Greg Takes On The Key Role

THE Teesside union of Golf Clubs has decided to put the accent on youth by appointing a team manager who is in his thirties.

THE Teesside union of Golf Clubs has decided to put the accent on youth by appointing a team manager who is in his thirties. Billingham Golf Club's Greg Johnson, aged 35, brings to the post considerable playing experience, and - equally importantly - boundless enthusiasm.

He has represented the Union side over an eight-year-period and played in the Billingham team since he was 20.

Indeed, he has tasted individual success, winning his club championship on two occasions and in 2005 won the Union matchplay title and was runner-up in the strokeplay championship.

This year's Ryder Cup sees the GB&I side captain Nick Faldo as a relatively young 50, but he will not be playing in the side and Greg accepts that doing both can be a problem, but so far is enjoying the challenge, although he knows it is still early days.

He said: "We have the players within the Union to enable us to be real contenders in the Yorkshire Unions league.

"The problem is getting the top players committed to making a real challenge. They can probably play golf every day of the week if they have time. But calls of county, union and club become a problem for young men with families who have to make a living as well! For my part I make them feel wanted and it's working. Selection is there for players who really want it . . . they need to let me know."

Union Past President John Still said: "All the Union committee still consider themselves young men of course, but having been involved in team selection myself over the last couple of years, I became aware we were not of the same generation as the players.

"This isn't always a bad thing as Sir Alex Ferguson has shown, but Greg is acknowledged as a real competitor by his peers and we wanted somebody to add some more fun to the position.

"He and his team-mates at Billingham play against the other clubs and when he was asked to consider doing the job his response was so positive we were delighted. Of course the elder statesmen will be there to support him, but Greg picks the team."

Greg opened his tenure by staging a Union 'Past Legends v Young Guns' day. This was a great success and will take place again next year - Legends should contact Nigel Fick at Billingham if they wish to play.

Greg's youthful side - thankfully - won the day, and a young side travelled to play the first representative match against Sheffield Union at Rotherham recently.

The final score, a 24-12 defeat, did not reflect how close the contest was with the captain leading from the front as one of three unbeaten players, halving his foursomes and winning his singles.

The second match against reigning champions the York Union took place at Cleveland's sun-drenched links, when the visitors seemed to have the edge after the morning foursomes. Fuelled by a hole-in-one from Jim Batt (Heworth) at the 15th York led 9-3.

The captain's pep talk before the singles had a marked effect - not least on Saltburn's Neil Storey, who aced the 9th - and Teesside fought back to level the match 18-18.

Never known to be a shrinking violet, Greg seems to be getting players to WANT to play for the Union, which is half the battle. Doubtless the first win will also bring a bit of fun to the party!!

The appointment - and Greg's infectious enthusiasm - deserve some success.


David Whetstone
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