Bridge gives it best shot

ANDREW Bridge isn't the first sportsman to be bitten by the golf bug and he won't be the last.

ANDREW Bridge isn't the first sportsman to be bitten by the golf bug and he won't be the last.

However, don't expect the focused captain of the most successful sporting team in Britain to become anything less than an ultra-competitive player once he bags the experience to match his passion.

Bridge has won 11 major domestic titles in little more than four years with the Newcastle Eagles basketball team and has represented his country at the Commonwealth Games.

But the guard comes from a golfing family and thanks to his club's partnership with Northumbria University, an opportunity to keep pace with his uncles and cousins arose last year.

He said: "I was offered the chance to get some coaching at Parklands through the Eagles' relationship with Northumbria. The university's golf programme is one of the best in the country and all of their players are coached and based there.

"I've only been playing for a year or so. An opportunity came up to start to play the game seriously and, as we're always getting loads of offers to play corporate golf days through the Eagles, I thought I'd go for it. I took some lessons last year and I've been playing two or three times a week since the end of the season.

"I'd never really played golf at all but all my family play and I really fancied it. My cousins and my uncles play and I come from a big golfing family. But they all started young and I remember one day going along to play with them and they were all really good. I was rubbish and thought this isn't for me."

Used to success on the court, Bridge is still struggling to come to terms with frequent failure on the course. As a born winner he can't stand to lose - especially if it's a slow and painful defeat stretched out over several hours.

"One of the things I find really difficult about playing golf is the time it takes and the waiting around," he added.

"There's none of that in basketball - you couldn't get a greater contrast. In my sport there's not a second when you can switch off. In golf it's all about staying focused and concentrating during the downtime."

Bridge had Swedish sensation Kristoffer Bengtsson to thank for maintaining his focus throughout the annual Northumbria University Golf Day, staged at The Northumberland club in Gosforth Park.

The Team Northumbria star, who chose the North East ahead of America's college circuit to further his golfing chances, was the Eagles skipper's constant shadow during a rain-affected day.

"I have a lot of respect for Kristoffer," added Bridge. "The par was 72 and he hit a 75 in terrible conditions - including one awful double bogey. He was gutted but I couldn't believe how well he played. He hit the ball so straight and so far it was ridiculous.

"By the time we hit the 16th he felt confident enough to have a bit of banter with me but to start with I don't think he could believe just how bad I was! He's obviously used to playing with better golfers than me and he actually won the university competition on the day. In the two years since he's been at Northumbria I know he's made a big impression on everyone and he's a great lad. I hope he goes far."


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer