IS there any such thing in golf as a simple masterclass for club golfers? Former Ryder Cup captain and current BBC TV pundit Mark James reckons there will be when the PGA North Region Championship is staged at Burgham Park later this month.
The 53-year-old James, seven times a Ryder Cup man and winner of 18 European Tour events, is now a major winner on The Champions Tour, the American version of the European Seniors Tour.
The three-day Burgham Park tournament starts on September 27, preceded by a Pro-Am on September 26. The third and last round will decide the final positions in the region’s 2007 Order of Merit and the number one in the rankings will qualify for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth at the end of May.
For the first time in almost a quarter of a century, the North Region Championship – the flagship event of the region’s season open to professionals from North Wales to the Scottish Borders – will be decided on a Saturday, September 29, giving club golfers the chance to watch.
The tournament is being sponsored to a figure in excess of £15,000 by Automatic Retailing (Northern) Ltd, a compasny about to move from Team Valley to Cramlington.
James used to be a member of the consortium which owned Burgham Park until two years ago, when the main men became Irishman William Kiely and operations director Terry Minett. Kiely switched to the golf business and moved to Longhorsley after selling his distribution company in Galway.
James said: “I think it is a good idea for Burgham to have weekend play. The North Region professionals all know exactly what they are doing out on a golf course and are worth watching.”
Among the leading contenders for the championship will be Westerhope’s professional Spike Nesbit, who is flying out to America from Manchester on Monday to practice for the club pros’ version of the Ryder Cup in Georgia at the end of next week. Nesbit will be joined in making his debut in the event by Carlisle Driving Range’s Craig Goodfellow.
Nesbit is a former winner on the EuroPro Tour and of the PGA North Region Order of Merit. In his amateur days, he won The Journal Champion of Champions in 1999, the last year it was played before this year’s return of the event at De Vere Slaley Hall. “There will be a lot of good professionals in the Burgham field like Spike Nesbit who are well worth any club golfer going along to watch,” said James, “especially as admission is free for spectators. But there is a trick to how club golfers should watch a professional, unless they are a really top-flight amateur with a very high technical level.
“I’ve heard some people advocate that when you watch a pro you keep your eye on the swing all the way to the end of the follow-through and ignore the flight of the ball, but I think that is only true for much, much better amateurs.
“If I was a club golfer watching one of these top North pros, I would not get into the intricacies of the golf swing itself. You need to see your club pro to sort that out.
“But what the average golfer can take on board is the course management and chipping. For instance, what happens when a club golfer lays up and decides not to use his three-wood for an approach shot. Depending on circumstances, he will very likely use a two iron and try to lay up by 40 yards.
“If a pro lays up, he’ll usually leave a seven-iron 100 yards short which will generally give him an easier shot into the green. Watching these pros chip is also a good idea.
“The little shots round the green – where the pro positions his hands and body and the ball for different shots – are much easier for the club golfer to take in than the full swing for tee-shots and approach shots.
“Usually you would say that a simple masterclass is a contradiction of terms. But in the cases of course management and chipping, it’s a truism in terms of club golfers watching the pros.”