Dean Bailey meets the 2017 Northern Golfer Champion of Champions winners Rebecca Ferguson and Stewart Fell
As golfers, Rebecca Ferguson and Stewart Fell haven’t got a lot in common. Rebecca, a committed practiser who works closely with her uncle and coach John McKenna as often as weekly, is one of the most driven amateur golfers I’ve met.
Stewart on the other hand is more laid back, the kind of player who likes to do his practice on the course and is as happy teeing it up with the lads on a Saturday morning as he is representing his county or playing a big event.
What they do have in common is a special place in the history of one of the north of England’s biggest events as winners of the Northern Golfer Champion of Champions in partnership with Lookers Renault.
Having first met at Tynemouth Golf Club playing in Friday night junior events and started dating six years ago as teenagers, Rebecca and Stewart won the biggest titles of their respective careers beating strong fields of club champions from across the north of England at Ramside Hall.
“It’s amazing to be the first ever winner of the ladies’ event,” says Rebecca.
“For Stewart to win the men’s title was just perfect. I was so shocked and excited when I arrived at Ramside and saw his name at the top of the leaderboard.”
We meet at Tynemouth a couple of days after Stewart’s win, which came a week after Rebecca won the first ladies’ event over the Prince Bishops Course at Ramside with a level par round of 74 to beat the field by three shots.
“We play a lot of golf together and it’s great to both have huge titles having started out playing junior comps together nearly 10 years ago,” adds Rebecca, who was followed by her parents Neville and Gill and played on the same day as cousin Freddie took part in the junior event.
Stewart, who added his name to a long list of Men’s Champions stretching back to the 1960s when the championship was run by The Journal in Newcastle, shot a level par round of 72 to win by three shots in extremely tough conditions on the Cathedral Course.
“Bex had been building it up all week having already won her event, but I never thought I’d go out there with such an elite field and get the win,” says Stewart.
“It’s a great feeling to get a big win under my belt, to join an incredible list of past winners and to be the best club champion in the north of England alongside Rebecca.”
The pair have been members of Tynemouth Golf Club since their days as juniors and though their approach to the game varies, they admit it works well for them as a couple.
“We’re very different golfers,” says Stewart.
“Bex loves to practise and work on her game with John where I’m not a practiser and I like to find consistency through playing. I’ll work with Andy Paisley a little bit through the winter again and for me it’s really about enjoying my golf. I want to play with friends and at county level – that’s what makes me happy.”
“We love golf in different ways,” adds Rebecca. “Stew likes spending time away from golf as much as he does playing and I really love being here and playing. It gives us a nice balance where we can play together then spend time together away from golf too.”
Both events were played in strong winds and spells of heavy rain at Ramside, with Rebecca and Stewart winning their respective titles with scores of level par.
“The course was fantastic and I started really well by getting to four under-par through four holes,” explains Rebecca. “I thought it could be my day after that start but I dropped a couple of shots at the next two holes and really had to fight to keep my round going.
“I managed to settle down, used some of my experience from county matches and the national events I’ve played in and just ground it out coming in. Having my mum and dad out on the course with me was really nice and it was lovely to win with them here watching me too.”
Rebecca finished three shots ahead of second place Holly Hardy from Alnmouth Village Golf Club as Darlington Golf Club’s Ella Crang finished third with a round of 79.
Playing the following week, Stewart competed against more than 50 of the north’s best players.
“The course was so tough in the rain and wind – the key was building a solid score on the front nine. I managed to keep it together through those tough holes with some really good iron shots before I capitalised on the shorter holes coming in,” says Stewart, who received an exemption for a EuroPro Tour event next year along with the Champion of Champions trophy.
With Rebecca graduating from Newcastle University later this year and Stewart working at Sage in Gosforth, the couple are planning to enjoy the off-season together before setting new targets for 2018.
“The next step for me is to not be a one hit wonder and to win a county event while maintaining my position in the county side,” says Stewart – who has established himself as a member of the Northumberland county team this year with a solid match play record.
“I’d love to go on from here and get down to plus-one next season,” adds Rebecca – who ended her season with victory in the national season-long HowDidIDo order of merit event for a second time. “I’ll be playing more national events next year too and I’d like to get into the top-10 at least once.”
Rebecca and Stewart beat fields of club champions from across Northumberland, Durham, Teesside, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Scottish Borders in tough conditions at Ramside. The Champion of Champions events were supported by Lookers Renault, a brand with strong ties to golf across the UK and with sport in the North East.
Lookers Renault’s Anth Wills says: “Congratulations to Rebecca and Stewart for some excellent golf at Ramside.
“Lookers supports a number of sports and activities across our dealer network, from grassroots through to elite level.
“We’re proud to be supporting the Champion of Champions with our dealerships in the north of England and look forward to seeing more golfers taking part in events like this in the future.
“To see Rebecca and Stewart lift their respective trophies was fantastic, and a great occasion for Lookers Renault to be part of. We wish them all the best for their future on and off the golf course.”
Tournament host Ramside Hall proved a perfect venue for the events with players tackling the Prince Bishops and Cathedral courses.
Ramside Hall director of golf Helen Roseberry adds: “To see a young couple win the Ladies and Men’s titles was the icing on the cake of a great year.
“The feedback from the players over the two days was very positive and our course manager Roger Shaw and all the team here have prepared the course to find true champions. We’re delighted to have been part of the event and look forward to working with Northern Golfer and Lookers Renault in the future.”