One of the region’s best-known golfing characters has made a return to the greens
Tony McLure is on the comeback trail following a successful hip replacement. The former England international has been sidelined for the past couple of years, but now he’s determined to regain his position as one of the North’s leading amateur golfers.
A record Durham County Championship winner, 54-year-old McLure has been putting in the hard work both on the practice ground and in the gym to prepare him for a tilt at the challenges which lie in the seniors golfing arena. With one year to go before he qualifies for seniors’ golf and in anticipation of competing again at national level, he has entered the very competitive Scottish Seniors Golf Association tournament scene – which has an entry age of 50 – to help with his preparation.
“I’m glad to be back playing pain-free and able to strike through the ball,” says McLure. “The hip was completely disintegrating and meant that I could not even manage 18 holes.
McLure will be teeing up with other former international amateur golfers north of the Border and he is also determined to compete in many of the forthcoming North-East Audi Masters 36-hole tournaments, a series which he dominated during the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, winning the title 10 times
Holder of a record six Durham County Championships, Tony McLure made his Durham County debut against Cumberland and Westmoreland – as it was then known – as a 16-year-old in 1975 and he won his first county championship title when he’d just turned 20. After winning the title for the second time in 1980, he had a go at turning pro and went to the European Tour School in Portugal, missing his card by one shot. In those days, players could go back to the amateur ranks after six months if they decided not to continue as a pro, so he started work as a greenkeeper at his home club Whickham.
He won his third county championship in 1992, his fourth in 1995 and in 1999 he equalled the long-standing record of John Todd – which dated back to 1948 – and a year later the record was his alone as he won his sixth title at Seaton Carew, the scene of his first success 22 years previously.
“It was a great feeling to break John Todd’s record and although I didn’t know him very well he was the first to come up and congratulate me,” says McLure, who enjoyed a vintage 1990s decade, winning the 1993 Lytham Trophy, which is rated the unofficial British Amateur strokeplay title. He also went to Valderrama with the England squad and represented his country in the Nations Cup in Strasbourg.
“The Lytham Trophy gave me a new lease of life and I won the English and French Mid-Amateur titles in 1994 and 1998 and was invited to play in the European Tour Northumberland Challenge at Slaley Hall, which was a tremendous experience.”
He made the cut and played in all four rounds – no mean achievement for an amateur – but his decision to play at Slaley sparked controversy as it clashed with Durham’s involvement in the Northern Counties Championship at Hoylake and he found himself banned from the county side. Time is a great healer.
McLure says: “I have no ill-feeling towards Durham County whatsoever. I have always been proud to play for Durham.” In fact he is determined to prove to selectors that he still has what it takes to be chosen for a fifth decade.
McLure’s newly formed company TM Amenities, supplies all types of greenkeeping and course equipment. “I was made redundant from my job as head greenkeeper at Whickham when the club unfortunately met with financial problems,” he says, “I now represent a wide portfolio of companies as an agent, providing everything a golf club could desire.”