We look back at the biggest stories of 2023 – including our region’s golfers starring on the international stage, national titles, local success stories, and lots more
The 2023 season was a good one for lots of our region’s golfers – from tour stars on the world stage to England internationals, county players and amateur golfers of every age – who won in teams and as individuals. Here’s the Northern Golfer team’s pick of the biggest stories and successes of the year…
The year began with the game’s biggest brands launching new equipment – including PING’s G430 family, and the TaylorMade Stealth 2 and Callaway Paradym ranges. James Harper won the first North East & North West PGA event of 2023 at Dunstanburgh Castle, and Rhys Thompson picked up his first win of the year at the Portugal Pro Tour’s Palmares Open IV.
Rosie Belsham won her first college title in the US at Guadalajara Country Club, while Scottish pro Paul O’Hara won the NE/NW PGA Turkey pro am by 26 shots. Suzann Pettersen was named European Solheim Cup captain, and Gosforth Park Ladies Golf Club began its centenary celebrations.
Plans to curb driving distance in the professional game were announced by The R&A and USGA, while Close House was named host venue for the Asian Tour’s International Series England. There were wins for Ken Ferrie in the NE/NW PGA Turnberry pro am, and Ellie Givens in the Aramco Team Series event in Singapore.
Chris Pascall became president of England Golf and Jon Rahm won The Masters at Augusta National. The DP World Tour won a court case against players who had joined LIV, and Jess Baker competed in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Charlotte Naughton helped England beat Spain at Hunstanton, Jess Hall won the Durham County Championship at Bishop Auckland, and Brooks Koepka won the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill. An all-female team from Ponteland won the Northumberland Schools title, and Candy Brown won the Northumberland Veteran Ladies Championship. At Seaton Carew – Alex Wrigley won a PGA North Region event, and Ian Hendry won the Senior Salver.
Rhys Thompson won his first event of the season on the Tartan Pro Tour at the Dundonald Links Classic before qualifying for the International Series England at Close House alongside James Wilson and Will Marshall. Meanwhile, Charlotte Naughton beat her sister Zara to successfully defend the Northumberland County Championship trophy, and James Glenn won the Durham County Matchplay Championship at Darlington. Jess Baker competed in the US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach – which was won by Allisen Corpuz, and Wyndham Clark won the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club. Closer to home – Stephen McNally won the Northumberland & Durham Open trophy at Prudhoe, and Daniel Hayes won the Seaton Salver. In Northumberland, City of Newcastle’s three-man team won the Teams Championship at Blyth, Morpeth won the Junior Teams Championship, and Steven Findlay won the Seniors Championship at Arcot Hall. Wynyard’s Amy Burton picked up a European title in the Girls’ 13-14 category of the 14th annual US Kids Golf European Championship in East Lothian; Workington’s Will Bowe was crowned Cumbria Strokeplay champion for the 11th time; and a shock deal between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was announced.
Rhys Thompson won his second and third Tartan Pro Tour events of the season; and the England Women’s team, featuring Northumberland’s Jess Baker and Rosie Belsham, took home the silver medal at the European Team Championships in Finland. Brian Harman won The Open at Royal Liverpool, while Charlotte Naughton won her second national title at the English Schools Golf Association National Under 16 Girls’ Championship at Coventry Hearsall. Ramside Hall hosted back-to-back LET Access Series events, which were won by England’s Lianna Bailey and Austria’s Katharina Muehlbauer. Andrew Minnikin won his fourth Northumberland County Championship at Ponteland before adding another 72-hole Strokeplay Championship title to his collection at Dunstanburgh Castle; and Heworth’s Aaron Scott lifted the Durham Strokeplay Championship trophy at Whickham. Meanwhile, Northumberland county captain Graham Forrest won the Northern Counties Seniors Championship at Furness, Tim Dykes successfully defended the Sunderland of Scotland Masters title at Westerhope, Eaglescliffe’s men’s team won the Durham County Clubs Championship at Consett & District, and Tony Tomlin won the Durham Seniors Championship at Eaglescliffe.
Dan Brown completed a stunning wire-to-wire win at the DP World Tour’s ISPS HANDA World Invitational to claim his maiden professional win while his brother, Ben, won the English Amateur at Ferndown. Durham’s senior team lifted their first Northern Counties Seniors’ title on the Isle of Man. Charlotte Naughton won the girls’ North of England U16 Championship while Teesside-based Alex Boyes won the boys’ U14 category in the event at Pannal before winning the North of England U14s at Beamish Park. Andy Ogletree won the International Series England at Close House by seven shots; and England’s teams – featuring Rosie Belsham, Jess Hall and Maggie Whitehead – won big at the Home Internationals. Blackwell Grange’s Aaron Cox shot a spectacular eight under-par 62 en-route to winning the NE/NW PGA Championship at Tyneside before Tim Dykes won the Tour Championship at Brancepeth Castle; Bishop Auckland’s Jess Hall and Jamie Birkbeck successfully defended the Durham Mixed Foursomes; John Harrison and Viv Hutchinson won the PGA Super 60s at Matfen Hall; and Close House’s Sally Hinton was named Coach of the Year at the Women In Golf Awards. Close House’s junior team lifted the Northumbria Junior Golf League trophy, and in professional golf Lilia Vu won the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath and Viktor Hovland won The FedEx Cup
Rhys Thompson brought the curtain down on a brilliant year on the Tartan Pro Tour – winning the season-ending Gleneagles Masters to secure top spot in the order of merit. Three new Northern Golfer Champions of Champions – Harrison Sewell, Abby Roper and Freddie McKenna – were crowned at Longhirst Hall. Europe retained the Solheim Cup; John Harrison completed a hat-trick of NE/NW PGA pro am wins; Bishop Auckland won the Clark Cup; and Whickham’s Bryan Levey and James Simpson won the Northumberland and Durham Inter-County Foursomes at South Shields. James Harper won the NE/NW PGA’s Dunstanburgh Classic and Matchplay Championship, while Adam Rochester won the Teesside Matchplay Championship and Northern Masters at Rockliffe Hall.
Europe lifted the Ryder Cup with a 16.5-11.5 victory at Marco Simone in Italy, while John Matthews and Ray Pipe won the Northern Golfer Match Play Pairs final at Seaton Carew. Graeme Storm made his 500th and final appearance on the DP World Tour at Le Golf National, and Rosie Belsham won her second individual collegiate title in Hawaii. Charlotte Naughton and Alex Boyes helped England U16s beat Ireland, Durham finished second in the English Senior Men’s County Finals, and Heworth’s Will Marshall picked up his first professional win on the iTS Tour. Malton & Norton’s teams won the NERGA Rabbits and Inter league titles, Cameron Thoburn won the Northumberland North & South Trophy at Seahouses, Wearside’s junior team won the Durham Junior League playoffs, and Owen Green won the PING Junior Masters Grand Final at Close House.