While 2017 may have been a year to forget on many fronts, the region’s golfers have provided plenty of highlights. Here’s our pick of the year’s best stories…
Graeme Storm produced one of the golfing stories of the year within its first couple of weeks. Having lost his card (temporarily thanks to Patrick Reed) 84 days earlier, Storm overcame Rory McIlroy in a sudden-death playoff to win the BMW South African Open and went on to produce his best season in 10 years. Elsewhere, Alex Wrigley won in the UAE and the golfing world paid tribute to John Jacobs.
The first winners of the season were crowned – Sergio Garcia lifted his maiden major title at The Masters and Ramside Hall’s John Potts and Graeme Robson lifted the 2016 Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs title following a winter delay. Meanwhile, Burgham Park reopened with Kevin Gow at the helm and the North East paid tribute to Northumberland golf legend David Beardall.
The list of winners grew quickly in April as the first events of the British season took place. Jess Baker starred on our cover following her win in the Midland under 16 Girls Championship, Gavin Moynihan shot a final round of 68 to win the season-opening Lookers Championship at Close House on the EuroPro Tour, Briony Bayles lifted the Durham County Ladies Championship and Adam Chapman picked up the first win of his professional career on the 1836 Tour.
With the season in full swing we kept the local, national and international success coming as Chris Handy won the Durham County Championship and Alex Wrigley won in Denmark as Jessica Hall won three titles within a fortnight across the North of England. There were also wins for Cameron Wallace in the Seaton Slaver, Rosie Belsham became the youngest ever winner of the Northumberland County Ladies Championship, Angie Heads won the Northumberland Ladies Vets County title, and young Aaron Mansfield became a international star after stars of the European Tour helped him celebrate his birthday at Wentworth.
Girl power was in full force in June as Rosie Belsham made our cover following her record-breaking win and Jessica Hall smashed more records en-route to her second North of England Schools Championship. In the professional ranks Rob Dinwiddie and Nick McCarthy won the right to fly the flag for our region at the Open Championship, Nick Marsh won the EuroPro Tour’s Dawson & Sanderson Classic at Longhirst, David Clark won the NE/NW PGA Championship and Simon Robinson won the Northumberland & Durham Open. Elsewhere, Andrew Minnikin won the Northumberland Strokeplay Championship, Rhys Thompson won three titles in 15 days, James Wilson won the Durham County Boys Championship and Mark Booth won the Leeds Senior Masters.
Garrick Porteous confirmed his status as one of region’s best young professionals by winning his first European Challenge Tour title at the Prague Golf Challenge as Alex Stevenson jumped into the national spotlight with her win at the Scottish Girls Under 16 Championship. Closer to home Ian McEntee won the Durham County Matchplay Championship, Phil Ridden captured his first Northumberland County Championship title and top coach JJ Vallely shared his coaching secrets in our cover feature. And there was the small matter of Sergio Garcia joining the line-up for the British Masters.
The final countdown to the British Masters began and Northumberland shocked the northern golfing landscape by winning the Men’s County Qualifying Championship (Big Six). Arron Edwards-Hill travelled north to win the North of England Open Amateur Youth Golf Championship at Middlesbrough Golf Club, which was supported by Northern Golfer for the first time in 2017. There were also wins for Andrew Wilson in the Lee Westwood trophy, David Clark and Martin Jobling in the Golfbreaks.com PGA Fourball Championship, Whitby Golf Club in English Club Team Championship for a second year in a row and Alex Fitzpatrick – who beat brother Matt’s record for winning the men’s and boys’ Yorkshire county titles.
The biggest moment in nearly two decades of North East golf took place at Close House as Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and some of golf’s biggest names arrived for the British Masters. Paul Dunne produced one of the season’s best Sunday finishes to leapfrog the field and claim the title as Graeme Storm flew the flag for the North East and finished in a tie for fourth. There was also the small matter of the Northern Golfer Champion of Champions events in partnership with Lookers Renault at Ramside Hall – won by Tynemouth couple Stew Fell and Rebecca Ferguson alongside junior champion Joseph Robson from Hexham. Those somewhat overshadowed City of Newcastle’s win the English Champion Club Championship as Andrew Minnikin was back in the winner’s circle in the Northern Amateur Masters, father and son John and Rob King won the PING Family Fourball Betterball title, Alex Belt won on the EuroPro Tour, and David Clark topped the NE/NW PGA Order of Merit.
Eaglescliffe duo Matt Sibley and Dave Wainman capped a great year for the event by winning the Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs title. In the final few events of the season, David Hague won the North of England Open Championship and City of Newcastle narrowly missed out on the European Club title.