DURHAM County teenagers Abbie Spence and Laura Harrison battled through fierce winds in Lincolnshire to become the youngest-ever winners of the Grand Final of the PING Fourball Betterball Tournament of England.
The 16-year-olds, who yesterday started sixth form at St Bede’s School in Lanchester, scored 40 points in the national women’s event over the Thonock Park course at the Gainsborough club.
They snatched victory on countback from Hampshire golfers Chris Fisher and Debbie Brown to book their places in next month’s UK final of the Volvo Masters Amateur Tour at Turnberry.
The Durham girls, from the Hobson club, came through an initial PING field of 17,500 competitors to win the title. There are club qualifying rounds and to qualify for the Grand Final, they produced one of the best 60 scores in the country.
Abbie and Laura greeted their victory with hugs, kisses and squeals of delight which were echoed by other competitors – and among the first to congratulate them were the runners-up.
“We are so happy,” said Laura. “I was joking in the car on the way down that we would win – and now it’s actually happened.”
They were accompanied by Laura’s father, Paul, and Abbie’s mum, Marie, who caddied for them.
They played well in demanding conditions. The exceptionally strong wind blew hats off, trolleys over, unbalanced golfers – and snatched away a scorecard.
But the girls were undeterred: “It’s quite windy where we play so we are kind of used to it,” said Abbie.
They’ve both been playing golf for about five years, encouraged by their parents. Abbie has come down from 18 to 13 handicap this year while Laura has cut a shot off and plays off 14.
Said Hobson professional Jack Ord, a former winner of The Journal Champion of Champions: “They’re both pleasant girls who are very keen on their golf and they are coming on a bundle. Everyone’s got high hopes for them.” Both are involved with the Durham County girls set-up, Abbie being coached by Brian Ridley at Beamish Park Hotel Golf Academy and Laura going to the David Leadbetter Academy at The Wynyard.
At Gainsborough the girls also won a PING driver and putter, together with a duffel bag and shoe bag.
The first six pairs received prizes of PING equipment or PING Collection clothing, all presented by European Solheim Cup captain Alison Nicholas and one of her vice-captains, Joanne Morley.
All competitors received a PING golf bag, a PING collection wind and showerproof top and a pair of ECCO shoes.
One of the runners-up, Chris Fisher, said: “It has been a fantastic experience, it’s like being a pro for a day.”