NEW Sheffield captain Neil Stones's investment in youth reaped its reward as the Yorkshire Inter-District Union champions defeated Leeds at Horsforth.
The top six of Sheffield's singles line-up were all aged 20 or under in the 22-14 win and the visitors saw both 15-year-old debutants, Alex Fitzpatrick (Hallamshire) and Charlie Daughtrey (Rotherham) secure individual points.
"I have been involved for 15 years or so now with the Sheffield team and I think it is the youngest top six we have ever fielded in that time," said Wheatley's Stones.
"It t is encouraging to have the young lads coming through. We do a lot of work with the Pete Cowen Golf Academy, especially with Nick Huby, and that is working really well.
"A lot of the young lads are coached by Nick and we are really seeing the fruits of all the hard work from everyone down at the academy."
Sheffield had only managed to forge a 7-5 advantage from the morning's foursomes, during which England Under-16 international Fitzpatrick will have learned an invaluable lesson.
Mistakenly thinking he and Daughtrey had lost by 3&2 to Pontefract's Andy Wiltshire and Barry Hardcastle (Wike Ridge), he offered his hand in congratulation on the 16th green.
The young Sheffield duo were, in fact, dormie two, but the gesture effectively conceded the match.
"It is a good learning curve for them," added Stones. "They are only 15 years old and still busy with their exams. Alex couldn't play the first couple of games because he was doing his exams, but he said to me once he got them out of the way - which he has now - he wanted to commit to the team for the rest of the season, which is good news for us."
Sheffield have found foursomes a problem area in recent years - even without misjudging a match's position - but have worked hard in the winter to rectify what Stones describes as an "Achilles heel".
"When I took over as captain one of the priorities was to try to address that for this year and so far it is working," he said. "We came in level at lunch at Fulford and we came in with a morning lead at Horsforth.
"We tend to do it the hard way, Sheffield, for whatever reason, but hopefully we are turning a little bit of a corner - although I don't like to tempt fate.
"I am a member at Wheatley and they have been very generous and given us courtesy of the course and facilities once a month for training sessions.
"I have been doing winter practice sessions with the team, which is something which we have never done before, trying to make it a little bit more professional.
"It has helped me to try some of the young lads and fringe players get them involved playing foursomes and building the team morale."
Stones's immediate predecessor as captain, Lindrick's Richard Hodgkinson, helped in part to attend to the foursomes conundrum by winning his match with Dean Longden (Phoenix) 3&2 against Waterton Park's Damien Simpson and Craig Watt, of Howley Hall.
The new leader confesses to needing time to acclimatise to his altered status, Leeds being his first game as a non-playing captain after fielding himself in the opener against York.
"I find it difficult just watching and was charging around, trying to encourage the lads," he said. "Our president (Dennis Clarke) was laughing at me, and calling me Seve."