Sixteen-year-old Horsham golfer goes professional
- Credit: Archant
Sixteen-year-old golfer Marco Penge, from Horsham, goes professional this year
Next year is crucial to the hopes and dreams of Marco Penge. If everything goes right for the 16-year-old golfer from Horsham, he will represent Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup match in September against the USA and then turn professional. After that, he hopes to emulate his hero Tiger Woods and slip on a green jacket at Augusta as the US Masters champion.
The Walker Cup, the amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup, is the ultimate for any aspiring British golfer with serious ambitions to play at the highest level and Marco is no different. “I’d just love to play in it. It really is a huge ambition of mine.” And his chances will have been considerably boosted by his outstanding performance at last month’s Boys Home International Championships in Scotland where he won five of his six matches and helped England notch up a notable triumph.
He has struck a lot of balls since he first visited a driving range to watch his Italian-born father, Angelo, try out the clubs given to him on his 40th birthday. A fairly decent golfer himself, Angelo immediately spotted the potential in his then five-year-old son and has been extremely supportive ever since.
Marco’s natural talent soon manifested itself and he rapidly got to grips with the game so many find fiendishly difficult. Ranked the third-best eight year old in Britain, he qualified for the Kids’ World Championship at famous Pinehurst in North Carolina where he finished 24th out of 117.
At the tender age of 10 he was selected to play for his club, Mannings Heath. Predictably, he won most of his matches. Weren’t his opponents a bit embarrassed to be beaten by a kid in short trousers? “Some took it better than others but, yes, a few were rather embarrassed.”
As he improved, the only thing that threatened a career in golf was football. Playing for Chesworth Rovers in Horsham, he scored an astonishing 75 goals in one season and was invited for trials with both Southampton and Reading. “For a while I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a footballer or a golfer, but golf won through in the end.” With an Italian name and father, he admits to divided loyalties and confessed he supported Italy rather than England in the recent football World Cup.
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But on the golf course, he’s firmly on England’s side and has represented this country at various levels and on more occasions than he can remember. A regular in the Sussex county team, he captured the Sussex Under-15 Championship an astonishing four times in a row. With a sideboard creaking under the weight of all the cups his son has won, Angelo must be contemplating constructing a modest extension to the family’s home just to accommodate them. Among the most prestigious is the Fairhaven Trophy, which attracts an international field of 18 year olds and under. Not only is Marco the reigning champion but he is also the only competitor to have won it in consecutive years.
Having left Forest school at the beginning of this year, Marco is now golfing full-time. When not playing in competitions, he practises at one or other of his two clubs, Goodwood and Worthing. Two years ago at the latter, he shot 65 in a tournament, the lowest score recorded on the course in 2012. Is that his lowest round ever? “No, I’ve shot 63 (eight under par) round Worthing in practice and my best competitive round was a seven-under- par 64 around Gullane in Scotland.”
Marco works very hard on his game, which is what Justin Rose urged him to do when the two met at Goodwood recently. Marco’s also met and chatted to Rory McIlroy and fellow Arsenal supporter Ian Poulter. His dream, of course, is to play regularly alongside them. With a handicap of +4 (which is four shots better than scratch) and an ability to drive the ball over 300 yards, there’s a very real chance he will.