A round with… Mark Ridley

The serial North East & North West PGA winner shares how he got into the game, where he enjoys playing the most, and who would make it into his dream fourball

There are many routes into professional golf. Some have illustrious amateur careers and appear destined to play professionally from an early age. Others leave school, play for their county and then train with the PGA and become club pros. Few spend 20 years in a print factory before signing up to the PGA’s training course – but that’s exactly how Mark Ridley did it and it’s proved very successful.

Mark turned professional in 2003 at the age of 40, working under his long-time friend Shaun Cowell, with whom he still works at Custom Fit Golf at South Moor. A serial winner locally, he has won the NE/NW PGA’s Championship, Tour Championship and Matchplay, and the Northumberland & Durham Open. He also has dozens of pro am titles to his name and has competed in two Senior Opens, making the cut at Sunningdale (T40) and St Andrews (T60).

We caught up with him to learn more about his love for the game…

How much golf do you get to play?
I play as many local and national PGA events as I can while working five days a week in the shop at South Moor. My golf is totally focussed on playing as many competitive events between March and September as I can these days.

How did you get into golf?
I started around the age of 12 with my dad at Beamish Park. I progressed pretty quickly and got into the county team, was capped 60 times and won a few titles, including back-to-back foursomes wins with John Kennedy.

Which is your favourite course in the North East?
I tend to enjoy the ones I’ve played well over the years. Brancepeth Castle is a favourite inland course while I always love going back to Seaton Carew if I get to pick a links track too?

And further afield?
We’re very lucky to have a regular NE/NW PGA pro am at Trump International in Aberdeen – it’s an amazing golf course and visually spectacular.

What’s your best score?
A nine under-par 59 in the Bamburgh Castle pro am with nine birdies and nine pars.

Which is your favourite golfing memory?
Playing in the Seniors Open twice has been very special. Competing in the first ever one at St Andrews was amazing and it was great to make the cut – not long after shooting the 59 at Bamburgh Castle.

What about embarrassing moments on the course?
Playing at Houghton-le-Spring in a league match while I was still an amateur, I turned up a bit late and rushed to the tee. After six holes, I looked down and realised I had odd shoes on! They weren’t even the same brand, I had one Nike and one Adidas, but I did manage to win the game.

Do you have any golfing superstitions?
I can’t wear black shoes on the course, it just doesn’t feel right.

What are your strengths on the course?
I hit it straight, which makes playing lots of different courses week-in and week-out more manageable.

And your weaknesses?
I’m a streaky putter, when I get one in early I’m alright, but other days it can feel like a grind on the greens.

Which is your favourite club in the bag?
My Callaway Epic Flash driver.

Who is your best golfing friend?
That’s a really tough question! I’ve got so many professional and amateur friends, though I do always enjoy a game with my regular pro am team.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a PGA professional?
I’d probably still be a printer. I started straight out of school and if turning pro hadn’t worked out, I could have gone back and worked my whole career there.

Who is your favourite golfer?
I grew up watching Seve and his flair and ability to hit it so far into trouble and escape was fantastic.

Which golf event do you  enjoy most?
As someone who has always put their clubs away in the winter, The Masters has always been an important event. It gets me right back into golf in April every year and I love seeing Augusta on TV.

Who do you admire?
Fred Couples played the game in the right way. I wish I could play with that relaxed demeanour and always have a smile on my face.

Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
I’d pick a couple of golfers and I think it has to be John Daly, as his stories would be truly unbelievable, while Seve had such a big influence on me that I’d have to pick him too. I’d give the last place to my dad as he got me into the game and we spent a lot of time together on the course when I was younger. My memories of playing all those rounds with my dad at Beamish are very special ones.

If you could have one mulligan, when would you have used it?
Keep it, golf is all about the next shot.