No kidding, golf champs excelled
Reece Els, nephew of top South African pro Ernie, was one of the standout players of the tournament
The largest ever US Kids Golf European Championship was also hailed as the best yet as the prestigious junior tournament played over five East Lothian courses came to an end last Friday.
More than 550 competitors from over 50 countries came to the county to take part in last week's three-day tournament, with many of the talented young competitors - aged from five to 18 - expected to go on to be future Major winners.
The event - which was expected to net some £1.3 million for the East Lothian economy - took place over Gullane No 2 and No 3, Craigielaw, Luffness New and Longniddry courses and was filled with excitement and top-quality golf, with holes-in-one and dramatic comebacks on show.
That was all to the delight of Alasdair Good, head professional at Gullane and the tournament co-ordinator.
"The level of play has superseded even our highest expectations," he said. "There have been more than a few breath-taking moments.
"With more competitors from a wider range of countries than ever taking part, we have been privileged in watching some of what I have no doubt will become the golfing stars of tomorrow.
"I also have no qualms in saying that this year's competition has been the best yet. Not only do the venues feel completely comfortable with the event set-up, but both competitors and their parents have come to terms with the overall ethos.
"I feel we have reached the stage where everyone, from organisers to entrants, knows the ethos of the tournament and can fully enjoy the whole experience.
"It was always our aim that this event be more than just a competition and this year it seemed like the celebration of family-oriented golf that it was designed to be."
At the end of the main tournament came last Friday's showpiece finale, the Van Horn Cup on Gullane No 1, with the best Europeans taking on the cream of the crop from the rest of the world in a Ryder Cup-style event.
Joining British golfers in the Western European team this year were youngsters from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark, while their opponents hailed from the USA, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, Norway, Mexico, Thailand and Venezuela.
And yet again it was the home team celebrating at the end, as they continued a remarkable five-year winning streak, beating their opponents 8-6.
The main tournament was split into a series of age group tournaments for boys and girls.
Star performer from East Lothian was Gullane's young talent Charlotte Munro, who finished in tied-seventh in the Girls 12 class with a score of 253 on her home course, while also upholding the Garden County's honour were the Longniddry duo of Fraser Johnston and Callum Satterley, both taking part in the Boys 15-18 category on Luffness New and who finished 16th and 20th respectively.
Among the big names taking part this year was Allan Kournikova, younger brother of tennis pro Anna Kournikova, who returned to successfully defend his Boys 7 and Under title.
Reece Els, nephew of star golfer Ernie Els, was another relative of a high-profile sportsman to take part in the competition but he just missed out on the Boys 13 title to England's Aadam Syed.
Among the highlights of the event were holes-in-one for two young British golfers, Benjamin Schmidt from Barnsley and Shergo Kurdi from Surrey.
Schmidt's ace came on the 165-yard 15th of Gullane No 3, while Kurdi's pitching wedge from the tee on the No 4 hole at Longniddry flew 88 yards into the hole via one bounce on the green.
The top performers in each class all received invites to the US Kids Golf World Championships at world-famous Pinehurst Golf Club in North Carolina in August.