WILTSHIRE is celebrating after winning England Golf’s County of the Year Award – with first congratulations coming from European Tour star Jordan Smith.

Wiltshire Golf was recognised at the England Golf Awards 2019, sponsored by adidas Golf, a glittering black tie event at the Royal Lancaster London.

Derry Hill's Smith, who played for Wiltshire, England & Great Britain until he turned pro and became a European Tour winner, sent a video message of congratulations.

He said: “I’m so proud of my county, Wiltshire. For such a small county we have definitely been punching above our weight!

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the county set up so I want to say congratulations, keep up the good work and thank you very much for all your help over the years.”

Wiltshire, which has 26 affiliated golf clubs, held off the strong challenge of Lancashire, a previous winner of the title and a county which represents 157 clubs.

It impressed the judges with the merger of its men and women’s organisations which created Wiltshire Golf, with the way it involves its clubs in its planning and the golfing opportunities it offers to players of all abilities, including a junior development tour.

Operations director Scott Talbert commented: “It is brilliant to receive recognition like this for the way we’re trying to change people’s attitudes to golf and to modernise the game.”

Wiltshire Golf has completed a year as a merged organisation and has a board which combines members with long experience of county golf and those who bring fresh ideas, knowledge and skills.

It has more than 100 youngsters in its junior programme and is aligning its competitions, with the boys’ and girls’ championships and the men’s and women’s county foursomes played on the same course on the same day.

It is also launching a nine-hole par three championship for all and hopes to attract 160 golfers for the day.

At least 40 youngsters attend each of the nine events of the junior tour, run for players aged 12 and under who are high or pre-handicappers.

It also got plans to relaunch its county card service for members, offering added benefits and new playing opportunities, including an order of merit.