AMATEUR champion Scott Gregory was officially crowned England’s top golfer of 2016 this week, having won the national Order of Merit.
Gregory, a member at Corhampton, was the runaway winner of the England Golf men’s title, finishing a massive 48,513 points ahead of his nearest rival – Kent’s Alfie Plant.
Gregory has enjoyed a spectacular year and his standout moment was winning the Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl.
‘It’s a moment in my career I will never forget,’ said the 22-year-old, who spent his formative years as a junior at Waterlooville Golf Club.
He added: ‘In terms of how it’s changed my life, it’s been huge. I’ve played in The Open and The British Masters, and will receive invites to the Masters and US Open because of it.
‘Any golfer would dream of that and it’s made me work even harder than before to get better.
‘I want to do well in these opportunities, the Amateur Championship is a great thing to win but it’s what you do after that counts and that’s what I’m working hard on.’
His other two highlights both involved team selections.
Gregory made his GB&I debut in the winning St Andrews Trophy team and helped England to the World Amateur Team Championship silver medal at the Eisenhower Trophy, in Mexico, at the end of September.
‘I’m incredibly proud to be part of the team to get the first medal for England at that tournament, and hopefully the beginning of something great’, he said.
Gregory is the second member from his club to win the Order of Merit after Neil Raymond topped the table in 2012 – having won the Brabazon Trophy for a second year in a row.
Gregory said: ‘It also means Neil has one less thing to joke with me about. We are always having a joke about what we have/haven’t won!’
Next year, Gregory’s goals include following Raymond again – this time into the GB&I Walker Cup team when they defend the trophy at Los Angeles Country Club.
‘I would love to finish my amateur career in that team,’ he added.
Gregory has also enjoyed three outings in the professional ranks this year as a result of his victory in the Amateur, having become the first Hampshire player to win the oldest championship of its kind in the world in 121 years.
That earned him his place in the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, where he briefly led on four-under par after 10 holes on the first morning, before a torrid time on the back nine saw him eventually miss the cut by five shots.
He finished 42nd in the Bridgestone Challenge at Heythrop Park, in Oxfordshire, at the end of August – an event won by highly-rated Belgian Thomas Detry.
And Gregory’s full European Tour debut came in the British Masters last month, where he missed the cut by just one shot.
Looking back on that week at the Watford course, which hosted the 2006 WGC American Express Championship won by Tiger Woods, Gregory is planning to use the experience as he prepares to play in two more majors in the coming six months.
He said: ‘The experience at the British Masters was second to none. I picked up many things from all sorts of people – like the physio truck who helped with preparation for the tournament and workouts for the week.
‘I now have some new warm-up stretches – just little things to get me doing things more professionally.
‘That’s my aim for the winter, to become more professional and I will be working with my coach Simon Andrews on making sure I can just repeat my swing more consistently – delivering the club face as square as I possibly can so it will stand up under even greater pressure than I experienced this year.’
Gregory has been living out of a suitcase since he helped England win the Costa Ballena Invitational in Spain, back in February, returning to Valencia where he lost the Spanish Amateur Championship final to last year’s Amateur Champion, Romain Langasque.
The Frenchman, who has earned a full European Tour card after his first season on the Challenge Tour, is representing his country at this week’s World Cup of Golf.
With three Transatlantic trips under his belt in less than a year following his debut in the US Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills, and the trip to the Eisenhower at the Mayakoba El Camaleion Golf Club, Gregory was packing his bags again this week to join his England team-mates for their final practice session of the year in Portugal at Quinta de Lago.
Gregory, who only made his full England international debut in the victory over France at Formby, in May, said: ‘It will be nice to get some golf in the sun and do some more work before putting the clubs away for a few weeks.
‘I need to have some rest and prepare mentally and physically for what is going to be the biggest year yet in my career.
‘Obviously I am going to be spending the next couple of weeks waiting to finally get the invite to the Masters in my hand – I can’t wait for April.’
Hampshire’s incredible season in 2016 was reflected by the fact they had four players in the top 25 of the England Order of Merit.
Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie, who claimed the Tillman Trophy at East Sussex National, in July, was 15th even though his golf scholarship at William Woods University, in Missouri, meant he missed part of the season with 32,963 points – a long way behind Gregory’s total of 109,627.
Meon Valley’s Harry Ellis, who won the Lagonda Trophy at Gog Magog, in May, finished 18th on 30,518 points.
The 2012 English Amateur Champion also picked up points for winning the Peter Benka Trophy as he helped Hampshire reach the English County Finals for a sixth time in 10 years by winning the South East Qualifier at Reading’s Calcot Park, in July.
Hayling’s Jamie Mist, who lost in the semi-finals of this year’s English Amateur Championship at Ganton, in North Yorkshire, was in 21st spot on 24,884 points.
He also played less events before returning to Alabama in August, where he is in the final year of his golf scholarship playing for the Gamecocks at Jacksonville State – the college attended by Masters winner Danny Willett.
Rowlands Castle’s Tom Robson, a former Jacksonville State student, managed to finish 30th, even though he only played as a weekend amateur, having taken up the assistant secretary’s job at his home club.
But the table still left Yorkshire – conquerors of Hampshire at the English County Finals, in September, as the leading county in the Order of Merit – their 25 players amassed 270,368 points whereas Hampshire’s 10 qualifiers claimed 222,755 points.