Another year has flashed by and what a year it has been . I could easily have been reporting on us having won the League if a couple of putts in 2 matches had gone our way . It has been a pleasure to Captain the team who have shown a great resilience and a wonderful team spirit.
We started the year with a warm up event at Wearside attended by 20 probables and possibles ! There were a few issues with how to mark a card , not helped by the fact that I tried to decipher them without the aid of glasses. Our annual first match was against the Lady Vets team and was held on yet another testing day at South Shields. The result of 12-0 to the men was no real measure of the very competitive golf played with many of the ladies tee shots at the first ( a driver into a strong wind) bringing gasps of awe ( or was it fear) from the men. Nevertheless a very enjoyable day.
We then combined with the Juniors to play the full County side at Durham City .The combination of the County “stealing” our best player and a most convoluted format of foursomes for the first 9 and singles for the back 9 with half the score carrying over had our players well confused and gave the County a comfortable win.
A match against the North Durham League at Garesfield saw only myself , partnering a very hot Peter Highmoor , gaining the only points for the Seniors in a 10-2 defeat . We hope to make this an annual event and will be looking for a better performance in the future.
Our last friendly was at Seaton Carew where we gave the youngsters from the Ladies County Team a warm up match before their County Week which was to be held at the same venue. For the record we managed a 5-3 win with 3 of the 4 matches going to the last.
Our first league match was against Northumberland at Whickham GC. They brought Whickham stalwart and ex Durham player, Tony McClure out of hiding to play against us. On a sunny day in May this match went to the last putt, on the last green, in the last match with our local rivals winning by 10-8. Well done though to John Ellwood and Ian Hendry who got the better of McClure and Forrest both morning and afternoon.
Next we travelled to Rossendale to play Lancashire in June but against a very strong team we went down 15-3. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the Lancashire Captain, Tony Holt, off scratch, playing in the last pair. Well done on this occasion to David Conway and Nigel King who beat their top pair in the afternoon 4 balls to record our only win.
In July on a very hot day we hosted Cumbria at Wearside. They may have had some selection issues but we recorded an empthatic 15-3 win with all the team contributing. Even myself !
In early August Cheshire came to play us at Darlington GC and this was a really close affair. We led by a point at lunch and looked throughout much of the afternoon round as though we may win. But yet again, hopes were dashed, as the game was decided by the last match left on the course which finished all square and gave the away team the narrowest of wins by 9 ½ - 8 ½ .
Despite this disappointment later in the month we travelled down in great spirits to Knaresborough to play Yorkshire and what a finale to the league season this turned out to be . An excellent venue and playing very long following heavy rain. The morning greensomes finished 3-3 with the highlight being the magnificent half achieved by Paul Reed & Ian Davison finishing eagle – birdie. The afternoon was a nailbiting affair with Andrew Stewart holding his nerve on the last 2 holes in the No 1 match , partnering John Kirkpatrick to victory. Ian Hendry and John Ellwood also produced fine wins both morning and afternoon. Again we were left waiting for the last match on the course, Geoff Charlton & Kevin Kelly (both 5 handicap) playing 2 Yorkshire lads off scratch and 1. A comfortable 4 & 2 win saw us half the match 9-9. A subsequent phone call during dinner revealed their arch rivals Lancashire had beaten them on countback to the league title
September saw us at Garforth, near Leeds for the Big Six . We managed to get out our strongest ever team with, for the 6 players, a combined handicap of 2. Another tough tree lined course which was very demanding for 36 holes in one day. We finished a creditable 4th ahead of Northumberland, Cumbria and the Isle of Man but well back of eventual winners Yorkshire. They went on , in October, to beat Sussex , Dorset & Lincolnshire in the National Finals at Effingham GC in Surrey.
I would like to thank all 19 players from the squad who represented the County this year with great credit and always with a tremendous team spirit. A belated welcome to our 3 new players this year, Ian Hendry, Andrew Stewart and Mark Wardle.
The Seniors County Championship was hotly contested at Seaton Carew with Nigel King winning over 2 days with 72-74 , by 1 from Ian Hendry and 1 further from Graeme Marchbank. I later had a very enjoyable 3 days at the West Links at North Berwick watching Nigel and Graeme along with John Kirkpatrick playing against some of the best amateurs in the world in the British Seniors Championship. This was more like watching a professional tournament, with many of the American players present having regained their amateur status after many years experience on the PGA tour ! Nigel produced rounds of 75-71-69 to finish 25th and Graeme 73-72-71 to finish 35th.
As always we have had tremendous support from past Captain , Gilbert Golightly and Chairman , Geoff Dunn who have attended most matches and my thanks again to our Secretary , Peter Dewar, for all his assistance and last but not least to our Sponsors, Pulman Garages whose continuing financial support is invaluable.