A world-class golfer from Witney has qualified for an international competition where a young Tiger Woods swung a club as an amateur.

Josh Wilks-Hanley, 18, started playing aged six-and-a-half at Witney Lakes Resort.

Dad Tony, who coaches youth football team Witney Vikings, for which Josh’s sister Tanisha plays, said: “He came home from school one day and said can I go for some local golf lessons. My reaction was, they’re too flipping expensive but after a few weeks of pressure I relented.

“He started off at a junior group session with about 10 other kids. They hit some balls, it was a bit of fun but he really enjoyed it.

“I’m a footballer, I’m not into golf – although I am now. But the pro came up and said he seems to have a bit of a talent for it.

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“He was a talented footballer and I was running the Under 10s and Under 11s at Tower Hill FC when he said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to play any more, I want to play golf’. I thought, ‘what do I do now?’ but he was adamant.”

The range was then run by Mathew Cook – whose dad John Cook is an ex European Tour player - who moved to Heythrop Park near Chipping Norton where Josh now practises.

Mr Wilks-Hanley said: “Matt came along and Josh took to him and absolutely loved him and he kept going.”

Former Wood Green pupil Josh, who works as an apprentice green keeper at Witney Lakes, now trains two or three times a week, on the range or working on his short game.

His father said: “Josh is a laid-back character and golf can be stiff and starchy at times but he now plays all his golf through the British Junior Golf Tour which is absolutely fantastic.”

Josh is now set to play in the IMG Junior World Championships at the Torrey Pines course in San Diego in July.

It involves 1,200 competitors representing 56 countries over three or four different courses.

Torrey Pines, where the 15–17s will play, is also the venue for the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour and the site of the 2008 US Open. Woods has won on this course eight times.

“It’s a prestige golf course and this is a tournament Tiger Woods played in when he was a youngster,” said Mr Wilks-Hanley.

“I personally feel it’s going to be very, very tough. He won’t have played on a course like it before, it looks absolutely gorgeous.

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“If I’m going to be a realist, if he comes in the top 15 I’ll be ecstatic.

“My wife and I will be going over and we’ll encourage him all we can – because of Covid they are only allowed two spectators and I don’t know yet if I can caddy for him or they’ll supply a caddy.”

If he wins it could be the start of a career as a professional player.

Mr Wilks-Hanley said: “His aim has always been to go to the US in the next two or three years whether to be a greenkeeper or to play golf as more than an amateur.

“I don’t think his ambitions have changed. To be honest, I’d been a bit dismissive. At 15 he went to Indonesia to a very similar tournament. But there was an opening ceremony, you were representing Great Britain – I didn’t realise how big it was.

“This time round I’ll give it the attention it deserves.”