Three new champions crowned

Hexham’s Morgan Blythe, Whickham’s Faye Wheatley and Woodham’s Tony Tomlin win Northern Golfer Champion of Champions trophies at Longhirst Hall

As the curtain fell on the 2022 season, three players added their names to the region’s golfing history books with victories in the Northern Golfer Champion of Champions events.

The tournaments – for men, women and juniors – were staged together on the Dawson Course at Longhirst Hall for the first time, bringing together club champions from across Northumberland, Durham, Teesside and North Yorkshire.

Morgan Blythe

In the junior event, Hexham Golf Club’s Morgan Blythe added to his success in his final year in the junior ranks – posting a two under-par round of 71 on the Dawson Course to lead the field by six shots. His round – which included three birdies and a single bogey – was played in the worst of the day’s conditions, including strong winds and short spells of extremely heavy rain.

Morgan, who reached the final four in the The R&A Boys Amateur Championship earlier this season and won the Northumberland 72-hole Strokeplay Championship, said: “To win my last-ever event as a junior is a great feeling. It’s the perfect way to cap off my junior career.

“It was tough out there at times when the rain came and the wind got up. Through all of that, my golf was boring… in a good way. I found a lot of fairways and stayed in position. While I didn’t make too many putts, I knew I was in a good spot at a couple under-par on such a difficult day for scoring.

“This win gives me another big boost going into my first full year in the men’s ranks in 2023. Following a couple of years of consistent hard work, I’ve got another full winter schedule already mapped out with my coach, Andy Paisley, and the aim is to get fitter and stronger as I step up.

“To get some wins and see good results after working hard is a great feeling, and I’m hoping to do that again next year.”

Faye Wheatley

In the Ladies Champion of Champions, Faye added her name to the trophy for a second time, following up her victory in 2019 at Ramside Hall with an equally emphatic performance this year – shooting a one under-par round of 72 to top the leaderboard by eight shots.

Faye, who will be heading to Abu Dhabi in just a few weeks to defend her Faldo Series Europe Grand Final title, said: “I’m so proud to be a two-time champion of champions.

“The round had a few highs and lows. I had a bit of a bumpy start with a double bogey early, but I fought on and managed to make four birdies in a row on holes 13-16, which was definitely the highlight of the round. I played nicely all day though, even in the worst of the rain, and I knew I just had to stay cool and keep the ball in play.

“Winning this event again is another big title to add to my success in the last couple of years, and it gives me another big boost of confidence. I’ve worked hard on my game and gotten stronger since 2019, which has made a big difference, and the work I’ve done with Steven [MCDonnell] on my putting in the last few months was a big part of getting the win.

“Winning close to home is always great. I had my grandad Tony on the bag and my auntie Julie was here with me too – and I know my mam will be putting this on the fridge, right next to the first time I was on the cover for winning this event.”

Tony Tomlin

In the men’s event, Tony Tomlin – from Woodham Golf & Country Club – made the most of an early morning start, posting a three under-par round of 70 in the first group of the day and watching on as no player could match or beat his score.

He said: “While I still can’t quite believe I’ve won with such an elite field out there, I’m over the moon.

“Being first out was a big advantage, though my experience of playing in the wind at Seaton Carew for 18 years certainly helped a lot too. It was still tough out there for us, but we also got the very best of the greens and I rolled in a good number of putts to make my seven birdies. That said, the one I remember most was a missed one from 2ft on the fifth!

“With my 55th birthday coming up in January, seniors’ golf is just around the corner and I’m very much looking forward to it. While I can obviously still get it around and nearly got to a plus-five handicap this year – which was scary – it’s not easy to compete with the young boys while running my accountancy practice and getting a bit older. I think I’ll leave the 36-hole, one-day events to the young guys and focus on the one-round sprints.”

In the junior event, Wilton’s Alfie Baldwin earned second place with a four over-par round of 77 as Hobson’s Roan Smith finished in third place (81). Morgan collected the nett prize with his round of 71 +5 for 76.

Second place in the ladies’ event went to former champion of champions Rebecca Ferguson from Tynemouth (80) as Hobson’s Stacie Morton took third place (81). Faye also collected the nett prize with her score of 72 +3 for 75.

As Tony led the field for the men, Hexham’s Sean Heads edged out Blackwell Grange’s Adam Rochester for second place on countback as both players posted two under-par rounds of 72. The nett prize was collected by Teesside’s Dan Norman (72 +1 for 73).

Graham Chambers, Longhirst Hall’s director of golf, said: “Congratulations to Morgan, Faye and Tony on some spectacular scoring on a particularly challenging day weather-wise. We were delighted to have the opportunity to welcome back some of the region’s best golfers following the success of hosting the men’s event in April, and this adds another highlight to our 25th anniversary celebrations and our long-term partnership with Northern Golfer. We very much look forward to welcoming back the champions, and all the players who took part, in the years to come.”

Northern Golfer editor Dean Bailey added: “Congratulations to our new champions on some fantastic golf in trying conditions. As the event continues to build its place in the region’s golfing calendar, we look forward to welcoming them, and many of the players who took part this year, back to our tournaments in the coming years.

“Following heavy rain the day before the event, the greenkeeping team at Longhirst did an incredible job to present the Dawson Course to the highest standard. Our thanks go to Stephen Smith and his team for all their hard work. I must also say a huge thank you to Pam Tait and the clubhouse team at Longhirst, who are the very best at what they do and ensured the event went smoothly from 7am right through to 7pm. A special thank you must also go to Billy Kingsland for his support in organising the event and in running the scoring, his support was once again invaluable.

“As well as the team at Longhirst, special thanks must also go to the players, caddies, parents, supporters and friends who made the trip to Longhirst. Without them, we wouldn’t get to host these tournaments and some travel several hours to be part of the event. I look forward to seeing lots of you back again next season.”

The Northern Golfer Champion of Champions events will return in 2023 and we’ll be announcing the details in the new year.