MALTON & Norton’s David Hague has risen to a place inside the world’s top 100 amateurs with a highly successful season that was topped off with victory in the North of England Open championship at Alwoodley.
And he will waste no time in getting his 2018 campaign underway by jetting out to Australia on New Year’s Day as a member of England Golf’s men’s squad to play in four championships Down Under.
Hague, who finished fifth in England Golf’s Order of Merit for 2017, will compete in the Australian Master of the Amateurs, at Royal Melbourne; the Australian Amateur, at Lake Karrinyup and Wanneroo, Perth; the Avondale Championship, in New South Wales, and the New South Wales Amateur Championship, at Royal Canberra and Gungahlin Lake.
“I have never been to Australia and it is a great opportunity,” said the 21-year-old, who also tasted triumph this past year in the prestigious Lagonda Trophy, by a massive 12 shots, and an Evolve Pro Tour event in Spain, where he beat a field that included more than 30 professionals.
“The Australia trip is for five weeks, then I play the Portuguese Amateur in February, I think I am back for one day after that and then I go to the Spanish Amateur, and I am there for two weeks. I think after Christmas I have only got two weeks at home until the end of March.”
It is a challenging and arduous schedule, but world No 96 Hague hopes it will set him on his way to achieving one of his main goals for 2018 – claiming a place in the US Amateur Championship, which will be staged at Pebble Beach, in California, in the middle of August.
“The US Amateur is a big goal for me,” he said. “You either get in by being in the world’s top 50 around the end of June or you go to a qualifier out in America where you have to finish in the top three.
“I think it is every amateur’s dream to play in something as big as the US Amateur, and the British Amateur, too, which is another goal for me as I have never played in it.
“I’ve only played a few category A events, never mind elite events, so I want to test myself against the best amateurs in the world.”
Hague’s performances saw a massive leap forward in 2017, progress he puts down to an improvement in the psychological side of his game.
“I think it wasn’t so much my swing, it was more the mental attitude,” he said. “Not letting bad shots affect me so much and just enjoying it instead of worrying about it.
“Obviously if you watch a lot of pros they have a very good mental attitude. I watched Ian Poulter at the Open this year, it was the first round, and his mental attitude was as good as I have seen in anybody.
“I think he missed four or five greens on the front nine and then chipped it stiff every time. It was fantastic under that kind of pressure.”
His North of England triumph differed from his victories in the Lagonda, at Gog Magog, Cambridge, and the Evolve Pro Tour event, at La Serena, as he went out in the final round at Alwoodley in the leading group.
It taught him that he can win both from behind and as a last-round leader – although the latter did not come easily.
“Winning the event in Spain gave me a lot of confidence,” he recalled. “The thing I got from that and the Lagonda was that when I play my best golf I know I can win, which is a massive factor.
“I think I was fourth overnight in Spain and the Lagonda trophy was kind of coming from behind again [he shot stunning closing rounds of 62 63] in the sense that it was only a two-day tournament and I think I was about 15th or 20th after the first day.
“That is why I was so pleased in the North of England Championship because I was in the last group in the final round and I managed to win, so it was a first for me really.
“I don’t think it matters too much either way if you win, but I found it a lot tougher in the North of England Championship as a leader.
“I managed to win, but I dropped seven shots in the last 10 holes. It was a combination of nerves and some bad luck – it is a tough stretch of holes at Alwoodley when you turn from the ninth.”
Hague’s win in the North of England Championship, the final event of the 2017 England Golf Order of Merit, followed swiftly on from him earning his first national recognition as a member of England’s Home Internationals team, at Moortown.
He won the first four of his six matches before England were held by Ireland on the last day, ultimately losing the title to the Irish by half a game point.
“It was a big achievement for me to be chosen for the Home Internationals having not got in any of the squads before,” he said. “It was a very good week, it was just a shame about the last day, to lose by a half point.”
Hague’s ultimate goal is to turn professional and become a Tour player, but he is not imposing any time frame as to when he might take that step.
“I don’t think you need to put a time on turning pro,” he reasoned. “It is just as and when it comes, when you are ready. I’ll focus on trying to hit my goals for this year.”