SOPHIE Keech successfully defended her crown at the regional qualifier of the Faldo Series at the Royal Ashdown golf course in East Sussex.

The result means the Lyme Regis Golf Club ace has once again qualified for the series final at the Lough Erne Golf Resort in Northern Ireland this September.

And the teenager will be determined to better her fourth-place in last year’s final, highlights of which are televised on Sky TV.

Keech was delighted to score a brilliant two-over-par in the first round of the qualifier to lead by four shots.

And with the second round washed out due to the rain, Keech was declared the under-16 champion for the second year in succession.

It was not an easy schedule for the youngster, who had only just returned in the early hours of the morning from Carnoustie in Scotland, where she was one of three golfers representing Millfield School in the final of the International Schools’ Golf Association.

It was also a successful three days for the rising star as she finished the event second in the girls’ individual (fifth overall for boys and girls), and in doing so helped Millfield come fourth out of the 17 finalists.

This was an outstanding effort by Keech, and after her first visit to the Championship course at Carnoustie, she will also be grateful for the experience as she returns at the end of June for the British Ladies Open Amateur Championships.

Prior to this, Keech also represented England Under-16s north of the border at Strathmore Golf Club, where she finished 17th out of 102 European golfers.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to deny Italy victory in the team event.

After her 16th birthday, Keech travels to Lytham St Annes in Lancashire for the prestigious amateur Fairhaven Trophy ahead of a busy season of top competition in 2012.