The Justin Rose Telegraph Junior Golf Championship witnessed a record-breaking climax here on Friday as Ben Schmidt and Mimi Rhodes wrote new marks into this event’s 34-year history.
While Schmidt’s 15-shot triumph looked barely in question from the first day of this 54-hole tournament, Rhodes’ glory was in dispute until the 16th green, as she stood level with her playing partners, Wales’s Darcey Harry and Scotland’s Carmen Griffiths.
But then, the Somerset 17-year-old sealed the debate in emphatic and, indeed, unprecedented fashion. No girl had ever finished off birdie-birdie-eagle to lift this salver before. That final trio proved to be the colossus of Rhodes.
A two on the 16th, a two on the 17th and a three on the 18th… suddenly Rhodes was celebrating a four-shot triumph over Harry with Carmen Griffiths another three shots back in third. The tears fell as Mimi was hugged by her younger sister Patience, who put in a notable display herself on this Quinta do Lago North Course by finishing fifth.
However, this outpouring of emotion was not just a byproduct of sibling affection but of what they both knew it would mean to their grandmother. And within a few minutes, Mimi was on the phone to Susan, telling her elderly relative all about her incredible burst to take this coveted prize.
“Grandma is suffering from cancer and has been through a bad time, but she was so proud of Patience and I qualifying for these finals,” she said. “I wanted so much to do it for her and when I finished and hugged my sister, I knew I would cry. Grandma said she knew I would win, but even she was surprised That I closed my round like that.
“Honestly, when I made that 12-footer on the 16th I didn’t know I’d moved ahead but when my approach on the 17th clattered against the pin leaving me the shortest of tap-ins I realised it was mine to lose. The eagle on the last was the icing really and it was lovely to walk up to that five-footer, knowing I’d lived up to my goal. It’s my biggest title to date.”
Rhodes, a senior England international, is committed to doing Wake Forest, the North Carolina University where Arnold Palmer studied on a golf scholarship, from next year and has been tipped by many to be a success in the pro ranks. However, when it comes to grand expectations, those of Schmidt have now long disappeared through the clubhouse roof.
The 17-year-old from Rotherham Golf Club is clearly special and this procession - with fellow Englishman Max Hopkins and Northern Ireland’s Aaron Marshall in a tie for second - merely confirmed as much. To shoot 68-69-69 for a 10-under total and go through the final 36 holes with only one bogey in windy conditions was a sensational display. His highlight in this three-under conclusion was probably the lob edge from 120 yards that he span into a few feet on the 13th, but in truth his entire week was characterised by his relentless consistency; off the tee, on to the green and then with his putting.
“I did feel very much in control and I can’t tell you what this means to me,” he said. “To win this title at any stage would’ve been a huge honour, but to do so in the year when Justin Rose has first put his name to it and sponsored the championship with his own money makes it extra special,” Schmidt said. “It’s been a fantastic year for me, with the Brabazon Trophy and Carris Trophy already on the mantelpiece and now this as well. It gives me so much confidence going forwards.”
Schmidt has decided against signing up to a US college and will instead play an elite amateur schedule next year. The Barnsley boy makes no secret of his ambition. “I’m in the top 10 in the world amateur rankings and my immediate aim is to become No1,” he said. “As soon as I do that, I will look to the next stage.”
This will inevitably include invites to European Tour events and an attempt at Tour qualifying school this time next year is also eminently feasible.