Sir Nick Faldo, who has just completed his first tournament as a golfing knight at the British Seniors Open Championship at Sunningdale, has a long association with the North East.
Sir Nick Faldo, who has just completed his first tournament as a golfing knight at the British Seniors Open Championship at Sunningdale, has a long association with the North East. Faldo hardly plays any competitive golf these days, having turned out at just a handful of tournaments in the last couple of years, and prefers to spend his time commentating for US television as well as designing courses and travelling the world as one of the best-known figures in the sport.
Sir Nick, who Nick firstly visited the North East in 1980 when he played in the Newcastle Brown 900 Tournament at the Northumberland Golf Club in Gosforth Park, had to settle for 38th place at the British Seniors following highly respectable rounds of 70, 70, 69, 73 that left him some way behind the winner, American Loren Roberts.
Faldo enjoyed an illustrious career as a youngster, winning the English Amateur Championship in 1975, though he couldn't defend his title as he turned professional the following year.
However, 23-year-old Peter Deeble from Foxton Hall, Alnmouth stepped into Nick's shoes, and won the English crown after beating John Davies (Sunningdale) by 3&1 in the final at Ganton, Yorkshire.
Ironically, in 1980, Deeble won it again, beating Peter McEvoy (Copt Heath) 4&3 in the final at Moortown, Leeds. McEvoy never won the English, but was the British Amateur Champion in 1977 and 1978.
He went on to successfully Captain the Walker Cup team at Nairn in 1999 when Graeme Storm (Hartlepool) beat J. Byrd 1up.
Storm, a seasoned European tour pro and Golf North East columnist of course, had the honour of sinking the winning putt for Great Britain and Ireland, who went on to win the cup by 15-9.
Coincidentally, two years later, McEvoy again captained GB&I at Sea Island in the States, and also won by 15-9! Storm wasn't in the team, as he'd turned professional prior to the match.
While Faldo was playing at Gosforth Park, Chris Robinson, the founder of the Northumberland Junior Golfing Society (as it was then), while doing public relations for the new George Washington Hotel and Golf Course, interviewed Faldo, who was staying at the Hotel.
When Robinson asked the youngster what was his main ambition in golf, he quickly replied: "That's easy Chris, to win the Open Championship."
Robinson said: "I felt if he kept his feet on the ground, Faldo had the potential to be a great player, and my confidence was repaid seven years later, when in 1987 he won his first Open at Muirfield. From there, he never looked back, and won further Opens in 1990 and 1992, together with victories in the US Masters in 1989, 1990, and 1996."
Of current day players, only Tiger Woods with 14, and Tom Watson with eight, have won more Majors than Faldo's six.
Faldo's Junior Series have been particularly popular, with Nick Dougherty being just one of the stars to emerge from it.
As Britain's best ever golfer, Faldo has joined the late and great Sir Henry Cotton as golf's only other knight.
Faldo's only major blip was his unsuccessful captaincy in last year's Ryder Cup.
He's now a commentator for CBS television in the States and just two years ago signed an eight-year contract worth eight million dollars.
Robinson continued: "Peter Deeble also had tremendous talent, and it was heart-breaking when his amateur golf career was so dramatically cut short through illness. He came through the Northumberland Junior Golfing Association, and in 1972, at 15-years-of-age, won the Junior Matchplay Championship, and his first Northumberland County Championship, which he won again in 1982 and 1983."
Although Deeble would never have equalled the record seven victories in the Northumberland 72-Hole Stroke Play Championship set by Morpeth's Sandy Twynholm (see Page 18 of this issue), he did win it three years' running from 1977-1979.
He also gained International honours playing for GB&I in the Walker Cup from 1977-1981, and for England from 1975 to 1984. Further victories came via the Scottish and French open amateur championships in 1979 and 1980.