State Encourage Shield final will be valuable experience

SIX junior Bathurst golfers will have an opportunity to bring silverware to their home club with the State Encourage Shield finals starting this Monday at the Newcastle Golf Club.

Bathurst earned a spot in the matchplay handicap tournament’s top four thanks to a thrilling quarter-final success at Richmond in November, and the group will hope they can carry that momentum into the deciding games.

FINALS: Bathurst's State Encourage Shield finalists Mitch Lamb (13), Cooper Starkey (9), Casey Thompson (15), Jake (11) and Ben Davis (14) with club professional Matt Barrett. Absent: Cameron Jackson. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 011118cjnrgolf1

FINALS: Bathurst's State Encourage Shield finalists Mitch Lamb (13), Cooper Starkey (9), Casey Thompson (15), Jake (11) and Ben Davis (14) with club professional Matt Barrett. Absent: Cameron Jackson. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 011118cjnrgolf1

Mitch Lamb, Jake Davis, Ben Davis, Cam Jackson, Cooper Starkey and Casey Thompson are just two wins away from the title.

Semi-finals will run Monday with the final on Tuesday. Losing teams from the semis will still come back the following day for a third place playoff.

All six golfers will also be competing in Sunday’s Newcastle Junior Open, which will act as an excellent warm-up for the next two big days of golf.

They get three days of golf around one of the top 100 golf courses in Australia so it will be a great experience.

Matt Barrett

Bathurst Golf Club professional Matt Barrett is thrilled for the group to make it into the final four.

“They won against Toukley Golf Club, who they beat in a very close tussle. We had to send our captains back out for a playoff, and they just got over the line. Now they’ve got the opportunity to go to Newcastle,” he said.

“The Newcastle Junior Open will be a great chance for them to get a look at the golf course.

“This is a second-tier event and handicap matchplay. It’s called the Encourage Shield for a reason. It’s to encourage kids to learn how to play matchplay.

“These kids are aged between 12-15 and learning the format. It’s great because the parents get to go away and everything’s paid for and they get to represent their club.”

The matchplay format sees golfers take on each other in a head-to-head competition.

A point is awarded to the player who finishes a hole in the least amount of strokes.

That means a match can end as early as the 10th hole, though most games will often come down to a tense finish over the final few holes – much like they did in Bathurst’s quarter-final.

Bathurst’s group represents a mix of skill and experience levels.

“Cameron Jackson and Ben Davis are our low markers. They’re off single figures, or close to it, so it’s not just about a high handicap,” Barrett said.

“Mitch is starting to get into the game a lot more and he’s really enjoying it. Casey Thompson fits well into the group and plays some great golf.

“Ben Davis and Cooper Starkey are our two youngest players. They’re going to be great players in the future.

“They get three days of golf around one of the top 100 golf courses in Australia so it will be a great experience.”