Golf star Hugo ready for 2009

Teenage golfer Hugo Dobson is hoping that 2009 could be the year he really announces himself on the golfing scene following his recent call-up to the England Under-18 squad.

Stuart Watson

Teenage golfer Hugo Dobson is hoping that 2009 could be the year he really announces himself on the golfing scene following his recent call-up to the England Under-18 squad.

Stuart Watson spoke to the 18-year-old about how his steady rise up the golfing ladder and the rising expectation levels that are beginning to surround him.

HUGO Dobson has quite happily played the role of tortoise rather than hare during his six year ascent up golf's junior pecking order.

And the 17-year-old from Orford is hopeful that his 'slow and steady wins the race' approach will stand him in good stead during a year which could prove make or break in his dreams of becoming a future PGA Tour player.

The Woodbridge School pupil first broke into the Suffolk squad at the age of 11 but, by his own admission, has never really been considered one of the county's leading young players.

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“There has always been a few so-called 'stars' that everyone has been looking at and I've always been in the background really,” said Dobson, who currently plays off of a plus one handicap.

“Some players blossom a bit later though. I've just tried to make small improvements and slowly I've narrowed down the gap.”

Last year Dobson - a member of both Woodbridge and Fynn Valley Golf Clubs - finished fourth in the Fairhaven Trophy and seventh in the Carris Trophy, two of golf's leading under-18 national events.

It built upon steady progress in the previous two years where a runners-up finish at the Nick Faldo Under-15 Series in 2006 was followed up by a title winning performance at the English Under-16 School Championship in 2007.

As a result, Dobson was called up to the English Golf Union's 11-man Under-18 squad last month with whom he will meet up with 10 times this year at their Lincolnshire base of Wyboston Lake Golf Club.

“Looking back, the Under-16 School Championship win really gave me a massive confidence boost,” said Dobson. “It made me realise that I was able to beat some of the players in the England squad and that I was able to play to that level.”

He added: “It's a massive confidence boost knowing that I'm now rated as up amongst the top 10 young players in the country.

“Most of the guys on the squad I have always looked up to. In the golf world a lot of them are already highly respected players and it's weird to think that I am now one of them.

“I went to a Christmas camp with the squad in Loughborough recently and they showed us some of the past under-18 squads and we realised that there were three or four players who are now established tour pros.

“The coaches said to us that hopefully, in another 10 years time, future under-18 squads will be looking at our picture and be thinking the same.”

Technically one of the big things that has enabled Dobson to really progress over the last year has been the improvement of his putting, an area of his game which has been transformed from his worst to arguably his best.

In addition he has dedicated himself to a strenuous gym routine in order to increase his driving distance for what is becoming more and more of a power game by the day.

However, those that know him believe it is his mature approach to the game which will prove even more important than any of the above.

“Yes it's probably fair to say that one of my strengths is keeping a good attitude on the course,” said Dobson.

“Off the course I could maybe be a bit better, but on the course I don't let things get to me. People my age tend to get a bit emotional with the game, but I just put things into perspective. Some people treat a bad shot like it's the end of the world, but you have to remember sometimes that is just a game of golf.”

Such is his level head and improvement on the course that Dobson was recently awarded a grant from the Suffolk SportsAid Foundation to go towards his travel, equipment and competition costs for next year.

He was presented with his grant by David Withers, the Managing Director of Ransomes Jacobsen who are one of the Foundation's key contributors, and then accepted a challenge to play the company's three-hole golf course where he demonstrated his talent by shooting a ten and equalling the course record.

Dobson said: “I'm sure there will be a little bit more pressure on me this year, people will start looking for my name a bit more at competitions but I've just got to forget about that.

“I'm still just treating it as my individual game and trying to prove to myself that I am good enough, not to anyone else.

“By this time next year I want to be playing off of a plus three handicap and over the next three or four years I want to get into the England men's A squad. After that I want to turn professional and make the tour circuit.”