After leading elite fields of players from across the region at Longhirst Hall – Abby Roper, Harrison Sewell and Freddie McKenna are our new Champions of Champions
Three new Northern Golfer Champions of Champions were crowned at Longhirst Hall as the 2023 season drew to a close.
Each led an elite field of players drawn from across Northumberland, Durham, Teesside, North Yorkshire and Cumbria – with almost 100 players competing in the three simultaneous tournaments on Longhirst Hall’s Dawson Course.
In the men’s event, The Northumberland’s Harrison Sewell led the way with a five under-par round of 68 to become the 44th winner of the tournament – which dates back 1968.
Going one better than he did the previous day in the Junior County Champion of Champions event at Woodhall Spa – where he missed out on a place in a playoff by a single shot – Harrison raced to five under-par through eight holes before closing out his round to earn a one-shot win over Westerhope’s Cameron Thoburn. Dunstanburgh Castle’s Martin Carss took third place on one under-par as Kendal’s Thomas Robinson won the best nett prize (two under-par).
“I’m very proud to be a Champion of Champions,” said 17-year-old Harrison. “The field in the men’s event was tough, with lots of the best county and amateur golfers around, which makes getting the win in such an important event for the region even better.
“I got out the blocks early at Longhirst, making five birdies in the first eight holes, which put me in a good place. I got it to six under-par through 11, but a three-putt on 13 saw me drop my first shot of the day. The finish, with lots of holes into the wind, was tough so I was happy to get it in with pars from there and get the job done.
“Winning is a great way to wrap up the season. I’ve done well in county matches and events, and played well out in Spain with England, but getting a big win was the goal this year and I’m really happy to have got it done.
“I want to build on this next season, use all the confidence these last few months have given me, and get some national success under my belt. From there, I’ll just see how far I can take my golf.”
In the sixth Ladies Champion of Champions event, Cumbria county champion Abby Roper added to her success this season. Seascale-based Abby led the field with a two under-par round of 71 – and collected the nett prize on the same score – as Bishop Auckland-based England international Jess Hall finished second and Gosforth Park Ladies’ Libby Bell was third.
“Becoming Champion of Champions has been absolutely amazing; I’ve been buzzing ever since I finished at Longhirst. It’s really cool to have won something this big,” said 20-year-old Abby, who runs her own café in Whitehaven.
“Adding the win at Longhirst to my first county championship was great. I’ve played steady all year and built up to events really well – like breaking the course record at Seascale the week before heading over to Longhirst.
“I’ve learned a lot about my game over the last few years. These days I don’t practice as I run my business, certainly not every day like I used to, which has taken a lot of the pressure off when I play. I also enjoy it a lot more.
“At Longhirst, I played more really steady golf. I kept it straight, didn’t miss many greens, and when the putts rolled in, I made some good birdies. The highlight was definitely my eagle at the ninth – hitting a three-wood to 10ft came just at the right time.
“The win put the cherry on the top of a really good season – and doing it with my dad caddying was great, he’s so cool and nothing phases him. I also had my grandad – my number one fan – they’re watching; I always play well when he’s there and it was amazing that he got to watch me win such a big event.”
In the eighth playing of the junior event, Tynemouth’s Freddie McKenna led the way with a two under-par score as Consett’s Luke Bonser claimed second place. Hexham’s Nairn Barclay was third, while Allendale’s Kieran Edwards shot the best nett score of the day (six under-par).
“Validating my game, and getting a regional win, is a fantastic feeling,” said Freddie – who started his first year of a physics degree at Durham University shortly after the event.
“I’ve been playing well enough to win, but the result hadn’t come until Longhirst. Getting it over the line, and proving my game is good enough to win, is exactly what I needed to do this season.
“I got off to a hot start on the Dawson Course, getting it to five under-par through 12 holes while hitting every green in regulation. I stumbled a little bit coming in – losing a ball on 14 and making a double-bogey – but the finish was tough as the wind picked up and I knew everyone would make a mistake somewhere.
“I’ve taken a lot of confidence from this win. My game still isn’t quite where I want it to be, but I’ve got the drive to work hard and get it to where it needs to be to win more events like this in the future.”
Having hosted the Champion of Champions events for a third time, Longhirst Hall’s director of golf Graham Chambers said: “Well done to our new champions – Abby, Harrison and Freddie.
“Welcoming back some of the region’s best golfers following the success of last season’s two tournaments – in April and October – was brilliant. The feedback on the course and hospitality has been very positive, and a massive thank you has to go to our whole team for showcasing Longhirst at its best once again.
“We’re incredibly proud to be the host venue of these tournaments, which have become a fantastic way to sign off the season with top players and winners from across the north. We very much look forward to welcoming back the champions, and all the players who took part, in the years to come.”