TOP golf prospect Ben Schmidt could be forgiven for not wanting 2019 to end.
It's been an amazing year for a player who, not so long ago, missed out on playing a tournament because his ranking wasn't good enough.
The teenager from Rotherham Golf Club has swept the board since.
He became just the fourth player in history to win the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship (Brabazon Trophy) and its boys’ equivalent, the Carris Trophy, in the same year.
And if that wasn't enough, he flew out to Portugal and finished 15 shots clear of the rest of the field in the amateur game's “unofficial major”, the Justin Rose Junior Golf Championship.
The youngster also got to play in the USA in the US Amateur at the legendary Pinehurst course.
It's the stuff of boyhood dreams.
Ben explained: “Going from the start of this year, when I couldn't even get into the Spanish Amateur because my ranking wasn't low enough, to then achieve what I have achieved and to play in the US Amateur was a bit crazy, not expected.
“It was a brilliant experience and also unbelievable that I could get to go and play at Pinehurst. It has been a mind blowing year really.”
Ben Schmidt with Justin Rose.
Schmidt has been helped along the way by his coach, Frank Houlgate at the Waterfront club at Wath.
Combining studies for exams with serious sport is still challenging for any youngster but it was a change in Ben's circumstances a year ago that helped him spend more time out on the course and drive forward the drastic improvements in his game.
“I did a lot of work through last winter,” he says. “The year before I'd had GCSEs and exams so there was a big focus on that. Coming out of that, I'm doing a BTEC in Sport now which is pretty steady for me.
“It meant I could get on with practice and work on my game and it also meant I could come out and play well at the Portuguese Amateur. I did well there and being part of the England Boys squad, I had training with them as well.
“It has gone exactly the way I wanted it to go. I can't say I was planning to win all these times. You turn up at every event wanting to win but it is not every year I am going to be winning the big events I did. It has been really good.”
Ben got to shake hands with Justin Rose himself after his win at the Junior Championship, one of the game's stars even marking the young champion out as “one to watch”.
“It was good that he put in an appearance and came across,” says Ben. “I spoke to him a bit. He had a Q&A on one of the nights. It was just about listening to what he had to talk about because he has pretty much done it all, hasn't he?”
Asked who is golfing hero or role model is, there is no standout choice for the teenager.
“Justin Rose got to number one this year but, as for heroes, Tiger Woods would be most people's for what he has achieved and for coming back and winning the Masters,” he says. “If you would look at any golfer at the minute it would be Tiger Woods. Rory McIlroy is unbelievable as well, they're all unbelievably good golfers to watch.”
Ben at the Justin Rose Junior Golf Championship with girls’ winner Mimi Rhodes.
After such a good year, Ben has shelved plans to go to college in America in order to try to get to amateur world number one.
He is currently ranked no. 8 and early in the new year he'll be going to Australia to play some big amateur events.
At some point the pro ranks will beckon and, with it, the chance to follow in the footsteps of another Rotherham Golf Club member, 2016 Masters Champion and 2019 BMW PGA Championship winner Danny Willett.
“Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick, they're just local lads who have got to that level, winning European Tour events and that is pretty much my goal really,” adds Ben.
“I am not going to be at university any more so I will be going down the route of turning pro at some point.
“I don't know exactly when that will be yet but I want proper preparation by playing big events at amateur level and be the most ready for when I do decide to turn pro.
“I am not saying anyone can be a professional golfer but actually being one who plays on Tour and in Majors, it's two different things.
“My main goal is to become successful at it and be able to make a living and enjoy the journey and everything that comes with it as well as getting to play major courses in major tournaments.”
We want to continue holding local authorities to account, attending court and council meetings, as well as providing breaking news, competitions and offers – but it costs money. Online advertising does not cover costs, therefore we feel the need to ask for your help in ensuring we can provide the best possible coverage, online and in our printed products.
For as little as £1, you can support the Rotherham Advertiser – and it only takes a minute.
Click here to support local news.