Hours before Phil Mickelson made history by becoming golf’s oldest major champion at the US PGA Championship, 52-year-old John Kennedy added a major achievement to his own golfing résumé with victory in the Durham County Matchplay Championship – 25 years after winning the event for the first time.
John lifted the trophy for a second time with victory over South Shields’ Andrew McCarrick on the first sudden-death playoff hole of the final at Heworth. The win follows his matchplay championship win in 1996 at Ryton, and his County Championship (strokeplay) win in 1994 at Bishop Auckland.
“I can’t believe it has been 25 years since I won the trophy for the first time – it doesn’t feel like it,” said John. “The standard of golf in the final was superb and the course was in great condition, Heworth should be very proud.”
John stepped back from county golf in his mid-30s and didn’t play for Durham for 10 years before former county captain Bryan Ross asked him to return.
“I said yes to returning and knew I needed to keep on top of my game to play county golf. It was nice when Bryan asked me to come back and the county setup, with the county captains and the structures in place, made it an easy decision to return.”
To date, John has represented Durham on 94 occasions, having made his debut at the age of 16. Following his win at Heworth, he confirmed his next golf in county golf, “100 caps is the target. I turned 52 just before the matchplay, but I see no reason not to try and reach that target. Making sure my body holds up is the key. A lot of my pals of a similar age have struggled with joint problems and other niggles but I’ve been fortunate to have stayed reasonably healthy and my body seems to have held up well.”
In an exceptionally tight final played in blustery conditions, the contest between John and Andrew went to the 19th – the first hole – where John’s approach was superb, setting up a putt for birdie while Andrew found the greenside bunker. Having failed to get up and down for par, Andrew conceded the match to give John the win after two weekends of golf at Heworth. In the semi-finals, Andrew defeated South Shields teammate Martin McCririck 2&1, while John ended the hopes of Seaham’s Grant Dixon with a 4&2 victory.