Fitting Tribute To Mark's Memory

Little more than 18 months after the death of 20-year old Mark Ryder, a special youth tournament was organised and many years on it remains a unique golfing event dedicated to his memory.

Little more than 18 months after the death of 20-year old Mark Ryder, a special youth tournament was organised and many years on it remains a unique golfing event dedicated to his memory. The Mark Ryder Cup is played for every two years on a home and away basis between the juniors of Tyneside Golf Club and their counterparts from Castlerock Golf Club in Northern Ireland. The match was played this year at Tyneside on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th August.

Mark, who was a member of both clubs, died in August 1991 following a brave battle with cancer.

He was the 1990 Tyneside club champion and had just got his handicap down to scratch in his last competitive outing before his illness.

In 1988, Mark scored a record breaking 65 at Tyneside but sadly the score was not officially recognised for record purposes as work was being carried out on the 7th tee.

His father George said: "Mark began playing golf at the age of nine to ten and like most kids he was pretty good at ball games and the one game he had some talent in was golf.

"He progressed pretty quickly and as far as the background to the Mark Ryder Cup is concerned, whilst on holiday in Spain when Mark was about 12, he played in a competition over three courses and two of the days he played with a gentleman called Jack Wilton.

"On the final night, Jack told me he had really enjoyed playing with Mark and would I allow him to come to Ireland the following year to play golf.

"The following April, Mark received a junior membership for Castlerock Golf Club. That year Mark went to Ireland during his summer holidays and after that spent every summer there until he died.

"Jack and June Wilton virtually became second parents and consequently our two families got to know each other very well.

"The year he won the club championship here at Tyneside he immediately went over to Ireland and played in the Northern Ireland Amateur, initially a stroke play competition with a cut followed by a match play knockout.

"Mark got through eventually to the last 16 and I can vividly remember ringing him up and asking how he got on to which he replied 'I lost 3&2 against a big fat kid who hit the ball out of sight' and that was Darren Clarke!

"Following his death, Jack told me he wanted to start a youth competition in memory of Mark at Castlerock - The Mark Ryder Trophy became one of the most important youth tournaments in Northern Ireland.

"Following its success it was then decided to have a home and away fixture between the juniors of Tyneside and Castlerock - called the Mark Ryder Cup."

But good as the golfing exploits of the former RGS pupil and Manchester University business science undergraduate were, they could barely compete with his character and personality, which has ensured his memory doesn't fade.

This year's captain at Tyneside is Geoff White, a very close friend of the Ryder family. For many years, Geoff and George played cricket together and the two families have been going on holiday together since the mid 1970s.

Geoff said: "I have had the great honour to have been involved in this competition since its inauguration in 1993 and in that time, have seen some great friendships developed between the two clubs - a fitting tribute to Mark.

"Such a visit is only made possible thanks to the very generous support from the members and friends of Tyneside who remember Mark. The one thing I will never forget is that he was such a smart handsome young man and his sudden death was just so cruel."

As for this year's matches, Tyneside got off to a great start on the first day winning four out of the six fourball matches to take a 4-2 lead. The afternoon session saw a reversal of fortunes with the Castlerock team hitting

back and taking four points to level the score at 6-6.

Miserable weather greeted the players for the start of the second day and both teams shared the honours in the morning foursomes.

With the score standing at nine points each, it was all down to the singles and as the weather improved, spectators were treated to some quality golf from both teams.

The Tyneside players pulled out all the stops and with their home advantage, six wins and three halved matches resulted in a Tyneside victory by 16_-13_ points.

At the presentation ceremony, all the players were complimented on their excellent golf and all received trophies in recognition of their participation in the 2009 matches.

The junior captain of Tyneside Golf Club, Matthew Walker, was presented with the Mark Ryder Cup by Ex-Newcastle United and Northern Ireland International footballer David Craig.


David Whetstone
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Business Editor
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