A round with… Steve Slater

The Northumberland Union of Golf Clubs’ secretary shares some of his favourite golfing memories and chooses his dream fourball

Steve Slater, secretary of the Northumberland Union of Golf Clubs, has built an enviable reputation in the club game in his home county, particularly in recent years. Winner of the Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs alongside Neil Elborn in 2006, he beat a stellar field of national champions to the City of Newcastle’s club championship in 2020 at the age of 60 before winning the Northumberland Seniors Championship in 2021. A one-handicapper, he took on the role of county secretary in 2021 and we caught up with him at his home club to find out more…

How much golf do you get to play?
I play a bit less than I did in my year between retiring and becoming secretary, but I’m still lucky to play three or four times per week in the summer and get in a couple of practice sessions.

How did you get into golf?
I started as a kid, pulling my dad’s trolley before he gave me some cut down hickory clubs. I joined John Jacobs, now High Gosforth Park, when I was 13. I had a few years out when I started work then took it back up in my early 20s and have played ever since.

Which is your favourite course in the North East?
My home club, City of Newcastle, is a real favourite. I’ve been a member for 32 years and love playing here. I’m also a member of Alnmouth, which is a wonderful place to play with some stunning scenery.

And further afield?
That’s a hard question! Carnoustie is very special and I have great memories of playing on the west coast of France on the links/parkland hybrid course at Golf de Saint-Jean-de-Monts.

What’s your best score?
A four under-par 68 at City of Newcastle in 2018 – with no bogeys.

Which is your favourite golfing memory?
Winning the club championship at City of Newcastle was very special. To win it for the first time at the age of 60, beating some of the best players in the county, was something I never thought would be possible. To do it with a set of borrowed clubs I’d had for a fortnight was just incredible.

What about embarrassing moments on the course?
Before I played, I remember the joy of finding a 10p piece on a green while caddying for my dad. His playing partner, whose marker I’d just pocketed, took it very well. While playing, I put a rather large sky mark on a brand new driver on the first tee when playing a league match. There were quite a few people watching and I got down to the front of the ladies tee rather quickly.

Do you have any golfing superstitions?
I don’t use golf balls with fours on them. I haven’t used once since I got my handicap below three through fear of going back up.

What are your strengths on the course?
I drive it straight, which keeps me out of trouble.

And your weaknesses?
While I’m straight, I’m not long off the tee which can put pressure on my short game on longer courses.

Which is your favourite club in the bag?
My Odyssey 2-ball putter.

Who is your best golfing friend?
It’s impossible to pick just one. I’ve got so many friends in golf, at the clubs I’m a member of and so many others. If I could only pick one, I’d say Colin Henderson – we always have a good laugh on the course.

Though you didn’t work in golf until you turned 60, was it something you’d always wanted to do?
I thought about switching careers a few times over the last 40 years but I never made the jump. Working in a sport you love is fantastic and having the opportunity now has been a lot of fun. We’ve got a lot to look forward to as a county following the incredible success our players had in national tournaments in 2021.

Who is your favourite tour player?
I always enjoy watching Lee Westwood and his commitment to competing well into his 40s is fantastic. The other player I’d pick out is Bernhard Langer. What he’s been able to continue achieving well into his 60s, after the huge problems he had on the greens, is just phenomenal.

Which golf events do you  enjoy most?
As secretary, our county championship is the pinnacle of our year and is always great to be a part of. In the professional game, there’s nothing like the Ryder Cup. I went to Celtic Manor in 2010 and it was outstanding. The atmosphere was unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

Who do you admire?
My wife, Helen. Throughout our life together she’s encouraged me to play golf and to follow my passion for the game. She’ll caddy for me and attend county events, and her support over the years has been incredibly important to me.

Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood and Bernhard Langer – three players I’ve admired for a long time and would love to play with.

If you could have one mulligan, when would you have used it?
Keep it, my glass has always been half-full.