History makers

The European Tour returns to the North East of England for the first time since 2002 reigniting the region’s relationship with world-class golf…

The North East of England has a long and varied history of top-tier golf and much of it is linked to the greatest Europeans ever to swing a club.

Severiano Ballesteros first visited in 1977, when the young Spaniard joined Australian Greg Norman and Nick Faldo for the Callers of Newcastle tournament at Whitley Bay Golf Club. All three finished down the leaderboard as South African John Fourie closed with course record 68 to take home the £5,000 prize.

Ballesteros would return a number of times, for the Great North Open in the late 90s at Slaley Hall and for the Seve Trophy – played between GB&I and Continental Europe at Wynyard in 2005 when a young Henrik Stenson was part of the European team. Norman would also return in 1980 for the Newcastle Brown 900 Open where he finished second to Irishman Des Smyth who made a dramatic birdie at the last to win by one.

The European Tour’s Compaq European Grand Prix, later the Great North Open, at Slaley Hall produced an elite crop of winners between 1996 and 2002, including South African great Retief Goosen (1996), Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie (1997) and Lee Westwood (2000).

The North East’s links with the British Masters go back to the first year of the European Tour and the first Dunlop Masters in 1972. Held at The Northumberland Golf Club, Tony Jacklin was the star attraction, having won the 1969 Open Championship and 1970 US Open. However, he was upstaged by New Zealander Bob Charles for the main prize.

From the 1970 Whitely Bay Classic, won by Maurice Bembridge who outshone a field including Lee Trevino and Peter Oosterhuis in the 36-hole event through to the Tour’s visits to Slaley Hall in the early 2000s, the region’s links with golf remain strong, despite a break of 15 years from European Tour events.

Close House has become a part of that history in the last six years, with Australian Peter Fowler winning the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship in 2015 while the EuroPro Tour has hosted The Lookers Championship over the Colt Course, while Longhirst Hall and Moor Allerton have become regular EuroPro hosts as well. Who will add their name to the list of greats to win in the North East this September?