Surrey’s Annabel Peaford made history by becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Justin Rose Telegraph Junior Championship as 24 of the finest elite junior golfers from Europe competed in the 2023 edition of the event at Quinta do Lago in Portugal last week.
The 14-year-old, a member of Walton Heath Golf Club, led from the start of the 54-hole girls’ tournament held on the resort’s prestigious South Course – a par-72 layout which was recently named Europe’s Best Golf Course and Portugal’s Best Golf Course at the 2023 World Golf Awards.
In the boys’ tournament, Morton Bailey, 17, from West Hove Golf Club, East Sussex, took the lead early and never wavered despite Connor Graham – the Scot who, in September, became the Walker Cup’s youngest ever player – chasing him all the way.
Sponsored for the fourth time by former winner Justin Rose, 12 girls and 12 boys competed across the three-round tournament from October 30 to November 3.
With victory, Peaford and Bailey join an illustrious list of previous winners which includes Rose, his European Ryder Cup-winning colleagues Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, as well as Ladies European Tour stars Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Melissa Reid and Carly Booth, as a winner of the unofficial ‘major of junior golf’.
After her final-round 73 took her to three-under-par and a five-shot victory over Scotland’s Freya Russell and defending champion Sophia Fullbrook, Peaford said she was looking forward to phoning her twin sister, Emily.
“I am off plus-four and Emily is off plus-three and we are very competitive,” said Peaford. “She is in school, but I know she was cheering me on and this means a lot to my family. Mum couldn’t be here, but Dad was, and he’s my coach, and I’m just really proud because everyone’s a lot older than me.
“I’ve just got into the English girls’ squad and it’s just really good to play alongside so many of them. This is a big advertisement for my game – a lot of people will see this. It’s just a great opportunity to have.”
Bailey also led from the start of the tournament with a final round 69 moving him to seven-under and to a six-shot win over Moseley’s Phillip Krone.
“I was tense, because playing against someone of Connor’s ability, and the other guys, you know he can just turn it on at any time,” Bailey said.
“It only takes a bogey or two to unsettle yourself. But I held strong and this feels awesome.”
Quinta do Lago has earned a reputation as a leading figure in European golf, with a trio of 18-hole courses – the North Course, South Course and Laranjal – attracting visitors from around the world. The South Course underwent an extensive €7million renovation in 2021 and was crowned Europe’s Best Golf Course at the World Golf Awards last year as the resort celebrated its 50th anniversary.