DURING a week in which successful young golfers have been a talking point, Matty Lamb has become the youngest player to win the 72-hole Northumberland Strokeplay Championship in the 50-year history of the tournament.
Victory for the pupil from Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School, two months past his 15th birthday, arrived at Stocksfield on Monday – the day after Italy’s Matteo Manassero, 20, became the youngest winner of the PGA BMW Championship at Wentworth.
Manassero soared into the world top 30 as his fourth European Tour win brought him his biggest first prize yet of almost £680,000.
On Saturday Lamb, tipped as a future Tour winner, chalked up another personal first in winning both his foursomes and singles matches for the county men’s team as they defeated Cumbria 10½-7½ in the Northern Counties League at Hexham after trailing 5½-1½.
The question now we all know Lamb is something special is: How special?
An England under-16 squad player since he was 14, he won the Scottish Under-14 title last season and was runner-up in the English Under-14 Championship.
In 2012 he also became the first player to capture both the Northumberland Schools Under-16 and Under-19 titles in the same season.
This season Lamb has been awarded the inaugural Lee Westwood Golf Scholarship at Close House and, alongside Hexham Golf Club colleague Martin Coup, has won the Inter-Counties Foursomes Championship contested by clubs from Northumberland and Durham County.
The man who had no hesitation in promoting Lamb to the 2013 men’s county ranks is the new Northumberland captain Andrew Minnikin, who plays at the Northumberland club.
Minnikin said: “Matty has the talent to do what Kenneth Ferrie did and bring three European Tour titles back to Northumberland.
“He has an excellent support system from his club Hexham, where he is coached by the head pro Andy Paisley, his family and the various county and national coaching programmes.
“Matty is a very good golfer but a key factor is how grounded he is.”
Coach Paisley has a better handle than most on what it takes to become a Tour player.
His brother Chris tees off today in Stockholm’s Nordea Masters alongside fellow North East and Cumbria players Graeme Storm and Gary Lockerbie.
Chris Paisley, incidentally, was only one shot shy of qualifying for the US Open at Walton Heath on Monday, enduring the agony of three putting twice on the back nine as he shot 68 74.
Andy Paisley said: “I agree with Andrew Minnikin.
“Matty Lamb is one of the most exciting prospects I have ever seen.
“Like my brother he is a shy sort of guy but works ferociously hard at his game. Matty was out practising for five hours the day after he won the county strokeplay title, but that is normal for him.
“He almost runs from his school to our club every day to put the work in.
“He has everything and definitely has what it takes to go all the way.”
The Paisley brothers are by no means shy of taking to the social media to trumpet Lamb’s quality.
After Lamb’s victory at Stocksfield, Tour pro Chris tweeted: “Played with Matty and my brother Andy a few weeks ago at Hexham and told Matty’s dad Matty would win!”
Coach Andy took to Facebook to say: “Great kid, great talent, great attitude.”
Lamb shot 67 74 67 76 at par-70 Stocksfield to win the strokeplay championship by one shot from a Northumberland club player, Kris Gray, who signed for 71 73 69 72.
Starting the last round five strokes clear of the field, Lamb showed enormous maturity to hang on for his slender victory as he conquered a violent wind which, alongside hard greens and tricky pin positions, ravaged many players’ scoring.
Lamb, who had benefited from a practice round at Stocksfield with coach Paisley a few days before the tournament, went into the last two holes of the tournament only one ahead of the resurgent Gray, by then back in the clubhouse.
Lamb’s father Darren is one of five junior liaison officers at the youth policy-conscious Hexham club and he said: “I was proud of how Matty kept his composure in seriously difficult conditions when the pressure was at its greatest at Stocksfield.
“He left himself with two difficult up and downs on each of those last two holes.
“However, he just smiled and does what he always does in such situations – tap his thigh three times.
“Then he got the job done with two up and downs from round the green to leave himself with two short putts, thanks to one good shot out of the rough and then another one to negotiate a difficult downhill shot at the last.
“I am not saying I am the evil dictator of the family but Matty gets his composure on the course from my wife Sarah, who is a calm, lovely and serene person!”
Coincidentally, Lamb was paired with Gray – a former US college player – at Hexham on Saturday and they were the only winning Northumberland combination as Cumbria won the foursomes 4½-1½.
Cumbria’s lead stretched with victory in the opening singles but then Northumberland reeled off nine wins in a row and provided skipper Minnikin with his team’s first league win at his second attempt.
Minnikin paired Lamb with his Northumberland club colleague because he considers both players well grounded.
Gray said: “Matty is very mature for his age – I was nothing like him at all mentally when I was 15.
“He is also a quick learner. In the foursomes he was trying to leave me as short a putt as possible over the first few holes.
“So I said to him that I did not mind if he hit the ball four feet past the hole and I suggested he really went for his putts.”
Boys: Jamie Austwicke (English Martyrs RC School and Hartlepool GC), Jonathan Cossar ( Park View School and Houghton-le-Spring GC), Michael Duffield ( Durham VI Form College and Eaglescliffe GC), Chris Handy (St Bede’s School and South Moor GC), Aaron McManus (Bishop Barrington School and Longniddery GC), Jonathan Richardson (Gateshead College and Hexham GC), James Rogers ( Hummersknott Academy and Rockliffe GC), Rhys Thompson (Gateshead College and Boldon GC).
Girls: Jessica Hall (Barnard Castle School and Bishop Auckland GC), Natasha Martin (Durham VI Form College and Beamish Park GC), Alex Stevenson (Tanfield School and Beamish Park GC), Rebecca Woolley (Durham Vl Form College and Durham City GC).
Boys: Matty Lamb (Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham and Hexham GC), Bradley Robinson (King’s School, Tynemouth and Westerhope GC), Josh Stancer (Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham and Hexham GC), James Wilson (Walbottle Campus and Close House GC), Adam Nicholson (Whitley Bay High School and Whitley Bay GC).
Girl: Samantha Taylor (Whitley Bay High School and Parklands GC).