Palmer hands himself a wedding present

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SMILES: From left, Andy Palmer, John Dowd, Graham Cox and Chris Bamford

BRIDEGROOM-to-be Andy Palmer gave himself an extra wedding present when he topped the professional leaderboard in the Manchester Alliance at Mottram Hall with 37 points.

The Chorley assistant finished one clear of Lymm’s Graham Cox and Kieron Gaskell, from Westhoughton

Davenport’s Jamie Howarth was leading assistant with 34 points. And his club also featured in the pro-am prizes as former captain Chris Bamford partnered Cox, a former assistant at the club, hauled in 42 points.

Top of the am-am were Lee Warren (Northenden) and Jimmy O’Reilly (Swinton Park) with 42 points.

 

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Rooke swoops to win merit award

LEE Rooke clinched the PGA Cheshire & North Wales Members’ Tour Order of Merit despite failing to win any of the six fixtures.

But the Royal St David’s assistant was never out of the top 10 as he registered two second places, two thirds, a fifth and an eighth.

Ashton-on-Mersey’s Oliver Smith, who scored two aces in four months, clinched the final event at Knutsford with a mixed bag of bag of birdies, bogeys and an eagle in his one-under-par 71,

Rooke was a shot off the pace alongside Alderley Edge’s Charles Le Sueur and Ben Thompson, from Hazel Grove.

LEADING SCORES: 71 Oliver Smith (Ashton-on-Mersey); 72 Charles Le Sueur (Alderley Edge), Ben Thompson (Hazel Grove), Lee Rooke (Royal St David’s); 73 Graham Cox (Lymm), Oliver Pantoja (OP Golf), Benjamin Stanier (Wilmslow), Rhodri Fieldhouse (American Golf); 74 Tim Maxwell (Knutsford), Gary Brown (Marple).

ORDER OF MERIT: Lee Rooke (Royal St David’s) 626.67pts; Grant Edwards (Lakeside) 497.08; Oliver Pantoja (Hazel Grove) 447.50; Benjamin Thompson (Hazel Grove) 403.75; Rhodri Fieldhouse (American Golf) 376.25,

 

Crowther reflects on a season to remember

IAN Crowther has paid tribute to the quality of senior golf in Lancashire after enjoying a golden summer.

The Royal Lytham and St Annes player won two of the year’s biggest prizes and was crowned champion at the seniors’ championships in both Wales and Italy.

Crowther believes the standard of competition among the over 50 golfers in the Red Rose county is helping him keep his own game razor sharp.

“The seniors’ golf in Lancashire is played at such a fantastic level, and there is a great camaraderie among the players in the county team,” explained the 59-year-old, (pictured below right) after winning the Wales Seniors Championship (Image courtesy of Golf Union of  Wales)

.“There has been such a change in seniors’ golf over the last few seasons and the standard is so much higher. I think players are staying fitter and stronger later into life – and are working at their game and fitness levels even harder.

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“There was a time when a player’s game might start to go backwards as they got older, but I don’t think that is the case now. You only have to look at the number of guys in the gym!

“When you play for Lancashire it is not just a case of turning up and knocking the ball around. County captain Mike Gray did so much in bringing a professional approach to seniors’ golf at county level with the support of the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs and there is so much skill and quality in the team.

“Everyone supports each other so you really feel you are part of a golfing family. Everybody pushes each other along to play to the highest level we can.”

Crowther represented Lancashire as a teenager, but after returning to the sport later in life he has gone on to become a regular in the county seniors team as well as an England international. He was a member of the Lancashire team that crowned all England champions twice in 2014 and 2016 as well as playing in the successful England line-up at the Home Internationals in 2016 and 2017. He also helped England to the bronze at the European Championships in Sweden.

“I played for Lancashire at 16, but didn’t play county golf as I was building a business and raising a family,” explained the retired investment management businessman. “I got back into golf in my 30s and started to lower my handicap to the point where I was playing off plus one in my early 40s.

“As a proud Lancastrian, to now be playing for the county is marvellous but to represent your country is something very special. When you are led out behind the flag and hear the National Anthem being played you are just filled with pride to be there.”

Crowther’s spectacular success this year crowns a remarkable personal story that has seen him recover from major ankle surgery just two years ago.

The legacy of an old squash injury eventually led to him needing to have his entire right ankle rebuilt.

“In the first instance it was making sure I could walk again all right, and then starting to build up the golf slowly through chipping and putting. I think some of the members thought I was mad as they would see me working on my short game in all sorts of weathers but all the hard work the excellence of the surgeon and his team at Wrightington Hospital has paid off.

“The last couple of seasons have been incredible. It’s all a bit of a dream, to be competing at the highest level, winning titles and representing both my county and country,” added Crowther, who lives at Chadderton and is also a member of Manchester Golf Club.

“And then to enjoy what has been my best ever season is unbelievable. I think I have learnt about being in the mix at events and coming through to win this year has been fantastic.”

Crowther had threatened to make the breakthrough into the international winner’s enclosure early in the season by finishing second in the Spanish Seniors and third in the Portuguese on one of his many foreign ventures with pal Rob Fox.

However a sign of what to come was his win in the Captain’s Prize at Royal Lytham before he won the Welsh title by one shot at Maesdu Golf Club, Llandudno, in July, after claiming birdies at two of his final three holes.

He then embarked on a remarkable run which saw him win the James Braid scratch competition at Clitheroe, the Northern Counties at Seaton Carew and finally the Italian championships in Milan when he soared to the top of the leaderboard with a final round, six under 66.

“It has been a season I will never forget,” he added. “I have had great support from my wife Denise and my children Ben and Amy, while I have been travelling to events with Rob over the last couple of seasons. That has been a great way to play different courses and meet new people.

“I think what I have been through with the ankle means I have learnt not to take my golf for granted – and I want to make the very best of my playing opportunities.”

Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs secretary Phil Harvey said: “We are blessed with an outstanding squad of seniors players who are a real pleasure to work with and Ian is a very popular member of the team and a role model for elite senior golfers.”

 

Corrigan leads the way at Warrington

CHILLI Dip Academy stalwart Craig Corrigan showed his class with an impressive 40 points to win the individual professional section in the Manchester Alliance at Warrington.

He prevailed by a point from Ashton-on-Mersey’s in-form Ollie Pantoja and Hazel Grove assistant pro Ben Thompson. Top assistant was Stand’s Rob Batchelor with 36 points.

Marple’s Gary Brown partnered Richard Blackwell (Mottram Hall) to success in the pro-am with 44, winning  on countback from Ben Thompson and his Hazel Grove partner Ian Walters.

Marcus Corfield (Swinton Park) and Dave Smith (Ellesmere) took the am-am honours with 42 points from Norman Haslam (Stand) and Charlie Rodgers (Pike Fold) who were a shot adrift.

Smith’s proving a real ace

Oliver Smith.JPGOLIVER Smith is making a habit out of holing in one. The 29-year-old Ashton on Mersey assistant scored his second ace in four months during the PGA Cheshire & North Wales Members’ Tour fixture at Bramall Park.

“I’ve had a few albatrosses since turning professional so I must be doing something right,” he quipped.

“My first ace was at Coxmoor’s tenth during the Galvin Green PGA Assistants’ Championship. My latest, at Bramall’s fourth, was quite impressive because my tee shot went over the pin then spun back straight into the hole. It never looked like going anywhere else!”

Smith, in his second year in the paid ranks, posted one-under-par 69, a stroke adrift of three players including Royal St David’s consistent Lee Rooke.

The sixth and final event in the series is at Knutsford on November 20.

LEADING SCORES: 68 Graham Roberts (Eaton), Shamus Martin (Aberdovey), Lee Rooke (Royal St David’s); 69 Oliver Smith (Ashton on Mersey); 70 Alex Evans (Bromborough); 71 Benjamin Stanier (Wilmslow), Rhodri Fieldhouse (American Golf); 72 Tim Maxwell (Knutsford).

 

Bolton golfer named Lancs president elect

Mike Lay LUGC President 2018.jpgTHE Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs has named Michael Lay as president-elect for 2018-19 and will take up the role in March.

Lay, 58, has been a member of Bolton Golf Club for 15 years and is a category one golfer and a three-time winner of the Bury Golf Championship.

He has served on the handicap and greens committees at Bolton and was greens chairman when the club hosted the Lancashire County Championship in 2015.

He has been married to Karen, also a Bolton golfer, for 24 years.  They have a son, James, who has recently graduated from Nottingham University.

Lay joined the Lancashire board in 2012, has served on the junior committee and is chairman of the SSS and affiliation committee.

He attended school in Bolton and subsequently joined Greater Manchester Police where he served until retiring after 30 years, reaching the rank of detective superintendent.  He won the English Police Golf Championship and was selected to represent the British Police golf team.

As a boy he was passionately interested in all sports and became a county standard footballer before leaving school and he still retains an interest in many other sports. Lay is also the assistant secretary of Bolton Golf Association.

He said: “I am obviously delighted to be nominated as County President and as a proud Lancastrian look forward to representing the county and its members in 2018.”

 

Youngsters get the Abbey habit

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A JUNIOR golf academy launched by new  head PGA professional Ben Derbyshire at Vale Royal Abbey Golf Club  in Cheshire is proving to be a big hit with local youngsters.

Derbyshire and his assistant, Brian Cassidy, arrived at the club earlier this year and launched the academy with a free open day in March – and they’re planning another in 2018.

The day was combined with a seminar for parents to learn about the academy and it was a huge success with 60 young people attending and around 50 juniors going on to take coaching classes. These were run in eight-week blocks and the final session was a competition to test the juniors’ new skills, followed by presentation of prizes and certificates.

The new juniors at Vale Royal Abbey were also able to develop their game and grow their confidence on the club’s practice area, three-hole course, junior tees on the main course and eventually the full length course.

Ben and Brian have been so pleased with the response to the academy that they are planning to repeat the programme in 2018, holding another taster day in the spring, following this with more blocks of lessons and developing an events calendar for juniors.

Ben said: “The academy has been a huge success and we have also had great support from the members here at Vale Royal Abbey who have gone out of their way to help us in numerous ways, thus showing what a friendly and enthusiastic membership we have. The academy will now take a small break over the Christmas/New Year period and we will be back again with a free open day on Sunday 4 March 2018.”

Alison Lysons, Cheshire Club support officer for England Golf, said:  “The junior academy has been a great success thanks to the hard work of Ben and Brian and the fantastic junior friendly facilities at Vale Royal Abbey. It’s exciting to see so many young people enjoying the game of golf and having a real pathway to develop their skills. I look forward to supporting Ben and Brian with developing the junior section further in 2018”.

For further information about the Junior Academy at Vale Royal Abbey Golf Club, please contact:  Ben Derbyshire, Head PGA Professional, on 01606 301291 (option 4) or email golfpro@vra.co.uk