FULFORD'S Charlie Thornton will make the transition into the men's game next season as winner of England Golf's Boys' Order of Merit.
Seventeen-year-old Thornton's accolade is a reflection of a season of consistently high performances, capped by reaching the quarter-finals of the British Boys' Championship at Muirfield in August.
There he was only beaten on the final green by the eventual champion, Germany's Falko Hanisch, but the points gained for his week's work took him to the summit of the Order of Merit, taking him by surprise.
“I thought I might finish in the top three or four, so to win the Order of Merit was fantastic,” said Thornton, who has represented his county at Under-16 level since his early teens.
He puts his most successful and consistent season so far down to working hard during the winter and maturing as a player.
“I think my course management has improved a lot thanks to working with Steve (Robinson, national and county coach based at Sandburn Hall),” continued Thornton.
“He has helped me learn how to map out my way around a course rather than thinking you can just stand up and hit it as far as you can off the tee.”
A single-figure golfer at the age of 12, he now plays off plus one as he approaches his 18th birthday next month.
It means he will step up to open competitions next season, but after his first year of playing golf full-time – a luxury he acknowledges was afforded him by his parents' investment of both time and money – he is ready for the challenge.
And he will be inspired to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a Tournament professional by the achievements of Hallamshire's Matt Fitzpatrick.
Only four years ago Fitzpatrick went two steps further than Thornton by lifting the British Boys title at Notts; this weekend he is, of course, making his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine, in Minnesota, having also won the US Amateur and two European Tour events along the way.
“Yorkshire have always talked about Danny (Willett, Masters champion) and Matt, and they are an inspiration,” said Thornton.
“Matt Fitzpatrick was never top of the under-18s and at that age he wasn't winning all the competitions, but after he won the British Boys, that was when he really started to go forward.
“I'd love to follow him and play in a Ryder Cup; that would be awesome.”
It is not only his parents, Graham and Jayne, who have helped Thornton on his way to a possible career in golf, for it was his grandparents who sowed the seeds of his love for the sport by gifting him a small set of plastic clubs when he was aged four.
Surprisingly, neither they nor any immediate members of his family played golf – or do to this day.
However, his grandmother's cousin is Hedley Muscroft, former European and Seniors Tour player and a legendary golfing figure in Leeds.
Thornton hopes winning the Order of Merit will place him on the international radar for the first time and he will step up his practice through the coming winter as he looks to become the latest Yorkshire player to represent England after Meltham's Jamie Bower and Masham's Dan Brown.
This year Bower won the Brabazon Trophy, England's stroke play championship, while Brown became the third White Rose winner in a row of the English men's amateur, the nation's match play championship.