South Downs learn their golf lessons

Harry Ellis in action during in his second round at The Open

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College golf in the UK may not be quite on a par with its USA equivalent just yet, but South Downs College Golf Academy is keen to continue making an impact after an impressive start to this year’s competition.

The Waterlooville-based college has seen its BTEC sports development, coaching and fitness students perform well on the Intercollegiate Tour so far – a regional league with one place in the end-of-season grand final up for grabs from each section.

With the squad also turning in some good displays in the British Schools & Colleges’ Golf Tour, there is plenty of opportunity for competition for the budding golfers.

And considering the course started with just eight students in 2010, the interest has already grown considerably, with 23 now on the register.

Course manager and tutor Kim Dobson has been delighted with the progress and is keen to see it develop even further.

She said: ‘I’m shocked because it was touch and go whether the course would run.

‘We started with just eight students but now we’re up to 23 and we’re hoping to develop their golf as well as their studies.

‘They play golf on Monday, in college on Tuesday, playing competitively on Wednesday, back in college on Thursday and at the driving range on a Friday.

‘When the parents come along with their son or daughter to the interview, a few have said “can we do this course as well?”

‘It’s developed fantastically so far but we’re looking to continue that over the next few years.’

With a junior membership at Waterlooville Golf Club offered as part of the course, club professional Dave Hickman offers tuition, while Portsmouth Golf Centre’s Simon Andrews also coaches sessions on the range.

But Dobson insists that the work in the classroom is not ignored.

She said: ‘The qualification is equivalent to three A-levels and all of the units are focused on golf.

‘We cover nutrition, anatomy and physiology, sports psychology, but everything is based on golf.

‘It could lead on to a sports science or golf management degree or go on to PGA level two – there is lots of scope to progress.’

Results on the course are just as important and in the opening round of the Inter-collegiate Tour, 16-year-old Billy McKenzie turned on the style with a level-par round at Waterlooville to add to some impressive performances in the British Schools & Colleges’ Tour.

The team – with six scores counting from eight players – also performed well to lead the nett competition ahead of Brockenhurst College, and are just behind on the gross competition ahead of forthcoming trips to Worthing, Brockenhurst Manor, Burhill and Royal Eastbourne in the coming weeks.