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Justin Rose has done many things in his golf career, but he has never been a starter before. However, his metamorphosis into Ivor Robson has nothing to do with an urge to find a role for his twilight, but everything to do with inspiring the boys and girls gathered at Walton Heath to contest the Justin Rose Telegraph Junior Championship.
From 450 events and more than 15,000 entrants, 24 golfers will take their places in the two divisions, with a further six golfers contesting the net competition.
After the 2020 postponement because of the pandemic, Rose is delighted not only to see the return of the series he sponsors, but to see it being played on a course he knows so well and rates so highly.
Granted, Surrey in October might not be Quinta do Lago, the magnificent Portuguese resort that has become the home of this junior “major”, but not this year because of travel restrictions. However, what Walton Heath might lack in sunshine this week, it will more than make up for in the quality of the three-day challenge.
“When I look at the vista of Walton Heath, I think this is how golf should look,” Rose said. “It really is gorgeous and as close to links golf as you can get inland. As a junior, I used to love playing there because it’s so natural.
“There are many little nuances and shots that you need around the greens, and it’s just different and tricky in the lies you get. It’s such a pure way to grow up playing golf. I’m really grateful I had the chance.”
Any budding Bryson DeChambeaus will certainly not be in their element. In an illustrious history, the Herbert Fowler creation has hosted the 1981 Ryder Cup, the Senior Open and several European Tour events, most recently the British Masters, also promoted by Rose and won by fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell three years ago. Each time the test has called for creativity as well as sound ball-striking and solid short game.
“There’s such a temptation in the game at the moment just to smash the ball, but Walton Heath is one of those classic venues that keeps you on it,” Rose said. “Course management is pivotal, you have to keep the ball in play. You can’t play that golf course out of the heather, so accuracy is first and foremost. Conditions-wise, at this time of year, it’s one of those golf courses that drains really well. You have to be mindful of that, so I think it should be a fun examination and a great place to showcase the talent of these kids.”
Harley Smith is the favourite in the boys. The 16-year-old this year equalled Rose’s feat of winning the Carris Trophy – the English Under-18 Strokeplay – and the McGregor – the England Under-16s – in the same year and is ready for more.
In the girls, Lottie Woad, the 17-year-old from Farnham, will be hoping to go two better than her stunning third place in the Rose Ladies Series event against the Ladies European Tour elite at Rose’s home club of North Hants two weeks ago.