GOLF: GOLF ace Sam Connor is teeing up for another successful season on the fairways.
The 12-year-old Sandiway Golf Club prodigy came to prominence five years ago when he was tipped for stardom by South African ace Ernie Els, who spotted him at a coaching clinic in Surrey.
His handicap was 40 at the age of five, under 14 by his 10th birthday and last season was shaved from nine to seven.
Dad Phil explained: 'Sam had a great year in 2003 and he has worked extremely hard on his game over winter.
'The results have already started to show with a win in a bogey competition at Sandiway a couple of weeks ago.
'Things are looking good for the new season. He has a new driver, a Titleist 983k - which is the same one his hero Els uses - and that has given him an extra 20 yards off the tee.'
Last year Sam, who also plays at Alsager GC, added to his reputation by winning three tournaments.
He topped the leaderboard at an Under 18s Junior Open at Heyrose, Tabley, and followed that up with victory in the 36-hole Sandmoor U14s Scratch Masters in Leeds.
But his biggest success came in a thrilling Weetabix Regional final at Woldingham GC in London.
In soaring temperatures of 88 degrees, Sam saw off two Southern-based county players to take the title.
On the last green, all three were tied and the event seemed to be heading for a play-off.
Sam had other ideas, reaching the green at the 500-yard par-five 18th in two, before chipping in for an eagle to win the tournament by one shot.
That success qualified Sam for the final of the Forest of Arden event in Warwickshire.
Played over two days, Sam was lying third after a good first round but came firing out of the blocks on day two and was two under par after eight holes.
He held a one-shot lead at the 11th but went for the pin too many times and eventually had to settle for fourth spot.
Other highlights included top-five finishes at Princes, Little Aston, Gog Magog, Bath and a couple of seconds in club events at Sandiway.
He was also the second youngest boy to play in the Reid Trophy for U14s, claiming a top-30 finish from a starting entry of 120.
Sam, who became the youngest player to hit a hole-in-one at Alsager when he aced the 160-yard fourth in 2000, has recently attended the Cheshire Boys' squad's pre-season meeting at Warrington and hopes to add county honours to his CV this summer.
He begins his season in earnest next month when he plays in two events - the Laddie Lucas at Princes GC in Kent and the Little Aston Masters.
He will then play the Lymm Open in May before taking part in the Bath Open and defending his Heyrose title in June.
A busy July programme includes the Cheshire Boys' Championships at Bramhall Park and the Weetabix Regional finals.
August will see him bid to retain his Sandmoor Masters title before contesting the Reid Trophy at Kings Norton, Birmingham.
Dad Phil added: 'Sam is still showing vast potential and he is working very hard to improve.'
At his current rate of progress, Sam may yet achieve his ambition of playing in the 2006 British Open at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake.