Welcome to the start of the new golfing decade, and a season of big events and big changes for golfers in our region.
I had great fun putting together the diary of key events for 2020 for this edition – plotting a route through the golfing year and picking out the big tournaments to look ahead to. For our region, the Betfred British Masters’ return to Close House in the summer is sure to be a huge highlight. Work is already well underway at Close House and we had the chance to enjoy a Round With the club’s owner, Sir Graham Wylie, this month. You’ll find that on pages 34-35.
There are many more big events to look out for, including Ladies County Match Week at Alnmouth and Northumberland defending the Big Six title at Royal Liverpool. There’s also the small matter of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in September.
While it was great fun to look ahead to the upcoming season, January also brought a conclusion to the 2019 one with the final of the Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs at Wynyard Golf Club. Due to rain, shift patterns and holidays, the 2019 final moved into the new year and saw Jimmy Guy and James Melville lift the trophy – you can read the full story of their success on pages 24-26.
Our region’s elite golfers have sought warmer weather to start their seasons, including Lee Westwood – who won in Abu Dhabi to get his year off to a great start. Meanwhile, Chris Paisley has had a slower start to his season, as he discusses in Tour Life on page 19. Meanwhile, Northumberland’s Rosie Belsham and Jess Baker made a trip to Arizona for Nick Faldo’s Major Champion Invitational, joining some of the world’s top male and female amateurs for the event. England internationals have also been out in Australia, where Yorkshire’s Ben Schmidt and Charlotte Heath have won prestigious titles.
Closer to home, the wet weather continues, but that hasn’t deterred our region’s golfers too much. It also hasn’t dampened the spirits of our expert greenkeeper Simon Olver, who discusses the changes he’s seen in the industry over the last 20-plus years on page 21.
The 2020 season is just around the corner. By the time I write the next welcome, we’ll be counting down to The Masters and hopefully all this winter’s rain will be a distant memory.