MORE than 50 young golfers have taken on one of the world’s top golf courses.

Sixty-two juniors in the East Lothian Junior Golf League began their season on Sunday, March 20, at the West Links in North Berwick.

The players with lower handicaps all played off the back tees and the field of 62 included three excellent juniors currently holding plus handicaps.

Without the advantage of “preferred lies” and with strong winds against them on the tough back nine, scoring was very difficult on the par-71 layout, measuring 6,500 yards.

The best score by any of the three plus handicap players was by Harry Bent, with an excellent gross three-over-par 74.

However, the organisers were mightily impressed later when a gross score of 72 was recorded by 11-year-old Fraser Walters, from Craigielaw Golf Club.

Dave Warren, secretary of East Lothian Junior Golf League, said: “That impressive score can justifiably be regarded as nothing less than sensational for such a young player.

“Fraser was playing off a handicap of 6.9, and he had the best net Stableford score by a clear five points.

“Fraser’s scratch points totalled 35, which was also the best by two clear points.

“This great score resulted in a reduction of Fraser’s handicap to 4.7.

“Fraser’s score might be the course record at North Berwick for a player of his age.

“Finishing ahead of all 61 other players is an admirable feat.

“It is the most remarkable performance I have seen by any 11-year-old, boy or girl, in my 18 years as secretary of this junior league.

“However, perhaps I should not have been surprised – I organised an event last September, the Scottish Junior Team Championship, at the Craighead course in Crail, in which there were 120 competitors representing 20 teams from all over Scotland.

“Fraser was playing off 8.4 and scored a gross 74 from the yellow tees, a course measuring 6,185 yards.

“So this score at North Berwick is no fluke!”

Fraser’s sister, Stella, aged nine, completed her first full 18-hole round in the same competition, and scored 28 net Stableford points off a handicap of 23.

The East Lothian League format is based on teams of six from the member clubs.

The four best net Stableford points scored out of each teams’ six scores count towards the teams’ totals.

The home team, West Links Bass, with 143 points, just pipped Craigielaw by a single point.

Haddington and a new team, Musselburgh Toun, came third and fourth out of the 12 teams.

The Toun team comprises players from both Musselburgh and Royal Musselburgh, who on their own would be short of players, so they have combined forces for this season while they build up the numbers in their respective junior sections.

The league moves on now to some of the best courses on Scotland’s Golf Coast, with events at Dunbar, Longniddry, Gullane, Gifford, Kilspindie, Craigielaw, Haddington, Royal Musselburgh, and the Glen.

The events are free to enter and the league is a not-for-profit organisation.

Any junior with a membership at any of the clubs in the league, and with a WHS (World Handicap System) handicap of 28 for boys and 36 for girls, can play in the league if they are included in the team squads for the clubs where they are members.

Mr Warren added: “With some reserves also playing, we can accommodate up to 84 juniors at each event.

“Players’ positions in the season-long league orders of merit, scratch and handicap, will be one of the factors for deciding which players will be invited to take part in the annual trip to Pinehurst next February.

“The highlight of the coming year for our league players will be the visit by a team of the best juniors from South Carolina to compete against a combined team of the best juniors from the East Lothian and Edinburgh leagues for the Tom Watson Cup.

“Each team will comprise eight players, playing fourballs, foursomes and singles over courses at Royal Burgess, Muirfield and Gullane, from July 5 to 7.”