NIAS squad gets in the groove at Tamworth

NORTHERN Inland Academy Of Sport’s golf squad reunited on Saturday at Tamworth Golf Club under head coach Brock Sampson for another camp to hone their young skills.

It was the second opportunity for the seven-player squad to focus on various parts of their game including pre-shot routine, their long game, shot- shaping, chipping and putting.

Brock Sampson is in his first term as NIAS coach and is delighted with the way his young charges are responding.

“They’re going really well,” Sampson said on Saturday .

“I think they’re all enjoying it. 

“I’m trying to teach them a little bit about what it’s like playing professionally and under pressure as well as adapting to different courses.”

He said there would be three more coaching and training weekends. 

“Then they have their Academy Games in Wollongong. 

“They’ll go down and play as a team there.”

Tom Gill might be the smallest in the NIAS  squad but he’s had a big year, culminating in winning his Under 14 Muswellbrook Junior Masters with rounds of 82, 83 around the par 71 layout.

Not bad for a 13-year-old  who is in Year 7 at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School.

He plays off a handicap of 12.

“I don’t hit it long,” Gill, who has been playing for five years, said.

Fellow Farrer student Mitchell McPherson has been playing for nine years.

The 15-year-old started at the Longyard as a junior and played in all the major tournaments around the State this year, including the State Age and Week of Golf in Sydney without success but did win at Barraba in a Sand Greens Championship out there.

He and Jake Weatherall are also off a 12 handicap.

Weatherall is also 15 and is in Year 9 at Tamworth High.

He started as a sub junior at Tamworth five years ago and is now in his third term at NIAS.

“I’ve learnt a fair bit, learnt a few drills,” Weatherall said.

“It’s been good for me.”

Andrew Brennan is a 14-year-old seven-marker who hails from Walcha.

His mother, Cathy, is a well- respected, successful and talented thoroughbred horse trainer while his father, Wayne, is also a more than handy golfer.

“He plays off four,” Andrew Brennan said.

He learnt to play and found a love for the game through some backyard hits with his father and older brother Luke while also tagging along to the local Walcha Golf Club to watch and then play with his father and brother.

He’s also been in NIAS for a couple of years.

“It’s been pretty good,” he said.

“The first year was pretty good but this year has been better probably because my handicap is a lot lower.”

He’s also had a good year, winning his home junior championship and then finishing second in the Tamworth Under 14 Junior 

Championship.

“I was the only one in it,” he admitted of his Walcha Junior Championship.

Inverell’s Luke York is also in his second year.

The 16-year-old Macintyre High Year 10 student plays off a handicap of eight.

“I’ve learnt a lot,” he said of the two-year stint.

“It’s helped me a lot, helped me drop my handicap from 15. I did get down to six at one stage.”

York won the 15 year age division at the Gunnedah Junior championship this year.

“I don’t hit it long – I’m just starting too,” he said.

Ben Koopman does hit it long.

The tall 17-year-old  hails from Barraba but has just started Year 12 at Tamworth’s Oxley High.

“It’s my third year in NIAS,” Koopman confirmed.

“It’s definitely helped me a lot . We’ve had better access to coaching.

He plays off a handicap of one.

His best result this year?

“Successfully defending the club championship at Barraba,” he said.

“I finished one under par for the three rounds,” he said of a Barraba course which has a par 71.

He also played in various major championships across the state.

“A lot of school work is backing up but I play and practise as much as I can.

“It’s just hard to juggle school and golf.”

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