Kings of the castle

Brancepeth Castle’s Vaughan Raine and Shaun Elliott win the 20th edition of the Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs tournament

After six rounds of matches, Brancepeth Castle’s Vaughan Raine and Shaun Elliott added their names to the Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs trophy in the event’s 20th year.

The pair’s victory completed a hat-trick of wins for Brancepeth teams in the event following Ashley Coveney and Andrew Howard’s win in 2020, and James Melville and Jimmy Guy’s victory in 2019.

Vaughan, a four handicapper, said: “It’s a great feeling to come through the season and get our names on the trophy.

“We’re proud to have added our names after the lads from Brancepeth. It’s a tough event, we’ve had some close matches and I’m over the moon to have won it.”

Shaun, who plays off a handicap of 14, added: “It’s good to have got through a close final on a tough course against Lee and Mark. I’m delighted we got the job done.”

Friends since school, the 39-year-olds came through a series of close matches to reach the final stages.

Shaun added: “All of our games have been played to a really high standard and we’ve had to stick in to make it all the way through. We came through two extra holes at City of Newcastle, and we needed to be 14 under-par at Bedlington to win a close game there. We’ve played some cracking courses and the lads we’ve played in each round have been great company. 

“We visit new courses every year in this event and have found some real gems which we would have never got to without the Match Play Pairs.”

“Playing the semi-final and final at Close House has been a big highlight,” added Vaughan. “The Colt Course is fantastic – it’s challenging but it’s a tremendous place to play.

“We’ve got some more groups from Brancepeth signing up next year, so we’ll see how our lads get on next season.”

Mark and Lee Warren

Played over Close House’s Colt Course, the 2021 final brought together the Brancepeth duo and Newbiggin-based brothers Lee and Mark Warren.

Mark said: “The final was close, we’re obviously disappointed to have lost out, but it was a great game and Vaughan and Shaun played the best golf when they needed to. Overall, we’ve had a lot of fun competing in the event this season.”

“Our putters weren’t quite as hot as they have been,” added Lee. “But we’ve enjoyed the event all the way through and played against some great guys. We’ve played well throughout and really made our good shots count – especially winning the semi-final with our best golf right at the end. I’ve enjoyed playing competitive matches and we’re looking forward to having another go next year.”

Following Shaun’s nett birdie at the first hole, the Brancepeth team lost their early lead and trailed 2dn through five holes as Lee made a nett birdie at the par three fourth hole with a superb up and down, then parred the fifth hole with Vaughan and Shaun finding trouble from the tee.

Shaun responded at the sixth hole, making a nett birdie, before the match returned to all square at the eighth with Vaughan’s excellent birdie. The pairs made the turn all square before Shaun saved par for a half at the par five 10th hole, and Vaughan and Mark shared the 11th hole with solid pars.

The key passage of the match began at the tough par three 12th. With Mark on the green in regulation, Shaun produced a fine chip shot to make a nett birdie, which Mark was unable to match. At the 13th, Shaun again produced the best golf in the foursome, making par to take the Durham pair 2up.

With his partner out of the hole, it was Vaughan’s time to shine at the par three 14th hole. With both Mark and Lee considerably closer, Vaughan made a clutch up and down from well short of the green to save par before Mark and Lee failed to make pars from their positions.

Three down with four holes to play, Lee and Mark rallied at the tough 15th hole, both making pars while Vaughan and Shaun struggled to close out the match.

Their second opportunity wouldn’t be wasted as Shaun again made use of his shot at the 16th hole, making a solid par and forcing Mark or Lee to hole challenging putts, which they narrowly failed to do, handing the trophy to the Brancepeth pair with a 3&2 victory.

On the final, Shaun said: “Vaughan’s up and down at the 14th was the big moment of the game. I was out of it and the lads were in good spots, so Vaughan winning that hole from short of the green was superb.”

Vaughan added: “Shaun’s par at the 10th was huge as well. I was out of the hole and he played a great shot out of the trees followed by a good two-putt for par to keep the momentum going. The moments where one of us has hit a great shot when our partner has been out of it have really made the difference.”

Winners Vaughan and Shaun received a £600 prize along with adding their names to the Match Play Pairs trophy. As runners-up, Lee and Mark received £100 vouchers.

Vaughan and Shaun reached the final by leading throughout their semi-final match on the Filly Course at Close House with Durham City’s Brian Crampton and Andy Williams. Their 1up lead at the turn increased to two at the 14th hole as Shaun made a nett eagle on the long par four. From there, the Brancepeth pair held their nerve before Vaughan closed out a 3&1 victory at 17.

Lee and Mark booked their place in the final with victory over Woodham’s Doug Cairns and Mel Surtees on the Filly Course. In a close match, Lee and Mark were 1dn with three holes to play before Lee won the 16th with a nett birdie. He then hit a superb approach at 17 to setup a birdie two, which Doug followed with a two of his own. The Newbiggin pair closed out the match by winning the 18th as Doug and Mel couldn’t match Mark’s closing par.

Close House managing director Jonathan Lupton said: “Congratulations to Vaughan and Shaun on winning this year’s Match Play Pairs. We’re incredibly proud to have hosted the final stages of another successful year of the event. It’s always a pleasure to showcase our courses at Close House, and to hear positive feedback from the players.”

A huge thank you to all the players who have been part of this year’s tournament, which saw six rounds of matches completed between May and October. Northern Golfer’s thanks also go to all the clubs which have given courtesy to visiting players. A special thank you also goes to the management, greenstaff and golf services teams at Close House.

For full results and more information visit

Match Play Pairs will return in 2022 and further details will be published in our next edition.