A nine-year old girl from Oldham and a 12-year-old boy from Lymm, Cheshire, have won the world's first ever X Factor-style search for young golf stars.
Katie-Jane Stanley and Jake Williams wowed a panel of celebrity judges - not including Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole - at the Playgolf Manchester complex where 13 youngsters competed in the grand final of 'Talent Hunt' - a competition which had scoured the North West for the most promising natural golf talent in the region.
Just as in the TV talent show ‘X Factor’, the finalists went through a nerve-wracking audition in front of judges, hitting golf balls and explaining what they'd learned during four weeks of intensive 'boot camp' golf training with the Professional instructors at Playgolf Manchester.
Judges including Setanta Sports TV presenter, Charlotte Jackson; Chairman of Selectors for GB&I junior golf Peter McEvoy OBE; Playgolf Manchester General Manager, Craig Whitfield; and event organiser, Andy Hiseman, then had the difficult job of picking two winners – finally opting for St Mary's RC School, Failsworth, pupil, Katie-Jane and Lymm High school pupil, Jake.
The winners each received a year’s scholarship to Playgolf Manchester awarded under R&A amateur status guidelines, plus the opportunity to play regularly at local golf clubs.
Said Andy Hiseman: “It was a stunning event. We have proved that this is a magical formula to unlock junior golf talent, wherever you are in the world.
“Searching for a golf star in this way has proved to be an innovative and highly emotional experience for all concerned. Competitions like X Factor, Pop Idol and Britain’s Got Talent are ingrained in modern society and ‘Talent Hunt’ has proved to be a great way to make golf contemporary with young people.”
Playgolf Manchester, the North West’s favourite golf facility, played host to ‘Talent Hunt’ from initial auditions right through to the final. General Manager Craig Whitfield said: “’Talent Hunt’ has been an incredible success and we’re delighted for the two winners. "