Amber wins county title at age of 15
Royal Cromer teenager Amber Ratcliffe beat clubmate Tracey Williamson yesterday to become the youngest winner of the Norfolk Ladies' county golf championship.
The talented 15-year-old double English Schools girls' champion edged a tense match play final 2&1 at Hunstanton golf club to lift the prestigious trophy.
Ratcliffe – runner-up in 2009 as a 13-year-old – had swept aside her county rivals en route to the final, but needed to come from behind against the experienced Williamson.
'It feels really, really good to win this event. For me, it's the biggest event in Norfolk so to win it means a lot,' she said. 'It was difficult playing Tracey because we are friends from the same club, but you just have to forget about that, put that out of your mind, and get on with it.
'I was a runner-up in this event two years ago and I think having that experience before of playing and getting to the final helped me a lot because I knew with the format I couldn't afford to make too many mistakes. I just felt I played good golf through the last few matches. I don't think it is the best golf I can play, but it was enough to get through each game so I have to be happy with that.'
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Ratcliffe was two shots down at the turn but a sublime chip shot into the wind at the 15th landed two feet from the flag to strike a decisive blow in the closing stages.
The England Schools' international then birdied the par three 16th to move two up and despite a wayward approach to the next held her nerve to hole out before Williamson conceded with an embrace for her young club mate on the 17th green.
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'It was a tough match and I think that was reflected in the score really,' said Ratcliffe. 'I was two down early on and had to pull back so it was quite an exciting match to be involved in. I managed to make a few birdies to bring it back to level and that momentum helped me I think in the final few holes.
'I was really happy with the approach into 15. That was probably a key shot but I felt I needed to make the birdie putt on 16 as well just to give me some breathing space, to be honest.
'I just knew that coming down 17 I had to halve it, but I didn't hit a very good approach shot. I don't know quite what happened. I just had to laugh a bit because it was stupid. I think I would put that down to being really tired. I'd just come back from competing in the English Ladies' championship and that was like my tenth round in the last eight days or so.'
Ratcliffe is now targeting a third English Schools U16 girls' crown later this year to add to her growing collection.
'That is one of my aims for the rest of the season,' she said. 'I made the cut at the English Ladies at West Sussex last week and then when it went to match play I lost in the first round. I didn't make the cut the first time I entered that event so it's all good experience. I'm also in the Midlands' Select squad, but hopefully I can move up to the U18s group this year.
'My long game is pretty much the strongest part of my game. I'm definitely going to be working on my short game because there is room for improvement and you have to be top notch in that part of the game.'
• WEEKEND RESULTS FROM HUNSTANTON
• First round: Amber Ratcliffe (Royal Cromer) beat Juliet Fenton (King's Lynn) 7&5, Sue Henderson (Dunston Hall) beat Shelly Pleasance (Dunston Hall) 1 up, Jennifer Hide (Royal Norwich) beat Debbie Ogaard-Nielson (Eaton) 5&3, Edwina Gold (Eaton) beat Nickie Clarke (Royal Norwich) 2&1, Sammy Martin (Royal Norwich) beat Karen Young (Eaton) 2&1, Tracey Williamson (Royal Cromer) beat Jessica Rutherford (GYC) 6&5, Tiffany Mills (Ryston Park) beat Jane Sheppard (The Norfolk) 4&3, Jo Ashmore (Barnham Broom) beat Amy Skoulding (King's Lynn) at the 19th.
• Quarter-finals: Ratcliffe beat Henderson 6&5, Gold beat Hide 3&2, Williamson beat Martin 4&3, Ashmore beat Mills) 1up.
• Semi-finals: Ratcliffe beat Gold 6&5, Williamson beat Ashmore 4&3.
• Final: Ratcliffe beat Williamson 2&1.