Skipp and Donald light up Eaglescliffe's birthday celebrations

COUNTY CHAMPION: Eaglescliffe's Sam Donald is Durham Boys No 1

DOUBLE JOY: Will Skipp hit a hole-in-one just 24 hours after winning the Durham Under-14s title

First published in Sport
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

THE future of golf at Eaglescliffe is bright after two teenagers marked the golf club’s centenary in style by claiming county titles.

Sam Donald, the 18-year-old Durham Union golfer, starts his step up to national level in Kent today by competing in the Henry Cooper Junior Masters for four days.

He goes there fresh from winning the County Boys Championship at Beamish Park last Saturday by an incredible 12 shots from Seaton Carew’s 15-year-old Cameron Wallace, who could have been competing in the Under-16s won by Castle Eden’s Jack Ainscough.

Donald was not the only Eaglescliffe success story to emerge from Beamish Park last weekend when promising 12-year-old Will Skipp further enhanced his rising reputation by beating Houghton-le-Spring’s Ryan Lewis-Mackie by six shots. A day later he hit his first hole-in-one at his club’s 17th.

The double joy for Eaglescliffe, celebrating its 100th birthday, is an indication of how well things are going at junior level at the club and Donald is determined to build on that before he steps up to senior level.

“I even surprised myself by winning it by 12 shots from Cameron, who by the way is going to be a really good golfer, he is a real talent,” said Donald. “It was a strong field to be in so to finish so far ahead was brilliant to honest.

“Certainly at junior level it’s the biggest thing I have achieved. I always wanted to be Durham Boys champion as I have grown through the ranks so to actually do it in my final year as a junior is fantastic.”

When Donald tees off at Nizels Golf Club in Kent today he will do so alongside Durham team-mates Chris Handy and Aaron McManus, who finished two shots behind Wallace.

He said: “I have had a good start to the year by winning last weekend, winning the Cleveland Salver and the Eaglescliffe Club Championship. I have been playing really well. I have got my handicap down to scratch so I can now enter these national events like this week’s in Kent.

“I’m also going to play in the Carris Trophy, the Scottish and British Boys in the hope of doing well in those so I can start to knock on the door of the England squad. The long term goal is to turn pro, but this is a big summer for me on the amateur scene.”

While Donald, who has been playing since he was ten, is looking seriously at taking the next step towards a career in the game, his club-mate Skipp continues to press ahead with his own route to making a bigger name for himself in the sport.

The 12-year-old, who moved over to Dyke House Sports & Technology College to enrol on a golfing scholarship programme, was named in the Durham Junior Boys squad this week to face Lancashire at Barnard Castle on July 7. A letter of confirmation arrived just days after his heroics around Beamish Park.

Playing off 11, although his handicap has now been brought down to just inside ten, he responded to starting with four bogeys in his first seven holes on his way to a front nine 42 by shooting 36 on the way back; that 78 proved enough to finish comfortably ahead of Mackie.

A day later Skipp’s five-iron tee shot on the pond hole at Eaglescliffe dropped straight in the hole on his way to winning the Captain’s Day Junior event. “I was speechless,” said Skipp, who was given a box of new top-class balls for his ace.

“I was playing with Will Alexander and when he saw it drop in he was screaming, he went wild. I didn’t even see it go in. It was mad, crazy, but a great way to finish off the weekend. To win the Durham Boys (Under-14s) championship was brilliant. I’m still young enough to try to retain it next year and I’m going to try.”

Long term he has plans to go to the United States to study and develop his golfing potential, but he is happy with how things have gone so far after coming through his first winter as a member of the North of England Golf squad.

“They work on a variety of things,” said Skipp, who has been coached by Eaglescliffe pro Graeme Bell for years as well. “It’s more the mindset side they work on and the way you approach things. It’s been good.”

Ainscough, a team-mate of Skipp and Wallace on Dyke House’s school golf team, did not have such a comfortable victory, but he was impressive just the same. He posted a winning total of 75 at Beamish Park to finish a shot ahead of his Castle Eden friends Thomas Harbord and Ryan Dixon.

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