THE 2009 HSBC Wee Wonders Championships continues to grow in popularity with thousands of youngsters having signed up.
The grassroots golf programme, the biggest in the UK and Ireland for 5-12 year olds, provides participants with the opportunity to challenge themselves in a fun, competitive environment.
Since HSBC began sponsoring the programme in 2003, participation has grown each year and it is expected that over 5,000 young golfers will register this year for 145 local qualifying events across the UK and Ireland.
The programme is played on par three golf courses throughout the UK and Ireland and youngsters don't have to be a member of a golf club, or even have a handicap to take part.
It adopts the "flag format" of competition. Competitors have 36 strokes to play the golf course, and they place a flag where their 36th shot finishes.
The winners from each age category are those that have got round the course the furthest, nearest to the hole. They then proceed to the corresponding Regional Final, with the winners from there reaching the Grand Final at St. Andrew's in Scotland.
The first of the North East's qualifiers was staged at the N1Golf Centre in Morpeth and saw 21 juniors taking part.
Winners from the N1 were:
Boys: 5-6 years category: Mark Allsopp (Cramlington); 7-8 years category: Cameron Fletcher-Smith (Morpeth); 9-10 years category: Luke Denny (Alnwick); 11-12 years category: Cameron Bates (Capheaton).
Girls: 9-10 years category: Adina Lonsdale (N1Golf Centre, Morpeth).
Mark Stancer, the head teaching professional at the N1Golf Centre, was quick to see the importance of supporting this great event.
Only five months into his new role he has managed to coach and prepare a number of juniors in readiness for competing in this event and said: "I was very pleased to see Adina qualify for the next stage by winning the girls category.
"I was also impressed by the overall standard of play shown by the boys. We need more events like this one as there is a big void between the learning and coaching competitions to the more intimidating formal club competitions at the local golf clubs."
Mark now sees over 60 juniors at the centre on a regular basis and added: "There is a lot of enthusiasm with kids wanting to learn the sport. Once here it is important that we recognise that by supporting a continual learning programme that gets them (1) on to the golf course and (2) understanding the importance of learning the skills involved whilst having some fun at the same time."
Mark is looking for a sponsor to support a series of seasonal events that juniors can regularly play in during the summer season.
He added: "There are a number of potential venues here in the region and I am confident that we could have a series of events during the summer for kids to compete in."
Mark can be contacted on 07745-861888.
Other Wee Wonders regional qualifiers are being staged at Matfen Hall, Crook and Houghton-le-Spring. More information can be found at:
Pauline is on target SOUTH Moor's Pauline Dobson has won the Durham County women's championship again after defeating clubmate Rebecca McGinley in a tight final.
The event, staged at Chester-le-Street, also decided the team selection for the up and coming County Week championship, which is being staged at Heswall in Cheshire from June 22-26.
The Durham County tournament proved a real success for 13-year-old Woodham player Rebecca Horner, who featured on our cover last month.
Rebecca got all the way to the semi-finals before losing 5&4 to McGinlay, though she had beaten close friend Charlotte Hindmoor (Blackwell Grange) in the quarter-finals as well as top county player Faye Sanderson (Heworth) earlier on.
She is now the first woman from Woodham to be selected for Durham county and will take her place in the County Week team alongside Hindmoor, who won the Abraham Trophy last year.
Julie takes title again
JULIE Ross has taken the Northumberland Ladies Champion title again.
The final was similar to last year's when Nikki Hunter missed some early chances, mainly on the putting green.
However, from the 8th hole onwards, Julie moved up a gear and decided that she needed to get back into this championship, winning or halving each hole on the way in to eventually triumph 4&3.
Full results can be found at: http://www.nlcga.co.uk/new/results/championship-matchplay.asp?year=2009