Having won their second Northern Counties Boys’ league title in a row, Northumberland’s boys are looking to add to their success in 2023 with a busy winter programme.
A total of 14 boys have been named in the squad for 2022/3 with a further 19 boys taking part in a newly formed development squad coached by Steve McKenna, John McKenna and Mark Penny. Both the core and development squads will also meet regularly at Dunstanburgh Castle and Alnmouth Village for team sessions in the coming months.
For Phil Ridden, who is part of the team who has taken control of the boys’ programme over the last four years – alongside Mark Laverick, Simon Coultas and Graham Forrest – this year’s programme is the most complete system to-date.
“We’re really happy with where we are just four years into the programme, with a national title and two league wins. We’re looking forward to a busy winter with the established players in the main squad and a big group of boys coming into the fold in our first development squad,” said Phil.
As well as creating a structure for boys coaching and team selection under the Northumberland Union of Golf Clubs, the team has also brought inter-club league matches under their supervision in 2022 – a process which has proved successful and will make identifying future county players easier.
“The system we have put in place – from inter-club matches into the development squad, the boys squad, and ultimately the men’s squad and beyond – is what the boys needed to be able to excel. We know we’ll lose boys as they reach the age of 18 and while we’ve had success, we needed to create a strong pipeline of players who can follow the boys who got this new era underway so well.
“We’re happy to have a coherent, structured approach to boys’ golf in Northumberland, with great coaches on board and the support of clubs and junior organisers, and we’re looking forward to more success.”
In 2023, the Northern Counties Boys League will move to a round-robin format with the six teams playing one another either home or away (alternating the following year), mirroring the men’s league format.
The development coaching and winter sessions are being funded by the county along with a £20,000 donation from the Asian Tour following its International Series event at Slaley Hall this summer.