The last half dozen years have delivered four national age group titles to district players. Trent Munn won the under 13 title in 2007 and Rhys Harold (2009) and Kalyn Ponga (2010) folowed in his footsteps. Emma Clayton played great golf to be our most recent national champion after winning the Under 15 title in 2011. All but Ponga (Australia) will make the journey north for the NZ Under 19 Championship at Waipu (boys) and Mangawhai (girls) in Northland. They will be joined bu a strong contingent of 13 boys and 3 girls, largely from the Manawatu Golf Club.
Form in 2011 indicates several realistic possibilities of adding to the national title haul. At the top of the pile are Tyler Hodge (Levin) and Trent Munn (Manawatu). Both players have national titles in the closet and were both selected for the NZ Golf Srixon Development Academy. Hodge, who finished 3rd last year, has had a stellar season with victory in the Australian version of this event as well as four straight wins of late at the Waikato Winter Strokeplay, Horowhenua Open, Kapi Tareha and Challenge Cup. Munn finished a close 4th at the season opening North Island Under 19’s and followed that up
with two more top 5’s at Hastings and the LawnMaster Classic. His recent fourth at the Challenge Cup showed signs of a return to his best golf which will set him up well for this event.
Michael Birchall is the next contender. At 14, he recently played at the Callaway Junior Worlds courtesy of his Junior Tiger victory in March. He will be one of the Under 15 favourites and rightly so after a season which has included a number of subpar rounds, especially a great 69 at the recent Horowhenua Open. Alex Whiley has been playing great golf too this year and it would by no means be a surprise to see him near the top of the under 17 category. Still eligible for the under 17’s next season means he will have an even better chance then.
Emma Clayton looks to be the best chance of the girls. The under 15 champion in 2011, she also won the South Island Under 15 and Eagles Junior Under 17 titles that year. Turning 16 the day before the event sees her in the under 17 division, but with a national ranking of 15th and victories at the recent Challenge Cup and Kapi Tareha (NZ OOM) she will be viewed as a favourite for not only the Under 17 title but the entire championship. Brydie Hodge will be right on her heels and should she put together three consistent rounds could be the bolter. She has shot a number of par scores this season but seems to throw in a high one every now and again.
We wish the players all the best"