A round with… Graham Onions

Durham CCC fast bowler Graham Onions on why he loves golf, his dream fourball, and his best and worst golfing moments

Durham cricketer Graham Onions has reached the pinnacle of his profession as a fast bowler, helping England win The Ashes in 2009 and winning three County Championships with Durham since making his county debut in 2004. Now 34 and with the 2017 season on the horizon, we caught up him to talk about his other great sporting passion…

With a packed season about to begin and a young family at home, how often do get to play golf?
Not as much as I’d like to. The English cricket season is long and we do a lot of travelling so I like to spend a lot of my time at home with the family. I’d play two or three times a week if I could but I usually fit in a couple of games a month in the summer.

How did you get into golf?
There were a lot of golfers in the Durham team when I started and every morning of a Twenty20 game Gary Pratt, Gordon Muchall, Phil Mustard and I would jump in the car and play at Slaley Hall. It was great to get out there, loosen up and get our minds away from cricket for a little bit. It was good fun, even though I was rubbish and playing a really tough golf course having just picked up a club for the first time.

Which is your favourite course in the North East?
I’ve played a lot of golf in the North East so that’s tough. Longhirst is good fun on a nice day – though it’s too hard for me when it’s windy. My go-to would have to be the Priestman course at Slaley Hall.

And further afield?
We played The Grove quite bit when I was in the England team and that’s a really special place. I’ve been lucky enough to play at Loch Lomond with Paul Collingwood which is spectacular.

You’re about a 12-handicapper – what’s your best ever round?
Playing at South Shields Golf Club with the lads, I shot seven over-par using a ladies driver which was too short for me, a putter we shared between us, a set of irons I won on a golf day and the same ball for 18 holes.

Your favourite golfing memory?
I’ve got good memories of playing well over the years but the ones that really stand out are the trips away with the team. We go away at the end of the season and it’s always a great experience.

What about embarrassing moments?
Playing in a pro am at Slaley Hall and starting at the eighth off the back tees, I pulled my first tee shot into the trees and lost the ball. I walked onto the ninth and made a six, which I was quite happy with. I then walked up to the first tee and topped it onto the ladies tee before nailing a three wood, hitting a wedge to 2ft and holing out for a four. The pro didn’t know what was going on!

Do you have any superstitions?
I have a little shuffle before I putt, which a few people have said looks like I’m dancing.

What are your strengths on the course?
I’m handy with an eight iron down to the wedges and I’m not a bad putter.

10  And your weaknesses?
I played a lot of tennis and badminton as a kid so I have days when I’ll hit a few duck hooks off the tee.

11  Which is your favourite club?
My 56° Titleist Vokey wedge, I use it from inside 80 yards and have a lot of confidence with it.

12  Who is your best golfing mate?
I play a lot of golf with the Durham guys, though I have a couple of close friends who I tend to get away for a few games too.

13  How does your sporting background help your golf?
I think every professional sportsman has that competitive edge, which can be good and bad depending on whether you’re playing well or not. I do try and turn that off and get away from being too competitive and enjoy my sport when I can.

14  Who is your favourite tour player?

Phil Mickelson is a favourite – he’s a little bit unorthodox and his ability to get himself out of trouble around the greens is incredible. The way Dustin Johnson hits the ball is amazing and I always look out for Rory McIlroy during the majors – he’d probably be my top pick.

15  Which event do you enjoy the most?
I try and watch a bit of golf when I can and find it really relaxing to see guys make it look so easy. The Ryder Cup is the number one – the competitive edge between the two teams is great to see. Both teams are giving their all to win – I admire that in any athlete.

16  Which sportsmen do you admire?
Darren Gough – who gave me my England cap. I grew up watching him and I always admired what he did on and off the field. And Dale Steyn, the way he celebrates wickets, his desire to put in performances is really admirable.

17  Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
American actor Will Smith, I think he’s a genius. Michelle Keegan, though I’m not sure she plays golf. And Rory Mcilroy to be able to watch him up close.

18  If I could offer you another County Championship or a scratch handicap, which would you take?
It would have to be a County Championship. I love Durham. I would choose a Championship over a scratch handicap because I know how much it means to the club and to the lads. I’d be really happy to be a single figure handicapper.


Graham Onions of Durham CCC and England
2000 Onions makes his debut for Durham Second XI aged 18
2006 Gets his first England call up
2009 Onions made his Test debut versus West Indies and later that year his One Day International debut against Australia
2008, 2009, 2013 County Championship winner with Durham
2013 Controversially omitted from the England Test squad having fought back from injury
2017 The 34-year-old will play a key role in Durham’s quest to return to the top division following last season’s demotion enforced by the ECB