MARK Penny is the new ZFL North East Masters Champion – but it turned out to be much closer than expected.
Going into the final double-header weekend, any one of the top four in the table could still secure the Masters title. Not only that, all of the top 10 were still in the hunt for the runners-up to fifth place.
And both the final tournaments at Brancepeth and the inaugural Woodham event provided plenty of excitement, fluctuating fortunes and changes of position.
In the Leonard Crawley Medal at Brancepeth, with defending ZFL Masters Champion Simon Lee lying second in the table and third-placed Michael Curry absent, it all seemed fairly straightforward.
All long-standing leader Penny had to do was finish in the top 15 to become champion, but rounds of 78 and 75 meant a 13-over-par total of 153 – only good enough for 17th place.
That left City of Newcastle’s Phil Ridden needing to win to keep the pressure on Penny and take the title race into the final tournament. But rounds 73 and 72 were only good for fifth place and that meant Penny was Masters Champion.
Home player Richard Aisbitt followed his record-breaking win at Bishop Auckland with another victory at Brancepeth, posting rounds of 72 and 69, one over par, which gave him a comfortable six-shot margin over Bedale’s Michael Henson with Durham’s Graeme Marchbank two shots further back.
At Woodham the next day, Brancepeth’s Michael Curry came back with a bang. Rounds of 70 and 71 for a five under par 141 gave Curry a three-shot victory over Bishop Auckland’s Jason Peart with Wynyard’s Ben Tetlow another three shots adrift.
Woodham’s director of golf, Glen Lowery, was pleased to have got the event off the ground but was frustrated by over half the field failing to show up or withdrawing at the last minute.
Virtually every tournament has suffered from no-shows and last-minute withdrawals this year and Lowery voices an opinion shared by many. “This attitude doesn’t help the amateur game prosper in the way I feel it should.
“Many of these players are considered ambassadors for their clubs and role models to younger players. If they were on the professional circuit, they would receive a large fine and a hefty ban.
“To those who did turn out and play, I am truly grateful and I am going to offer these players free entry for the 2011 event.”
Top contenders for the final four prize places, including Lee, Ridden and Aisbitt, were all absent from Woodham, so having finished just out of the points at Brancepeth, that gave the consistent Nigel King from South Shields a golden opportunity to reclaim fifth spot in the series.
King took full advantage by finishing joint sixth, pushing Craig Penny and Aisbitt out of the ZFL prizes.
A special presentation night for all the prize-winners and guests has been arranged at Penny’s home club, Morpeth on Saturday, November 20.
ZFL’s managing director Andrew Leach said: This is our second year as series sponsor and it was exciting to see the final results go down to the wire. I would congratulate the prize-winners and the hundreds of players from all over the North East and beyond who have taken part in 2010 and made the ZFL North East Masters so interesting.
“I would also like to thank the participating clubs for all their hard work in staging the events.
“We are already planning 2011 and considering some positive changes to the format.”