Dean Bailey meets The Mail on Sunday Classic champions as they reflect on their season-long journey and success in Spain
National champions’ sits well on the bright blue flag which is draped over captain Gary Elliott’s arm and will soon flutter above the clubhouse at Consett & District Golf Club.
Having started out as one of more than 1,500 clubs from across the UK back in February, the Consett team has won more matches than it takes to win the FA Cup and are jubilant when we sit down at the club just a few days after their victory.
“The whole experience will stay with me for the rest of my life,” says Gary as the team gathers round in the clubhouse to reflect on a memorable week.
“To get into the final four from more than 1,500 clubs was a tremendous achievement in itself. The semi-final was nerve-wrecking with the match in the balance until the very end, and the final was a real joy to watch. To see the lads play so well under that much pressure was fantastic.”
The team for the finals at El Rompido in Spain – James Newton, John Kennedy, Mark Bonser, Brian Wigham, Mark Dorritt and Craig Armstrong – beat Watford’s Porters Park 3-2 in the semi-final, with John Kennedy – the man who came through a five-hole sudden-death playoff against Chester-le-Street in September – recounting the turning point in a close match.
“I’ve had a week to reflect on everything that went on and it’s remarkable how many little moments were huge during the semi-final and the final on our way to winning,” explains John. “In the semi-final I won early and Brian lost early, but the rest of the matches were really close so we went on to watch the guys and Brian picked up Mark’s bag for the final few holes.”
“That was a massive turning point,” adds Mark Dorritt. “I’d just lost three holes in a row and was one down with three to play. My opponent had a caddy and I felt lonely out there.
“Brian coming over was massive and spurred me on to win the final three holes and turn the game round.”
That result sent Consett through to the final, where opponents South Staffordshire went up in the early stages and look destined to halt Consett’s run at the final hurdle. In a key match, James Newton – the youngest member of the team at 21 – turned around a three down deficit following some words of advice from captain Gary.
“When I was three down with six to play and writing my apology speech to the lads, Gary had a chat with me and his advice, to go out and play the final stretch under-par, was huge.
“To come back and win 2&1 after a run of birdies filled me with so much pride. To win a national tournament is a life changing experience.”
John, a stalwart of Durham golf, sums up the feeling as the team learned the destination of the trophy: “I was lucky enough to watch the winning putt go in. We were mostly together as a team to see it – Mark Bosner holing what was about a 12ft putt and is now somewhere around 40ft I think, to give us the title as Craig was one up playing the last.
“I was still in the zone playing the last,” adds Craig. “I’ve never heard Mark react the way he did when that putt went in. The adrenaline went once I knew and all I wanted to do was celebrate with the lads.”
The reactions to Consett’s win started to come in as soon as Mark holed that putt, with messages coming from across the North East and continuing as the team returned home.
“You don’t realise how big it is or what you’ve achieved until you get back home,” says Craig.
“It didn’t sink in for me until I saw the flag with national champions written on it. To be part of that is an incredible feeling,” adds Mark Dorritt.
As well as congratulations from Consett members, the team received praise from Durham county captain Gerry Johnson, who managed Bishop Auckland to the title in 2003.
“Gerry sent a great message to congratulate the lads. To get that from someone who has been there and done it was fantastic,” says John.
“We played Hobson in the first round and Dave Turner was one of the first people to message us and there have been loads of messages from lads we’ve played all the way through the event.”
The team featured 10 players throughout the 11 rounds with Darren Elliott, Andrew Hastings, Aaron Leathley and Gus McArdle also playing their part.
“The whole squad, and our sponsors – Gibson & Harris, Plumbcentre, Yorkshire Trade Windows, Advanced Financial Planning, Electrical Services Ltd and G Hall Building have been key to a fantastic year,” adds Gary.
With more reminiscing to be done – I expect the story may continue to fill the clubhouse at Consett for many months to come…it’s certainly one worth telling.