Archive for the ‘Pro Golf’ Category

GB&I power to the PGA Cup success


CHAMPIONS AGAIN! The GB&I team beat the United Sates at Foxhills

IT would have come as no surprise had the brass band that serenaded the victorious Great Britain and Ireland team during the PGA Cup’s closing ceremony blasted out a few bars of Scotland the Brave.

In defeating the USA 16-10 to register back-to-back victories for the first time since 1984, a trio of Scots played influential roles at Foxhills Resort, Surrey.

Greig Hutcheon, an Aberdonian, holed the match-winning putt after Glasgow’s Chris Currie had staged a stirring recovery to halve the match that retained the trophy.

Masterminding the triumph, meanwhile, and pulling the string behind the scenes was Albert MacKenzie, another son of Aberdeen.

Inevitably, MacKenzie made it clear the success was not solely down to his compatriots.

“It was all about being a team effort, there was no individual glory here,” he insisted.

And he was right.

Every member of his 10-strong team, vice-captains Cameron Clark and Martyn Thompson and numerous backstage staff, played their parts in what turned out to be a comprehensive victory.

That appeared an unlikely scenario after the USA won Saturday’s foursomes 3 and 1 to go into the singles a point adrift of their hosts.

A close contest looked in the offing, especially as it has ‘previous’ in that respect.

The match at Slaley Hall in England four years ago ended all square and its successor in 2015 at CordeValle, California, resulted in Great Britain and Ireland prevailing by a point.

It was the first time Great Britain and Ireland had won on American soil and, at last, the Llandudno Trophy accompanied the visitors home.

The trophy, which is presented to the winners of the biennial competition, boasts a rich and curious history.

As well as bearing the name of a Welsh seaside town, the silver pot sustained a dent in its lid when dislodged from its perch in rural Dorset by earth tremors caused by an errant bomb dropped by the Germans during World War II.

Fast forward three-quarters of a century or so and it was the Americans who were left reeling after Great Britain and Ireland reprised the 7.5–2.5 singles victory they registered at Slaley Hall.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Americans’ first tee shot executed by Mark Brown was a portent of things to come.

Despite taking an iron for accuracy, Brown’s ball arced its way west towards the driving range. To put the Americans’ demise down to poor play, however, does them and their opponents a disservice.

Robert Coles, Matthew Cort, Andrew Raitt, Phillip Archer, Greig Hutcheon and David Higgins all won their matches, as did Damien McGrane after trailing Brown by two holes.

The comeback kid, however, proved to be Currie. Three down at the turn, Currie went up the 18th a hole to the good after halving the 17th.

His hopes of taking his tally to four wins, a defeat and winning the contest for the hosts were thwarted when his approach felled Coles’ caddy and his par was eclipsed by Rod Perry’s birdie.

Reflecting on his match, Currie said: “Rod’s such a consistent player. He hits the ball very straight, he’s a good iron player and chips and putts great. He was one of the people I thought I could do with avoiding in the singles!

“I was three-down at the turn but got a couple of birdies and managed to put him under pressure coming down the stretch. He made a great birdie on the last to halve the match, which I thought was the right result. It was certainly a game of two halves and I’ll take that. It was another half point to where we had to be.”

That meant it fell to Hutcheon on the 17th to claim the half point needed for victory and deliver the coup de grace match-wise.

Describing how it unfolded, Hutcheon said: “I hit a great second shot in – one of the best I’ve hit all week but it went too long and I’ve left myself the tricky chip.

“I managed to knock it down. But I’m glad no-one told me the putt was for the official victory because I might have missed it!

“I managed to roll it in. It is absolutely brilliant. At my age, I’m never going to get in a Ryder Cup team, so it’s absolutely the next best thing.

“As for Albert – he’s been fantastic. He has done all sorts this week. There have been messages, joke presents, team talks. He has been a great captain. It’s a great honour for me coming from the same neck of the woods – we’re both Aberdeen fans. To hole the putt that won the Cup is great.

“It has got to be right up there with the best. I had a feeling when I saw I was playing seven that it could come down to me.

“But I have been playing with an injury this year. I had left hip problems and you put your body through a lot when you are pounding balls. So I haven’t been playing well.

“Golf is an easy game when it is going well but when it goes bad it is so difficult. I found it hard this week. Albert rested me a couple of times and that was probably just as well – so I could get that half point.”

In doing so, Hutcheon ensured that, as well as winning the match, the cream of Great Britain and Ireland’s PGA Professionals succeeded where others have failed.

While the Ryder, Solheim and Walker Cups remain in American hands, the Llandudno Trophy stays at home.


MacKenzie upbeat on PGA Cup hopes

ALBERT MacKenzie’s optimism after his Great Britain and Ireland team saw a three-point lead trimmed to one was at odds with the colours of the umbrellas unfurled to combat the rain that fell on Foxhills on the second day of the PGA Cup.

Those hues could have reflected the moods in the opposing camps.

The black number sported by Great Britain and Ireland’s players and officials was anything but a jolly brolly.

By contrast, the red, white, blue and star-studded rain repellent held aloft by the Americans mirrored the vibrancy and feelgood factor in the visiting camp.

But for MacKenzie, always an upbeat character, his glass was half-full as opposed to half empty.

“This afternoon, the Americans came out of the blocks quickly and it looked as if we were going to struggle to perhaps even get anything out of the session,” he said.

“So, to finish with a point from this afternoon, which gives us a one-point advantage going into the singles, it’s a wonderful place to be. ”

Great Britain battle back in PGA Cup

IN football parlance, the first day of the PGA Cup at Foxhills could aptly be described as one of two halves.

Three points to one adrift after the morning fourballs, Great Britain enjoyed a reversal of fortunes after lunch to prevail in the foursomes by 3.5-0.5.

Not quite awesome foursomes then but as near as dammit. All of which meant the turnaround ensured Albert MacKenzie’s 10-strong team of eight debutants and two old hands ended a chilly autumnal day at the Surrey resort leading the match by 4.5 to 3.5 points.

MacKenzie, vice-captain when Great Britain and Ireland claimed the Llandudno Trophy on American soil for the first time two years ago, opted for experience to begin the quest to register back-to-back wins for the first time since 1984.

Thus Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon and Damien McGrane of Ireland were tasked with carrying the host’s standard round the tree-lined and challenging Longcross Course.

In the event, the pair suffered Great Britain and Ireland’s heaviest defeat of the day, going down three and two to Rod Perry and Jamie Broce.

Rob Coles and Chris McDonnell also lost; likewise Andrew Raitt and Phillip Archer.

Salvation came with another Scottish and Irish combo, Chris Currie and David Higgins. 

More importantly, as well as sprinkling respectability on the score-line, the pair’s three and one victory over Omar Uresti and Paul Claxton raised spirits for the afternoon’s foursomes.

None more so than those of Matt Cort and Garry Houston. Having sat out the morning session and sent out first, the pair began the process of turning the predominantly red-coloured leaderboard blue.

Victory by two holes over Dave McNabb and Josh Speight ensued and the duo had no hesitation in outlining how brilliant an experience it is to compete in the PGA Cup. 

“It was amazing,” enthused Cort. “I’ve spoken to a few guys that have played in the team in the past – they’ve had good careers but they say this is the highlight. I’ve not had that much experience of team golf, especially foursomes.

“Fourballs can be quite relaxing but foursomes are totally different. They can be quite nerve-racking and challenging so now I can see why it means so much.”

Houston, who represents Wales, was similarly enthusiastic. “I agree 100 per cent,” he concurred. “We’ve played at levels that are maybe higher but I haven’t felt pressure like that straight from the start. It was a buzz. You’ve got to embrace the situation.”

The pair began to take a firm grip on their match when Cort rolled home a long-range putt from the apron at the front of the ninth green. 

“It was kind of one of those putts where you hit it out of the middle and you know it’s going to be good all the way. That kind of got us going. 

“We got to three-up after 13 but good players always come back at you – you’ve got to expect them to. That’s what they did but we managed to keep ahead and play well coming in.”

Coles and Raitt increased the blue hue on the scoreboards that punctuate the course – as did Currie and Archer. 

In doing so, the former was the only member of the Great Britain and Ireland team to win both his matches and while in a team event it is perhaps invidious to single out an individual.

However, the Scot’s hole-winning birdie putt on the eighth in the foursomes followed by an approach to the ninth that deposited the ball five foot from the pin to set up his partner for another birdie were exceptional examples of golfing skill.


Cox wins Lancs Open by four shots

 GRAHAM Cox, the overnight leader, maintained his stranglehold on the James Brearley Lancashire Open at Blackpool North Shore when he returned a second successive 68 for a six-under-par total.

The Lymm-attached professional virtually killed off any hopes of the chasing pack with birdies on the opening two holes, finishing four shots clear of runner-up Craig Corrigan, from Chilli Dip Academy, who last prevailed in the event in 1999.

“That gave me a cushion which was helpful, especially in the windy conditions, and I made good saves on 11, 13 and 14,” said Cox. “I’ve been working on my short game and my friend Anthony Millar, the Ellesmere professional, gave me a pep talk and told me to concentrate on routine.”Winner Graham Cox.JPG

Cox, 39, fully recovered from a throat infection that kept him in bed over the weekend, admitted: “I needed to do well in this tournament because the first half of the year was pretty awful. I wasn’t even in the tour championship. I’ll be playing in next week’s Nefyn & Royal St David’s pro-am next week then it’s the MTS Group final at Carus Green.

“Hopefully, I’ll finish in the Order of Merit top 10. I have a sponsor which is a great help because although I teach at Lymm they’re not wall-to-wall with classes so that gives me lots of practice time.”

Corrigan posted a closing 68 and defending champion Steve Parry, from Hart Common, took third prize after a signing off with 67 for a one-under-par total matched by Penwortham’s Ryan O’Neill.

Shot of the tournament was a hole-in-one at the 17th by Michael Jones, from Bolton Old Links in the first round – astonishingly after the flag had been blown out of the hole minutes earlier!

PICTURE CAPTION: Graham Cox receives the trophy from James Brearley director David Hannis

LEADING SCORES: 136 Graham Cox (Lymm) 68 68; 140 Craig Corrigan (Chilli Dip Academy) 72 68 141 Steve Parry (Hart Common) 74 67, R O’Neill (Penwortham) 74 67; 143 Gareth Davies (Abbeydale) 74 69, Grant Hamerton (Pike Fold) 74 69, Michael Ramsden (Renishaw Park) 73 70, Michael Jones (Bolton Old Links) 72 71, David Shacklady (Mossock Hall) 71 72.


Cox leads Lancs Open after sickness 

GRAHAM Cox arose from his sick bed to continue his resurgent form when he set the first round pace in the £9,700 James Brearley Lancashire Open at wind-swept Blackpool North Shore with a three-under-par 68.

The 39-year-old Lymm-attached professional, winner of two events last month and runner-up in two others, conjured up a brace of birdies on each loop and erred only once with a bogey at the seventh.

But he revealed: “I was suffering from a sore throat for two days so I wasn’t able to practice. Fortunately I felt better once I’d got to the course although it was tough going at times.

“I started on the 10th tee without a blemish but it was tough on the second nine and I was fortunate to drop only one shot.”

Davenport’s Jamie Howarth carded 70 to lie in second place with Stamford’s Mark Smith and Mossock Hall’s David Shacklady a stroke back.

Title-holder Steve Parry, from Hart Common, posted 74 and was in a 9-way tie for 14th place.

LEADING SCORES: 68 Graham Cox (Lymm); 70 Jamie Howarth (Davenport); 71 Mark Smith (Stamford), David Shacklady (Mossock Hall); 72 Craig Corrigan (Chilli Dip Academy), Michael Jones (Bolton Old Links), Tim Dykes (Penrith); 73 Curtis Dean (Blackpool North Shore), Joe Senior (Heysham), Christopher Storey (American Golf), Jack Dudley (Village Urban Resort), David Smith (Swinton Park), Michael Ramsden (Renishaw Park).


Oliver couldn’t ask for anything more!

THERE’S never been a dull moment for Oliver Smith since he joined the professional ranks.

The second year trainee at Ashton-on-Mersey Golf Club has just won the PGA North Assistants’ Championship of Cheshire at High Legh Park with a four-under-par 67 featuring three birdies on each loop and a pair of bogeys.

Oliver Smith.JPG

Smith  (pictured with his trophies), a former bricklayer and flagger who also worked at a service station, quit the game for six years before picking up his clubs again.

Earlier in the season he claimed the Sue Wright Trophy at Helsby and his latest victory also earned him the order of merit title.

But he also posted what he described as a “crazy” score card containing

a one, a nine and an 11 and five birdies during qualifying for the assistants’ championship!

“I’ve had an up-and-down year but I feel I’ve learned a lot,” said Smith. “I’ve started to pick my way round courses and I didn’t put my ball into any trouble yesterday at High Legh. I realised that I’d made mistakes in the past by attacking or hitting a driver instead of a four iron then wedge.

“I guess I’m just playing boring golf but the likes of David Shacklady and Phil

Archer also do the same and that’s why they win.”


Smith has endured only one setback in his burgeoning career – he entered a PGA EuroPro Tour final qualifier at Frilford Heath but missed his tee time.

He explained: “I got to the club a day early, walked both courses, checked all the yardages, mapped all the greens then received a text message informing me of my tee-times. But my phone had a crack in the screen and what I read as a 9.30 tee-time should have been 9.10. I then faced a five-hour trip home!”

LEADING SCORES: 67 Oliver Smith (Ashton-on-Mersey); 69 Richard Pickard (Warrington), Tim Ford (Liverpool Driving Range); 71 Ioan Jones (Abersoch), Alistair Waddell (Styal), Nicholas Grime (unatt), Benjamin Stanier (Wilmslow), Jason Dransfield (Heswall), Jake Dudley (Village Urban Resort)


Parry bids to retain Lancs Open crown

 STEVE Parry defends his James Brearley Lancashire Open title at Blackpool North Shore next week (Sept 11-12) with his confidence riding high after a successful spell on the PGA EuroPro Tour.

The 39-year-old professional at Hart Common, where he also runs the North West Golf Academy, said: “I’ve competed in six events so far and my highest finishes have been 12th and seventh.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s the top tour in the UK which offers a great opportunity to pitch yourself against better players.”

Parry won the James Brearley tournament last year after beating Yorkshire’s Michael Ramsden in a play-off at the first extra hole.

The Renishaw Park professional, who won the iconic Leeds Cup earlier this season, will be hoping to avenge that defeat when the 36-hole event, which carries a £9,700 purse, gets under way

Parry reckons the North Shore course is a great test. “You have to make the right decisions or you can get caught out,” he added.

More than 100 PGA professionals will battle for honours and an added incentive is the pro-am which concludes the event.

Many famous names have adorned the trophy since its instigation in 1973 when the winner was 1969 Ryder Cup player Alex Caygill.

The following year Ian Mosey, who went on to a successful year on the European Tour, triumphed on the first of three occasions – a feat bettered only by Pleasington’s Ged Furey who, after his first triumph in 1991 achieved three in a row from 1995 to 1997 and claimed a fifth victory in 2000.

David Shacklady also completed a hat trick with his 2005 victory and he’s looking to extend that record after a recent successful run.

In 2000 the title sponsorship was taken on by Blackpool-based stockbrokers, James Brearley & Sons with huge success.  Record crowds witnessed a fantastic duel at Blackpool North Shore between Furey and European Tour player Paul Eales, with the former coming out on top.  The leading amateur in 2000, Richard Walker, went on to win the English Strokeplay Championship for the Brabazon Trophy at Royal Birkdale the following year.

James Brearley & Son’s sponsorship has continued to this day and in 2010 the tournament upgraded to a full PGA in England & Wales (North) Order of Merit event.