ABU DHABI // Among the Abu Dhabi Junior Golf Championship's still-growing stars of the future, who have displayed their teenage talents on the capital's National Course for the last three days, the performance - and physique - of 17-year-old Chris Lloyd stood out. In clinching the boys' title by a single stroke from overnight leader Tom Lewis yesterday, Lloyd - whose stocky build is more reminiscent of football's Wayne Rooney than golf's Tiger Woods - held his nerve to claw back a four-shot deficit.
"It was a bit of battle really," said Lloyd, already a master of that unteachable golfing art of seizing the moment. Tom got off to quite a quick start and I had a good spell in the middle to get level. I knew I had a chance if I could get within a couple of shots coming into the stretch." With Lewis, who carded an impressive 64 on Thursday, suddenly struggling, Lloyd capitalised on his chance. He hit five birdies on his way to a final round of 68, including three on the bounce through the long National turn.
The opener in Lloyd's birdie hat-trick coincided with then-leader Lewis bogeying the par five eighth. That four-shot turn-around brought the improving pursuer to within one shot, and Lloyd promptly birdied the ninth and 10th to move one clear. A scintillating approach on the 16th brought him another birdie chance, which he holed to go two up with two holes remaining. Not even a bogey on the 17th could derail Lloyd's victory march, and the youngster was left with a routine three-footer on 18 to seal his win.
"I let a few chances slip by, but the birdie on 16 was key - that took me two ahead," he said. "I hit a good drive and only had a seven iron left, I stuck it stone dead - I was attacking and I quite enjoyed chasing it. "I'm quite an aggressive player; it gives me a chance to go at pins and attack putts. There was bit more pressure coming down the last with a one-shot lead, but it went well. In the end the job was done."
In the girls' division, it was third time lucky for Alexandra Peters, 16, who stormed to the title after devastating her eight rivals. Peters, who was the only girl to finish under par after 54 holes, shot a three-under round of 69 to seal her maiden junior championship crown by five shots from Jessica Wilcox, who finished on even-par. "I tried to hit fairways, greens and two putt," said Peters. "I was hoping some would drop for birdies, which they did. I've tried to hit the greens as close as possible all week, because they're quite large here, and the pins, especially today, have been tucked into some tight corners."
There was more good news for Lloyd and Peters when it was revealed that Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the organisers of the junior tournament presented by the Daily Telegraph, had extended the pair invitations to the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship Pro-am, which falls on the eve of the European PGA Tour event on January 20. "We have offered Chris and Alexandra the opportunity to play in the pro-am," said Faisal al Sheikh, head of ADTA's major events division. "Being part of such a prestigious tournament will provide them with further inspiration to be part of the professional game."
While Lloyd confirmed he will take part in January, Peters was a little more cautious. "I've got my GCSEs next year and it will depend on my exams, but hopefully I can play," she said. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org