Exciting young golfer Jake Craddock is back firing on all cylinders and ready to make his England debut next week after a difficult 2016 season.
The 15-year-old, from Rauceby, was named in an eight-man England Under 16s boys’ team for the quadrangular match against Wales, Holland and Ireland next week.
Jake’s hectic week of golf begins on Sunday when he turns out for Lincolnshire men’s A team in a friendly at Cleethorpes against the RAF.
He will then head straight from north Lincolnshire to Prestatyn, in north Wales, for the three-day international which starts on Tuesday.
His first taste of international competition came last year with a call-up to the England Schools (under 19s) team, but this will be a another step up in class.
“He’s as excited as I’ve ever seen him,” said dad Andy, who is set to chauffeur his son on the 420-mile round trip. “He has done really well; it is a very strong team.
“Jake has played for Sleaford’s men’s team since he was 13 and his record in matchplay is second-to-none so he will be fine.”
Most of Jake’s talent and ability on the fairways and greens is natural and has been self-taught.
The heights of age group golf have been scaled with only a handful of coaching sessions, and none before he had reached county level.
His introduction to the game was equally unorthodox, and unlike most young golfers did not come through his parents, neither of whom played,
“Our friends bought Jake a set of plastic golf clubs and balls when he was five,” Andy added.
“If it hadn’t been for that he would never have played golf.”
On his first trip to the driving range in his native Hertfordshire, Jake’s natural talent was quickly spotted by a coach who urged Andy to enter his son in the Wee Wonders tournament for six to 12-year-olds.
And just nine months after first swinging a plastic club, he was a national champion, aged six, and a European title followed at seven.
“He has been brilliant and done it all on his own,” Andy said.
While only in his mid-teens, the Carre’s Grammar School pupil already has a CV most lifelong golfers would kill for.
He has represented Lincolnshire at under 14s, under 16s, under 18s and now as a senior, and has been county and Midlands champion at both U14s and U16s age groups.
The Carre’s Grammar School pupil finished fifth at the 2015 Lincolnshire Open where he bettered top amateur Ashton Turner, who turned professional last autumn.
But Andy believes his son’s best achievement in his fledgling career came at his home club.
“When he was 13 he was runner-up in the men’s club championship at Sleaford and the next year he won it.
“He was the youngest winner in the club’s 110-year history. He was unstoppable that year.”
The win came just a month after Jake’s 14th birthday, and a couple of weeks later he became the youngest scratch golfer in the country in a golden 2015 season.
But like all top players, his character was tested by a dip in form the following year which has raised his handicap a fraction to 0.6.
“He had a bad 2016 and didn’t do well in the tournaments,” said Andy. “But he is fighting back now and has got a lot of his confidence back.
“He is playing very well at the moment and says his iron play has never been better,”