Longhirst press ahead after blow

The junior section at Longhirst Hall Golf Course are certainly not resting on their laurels following the rejection of their application to join the North Northumberland junior golf league.

The junior section at Longhirst Hall Golf Course are certainly not resting on their laurels following the rejection of their application to join the North Northumberland junior golf league.

Plans are in place for a series of friendlies against local clubs to help lift the spirits of the juniors while a two-day junior open is being staged in the summer.

The club are also working toward achieving the prestigious Golf Mark Award, which recognises junior and beginner friendly golf facilities and is backed by the Golf Foundation and Sport England and run jointly by the English Golf Union and English Ladies Golf Association.

Graham Chambers, the junior liaison officer, said "We have a nucleus of fine players at Longhirst Hall and competitive golf was the next step. I have, with the help of my junior committee, created a strong group of players and increased junior membership from 38 in 2005 to over 80 currently.

"We played Newcastle United recently and won 10-8 against a good squad, so that shows the calibre of player we have here."

But this success story is now under threat as Graham believes the lack of competitive league golf may tempt some youngsters to move elsewhere.

He said: "My major concern is that due to our knock back for the league entry our main players might have to leave to find competitive golf elsewhere.

"I can fully understand that, but this will have a serious knock-on effect for our junior section's future. As a growing club that has a vision for junior golf I can only see this as a major setback."

Secretary of the North Northumberland League, Malcolm Lynch, from the Magdalene Fields club, said: "The Brett Fuels Junior League is operated under the control of the North Northumberland League with a constitution that allows only North Northumberland League clubs to have a team in the junior league.

"At the spring meeting of the junior league this year, it was the feeling of all teams that the constitution should not be changed. Therefore any team wishing to join the junior league must have a team accepted into the North Northumberland Golf League.

"At present, the clubs in the league are Magdalene Fields, Goswick, Wooler, Belford, Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses, Dunstanburgh, Alnwick, Alnmouth, Alnmouth Village, Warkworth, Percy Wood, Linden Hall, Burgham Park and Rothbury."

Graham is hopeful that Longhirst will be able to apply for entry to the junior league again in the future but in the meantime is looking at other ways to ensure the club's juniors experience some competitive action.

He added: "We cannot be doing any more for junior development than we currently are and only hope we can revisit the league entry at some stage."

To help fill the void, Longhirst are staging their inaugural two-day open junior tournament on August 15 and 16 over both of the club's fine courses.

There will be a cut after the first day on the Dawson course and then a final round on the Lakes course.

Graham added: "This, as far as I am aware, is the first event of its type to go over two days. We have the leaderboard booked and even interest from television, due to our commitment to the juniors."

The club is also working with the Golf Foundation to achieve the GolfMark Award and has established links with local schools.

At the start of 2007 only 30 clubs in the entire country had achieved GolfMark status, though around 300 are currently working towards achieving it.

Early entry in the two-day competition is recommended as places will be limited to 120 juniors while any local businesses that may be interested in sponsorship can contact Graham on 01670 791562.

More details about the event can be found at: www.longhirstgolf.co.uk

Journalists

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