BY the time all the practice rounds have been played for The Journal Champion of Champions and the one-round classic sprint of North East golf gets under way, it will need somebody special to take the crown from defending champion Phil Ridden.
In winning his first county title, the Northumberland strokeplay championship, the City of Newcastle golfer claimed a share of the course record at Goswick.
Ridden, who holds four other course records, was 12 under par over four rounds and the quality of his play was such that Morpeth’s Sandy Twynholm, who has won the county strokeplay title a record seven times, was left straggling seven shots behind in second place.
As Ridden left the 16th green, he walked past Twynholm, playing in the group ahead. With Ridden five shots clear at that stage a smiling Twynholm, who won The Champions when it returned to the fixture list at Slaley Hall in 2007, told him: “I surrender!”
Ridden, a 25-year-old civil servant who lives in Dudley, North Tyneside, is nicknamed “The Power” because of his first name and his facial resemblance to the darts player, Phil “The Power” Taylor.
This epic performance – “totally controlled”, said county captain Kevin Cademy-Taylor – owed everything to skill and accuracy, Ridden only missing one green in regulation over the first two rounds during scores of 68 and 69.
After a third round 72, a spectacular finale brought a five-under 67, a round which would have broken by one shot the record for a course modified to accommodate Open qualifying had not Morpeth’s Mark Penny already signed for the same score.
Ridden’s outright records are 63s at Bamburgh Castle, City of Newcastle and Seahouses and a 64 at Teesside.
“To hear Sandy Twynholm say ‘I surrender’ had some meaning for me,” said Ridden. “I have never beaten him before and we’ve been head-to-head around five or six times in county games Newcastle and District League matches, either in matchplay or in the last group of a strokeplay. I lost a county strokeplay title to him after leading at the 71st.
“There was something I forgot to say at the presentation, which was to say thank you to my City of Newcastle team-mate Simon Coultas, who caddied for me, and to all our club members who always give any City player wonderful support out on the course.”
Ridden then went on to finish joint third behind Andy Sullivan, who won the Lagonda Trophy after a head-to-head battle with Liam Burns at Gog Magog, Cambridge.
The man from Nuneaton carded a closing round of 69 for 269, 11 under par, to pip Burns by a shot despite the Kent man’s finale of 68. Ridden was joint third on 274 with England international Jamie Abbott, both with closing 66s. Ridden shot 72 68 68 66 and is in impressive form. Meanwhile, Northumberland Junior County captain Andrew Scrimshaw from Prudhoe won the county junior strokeplay championship at Blyth with rounds of 74 71. Having missed the cut in the Fairhaven Boys Open Championship the previous day, he made a quick dash home to play in the championship and won by three shots from his club colleague Thomas Rowland.
They were level playing the last, before Andrew eagled the dog leg par five and Thomas made bogey for a 73 to add to his first round 75.