SOUTH Moor, which this year became the first North East golf club to host the McGregor Trophy in its 29-year history, yesterday revealed the financial success of the tournament.
The England Under-16 Open Championship was supported by Durham County Council and won by Jack Hermeston from the City of Newcastle club. He was not the only one to experience the feel-good factor.
Stanley’s only golf club estimates around £100,000 was brought into the region’s tourist industry when the championship was played in mid-July, and is closing the year with a 10% increase in membership.
The most recent figures Durham County golf officials have available show an average downward trend in membership among their 46 clubs of 2.2% for 2010 to 2011. The latest figure for the national average (2009-2010) flagged up a drop of 3.5%.
South Moor has also reported a 40% rise in green fees paid by visiting golfers this year.
Committee man Guy Carr, a former club captain, said: “When we started planning the event, we knew the tournament could be a springboard to a brighter future, but we could only guarantee that by improving the course and facilities.
“We did not have the funds to do everything we wanted . We are in an area where the accent is very much on us providing a down to earth grass roots golf club for everybody in the community rather than a luxury golf retreat for the high end of the market.
“We were only able to make such a good job of the McGregor because of the financial support and advice we were given by the county council through the Stanley Area Action Partnership.
“The SAAP told us we needed to speculate to accumulate and, with their assistance, use the national tournament to put both the golf club and the town of Stanley on the map. That is exactly the way it has all turned out.”
Moor, which has a top annual subscription fee of £583, has signed up 52 new male and female members as a result of an event described as “the best McGregor ever” by the head of the English Golf Union delegation attending, former president Roy Case.
Club treasurer Peter Chapman said: “We have a lot to show for the tournament, especially a new driving range and practice area which was built with a grant from the council.
“The course has been tidied up and the clubhouse refurbished, among other improvements, and this has all led to the rise in green fees paid by visiting golfers.
“We have done a survey of the tournament figures involved in the hotel accommodation plus spending on food and beverages for the players and their parents, the EGU delegation and the spectators. Looking at it conservatively, we have put that figure at £100,000.”
The heathland course at the 88-year-old club was designed by the creator of Augusta National, Dr Alister MacKenzie. This has led to South Moor, originally a coal miners only golf club, being nicknamed “The Augusta of the North.”
Carr said: “The council backed us for the McGregor because they could see how much we do for the community . For instance, a youngster who has never played golf can come down any Wednesday evening of the year and have a go at the sport, whatever the weather.
“If it’s cold and wet, the boys and girls come into the clubhouse and play target games using plastic clubs and big sponge golf balls.”
Another ongoing benefit from the McGregor is that South Moor has been chosen to make history next summer when it will be the launch venue for the Tiger Cub Tour, a new national Under-12 event for boys and girls.
Moor will host the 2012 Northern Group qualifier on June 4-5 for players from Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham County, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire.
That will be followed by the qualifiers for other regions and the final at Newark, Nottinghamshire, on October 25-26.
To enter, visit www.tigercubtour.co.uk, and for more information email email@example.com