophy of the summer.

Abbas, the current French Boys Champion, recovered spectacularly from his opening round 77 with a two-under par 70 and a closing 76 to seal the runners-up spot. Hodgson’s closest over-night challengers, Paul Dunne of Ireland and Thailand’s Vasin Sripattranusorn, wilted slightly in the face of the gusting winds, the sodden rough and the added pressure.

Holland’s Marieke Nivard maintained her composure as the battle for the Leading Girl title went to the wire. Nivard, playing partner and defending champion Giulia Molinaro and Israel’s Laetitia Beck started the final round separated by just a shot. However it was Nivard who willed her way to the title with a battling 77, to finish one-clear of England’s Hannah Barwood.

“It was a great week, a fantastic tournament and a brilliant course – in fact the only bad part was the weather!” laughed Nivard, before adding: “I knew I was just one behind and that if I played well I would win – and I did.”

Vasin Sripattranusorn is a name that represents the true magic of this tournament. On his first trip outside of Asia, Thailand’s Boys Champion battled the utterly foreign conditions, climate and language to finish in a tie for fourth. “It was so cool, I met the Duke of York and learnt to play in the wind and rain!” Exactly Vasin.

We look forward to the 2009 Duke of York Young Champions Trophy.