ONE of the district’s brightest young golfing talents as become a European champion.

Matfen Gall Golf Club member Zara Naughton won the U18 Junior European Open, at the Alcaidesa Golf Club in Spain, at the age of just 13.

The former Ponteland Middle School pupil, who joined Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School in September, played sensational golf over five rounds, to get the better of older and more experienced competitors.

Zara was just one stroke over par throughout the event, and excelled in the final round, where she carded a three-under par score, to finish eight strokes ahead of her nearest challenger.

Now in its 27th year, the prestigious competition is widely regarded as the toughest junior competition in Europe. Previous winners in both male and female categories include established tour players, such as Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Georgia Hall and Bronty Law.

Proud mum Victoria said: “Despite being one of the younger girls in the field, Zara performed brilliantly. Zara is hugely grateful to QEHS for allowing her time away from school to compete and to her grandparents who accompanied and supported her throughout the competition.”

It was a family affair on the course, with granddad Eric Christer performing the responsible role of caddy.

The competition was supported by Sky Sports, and footage of Zara’s victory will be screened on Sunday at 2.30pm. It will be repeated next Wednesday and Friday.

After receiving the prestitious trophy, Zara was interviewed by former European Tour professional Nick Dougherty, who is now a TV golf presenter.

This has been an outstanding year for the youngster, who in October, was a key member of the England Schools’ team which enjoyed success over Scotland.

It came after Zara was selected to represent England after finishing runner-up in the U16 national schools’ final, and also finishing in the top six at the U19 national schools final this summer.

In June, Zara, along with fellow local golder Lois Blythe, led Northumberland to victory at the North of England School Girls Championship, at Denton Golf Club in Manchester.

And in July, she excelled at Sherwood Forest Golf Club in Nottingham, where she produced some solid golf around the tricky heathland course.