Prudhoe's long wait is over

The hero of the first major county event of the season, Neil Graham, is expecting a rocket from the boss when he turns up for work this morning.

The hero of the first major county event of the season, Neil Graham, is expecting a rocket from the boss when he turns up for work this morning.

Graham will have to answer for what happened when the Northumberland and Durham Inter County Foursomes reached the final at Morpeth on Saturday.

A fluctuating contest between Prudhoe and Houghton-le-Spring was all square after 18 holes. After the golfers went back to the first hole, Houghton's David Machin (pictured right) was left with a 50-yard pitch following his partner's tee shot and Machin was eight feet short with the pitch, partner Graeme Willis missing the putt.

After Graham's tee shot for Prudhoe, James Curry had a 50-yard putt from the left fringe, which he slid eight feet past the hole. That left a downhill left-to-right putt for Graham, who sunk it to end a 50-year wait by Prudhoe to regain the trophy.

Winner of the county strokeplay title in 1998 - one of six Northumberland titles he has won - Graham is a former Prudhoe club champion and was nine times the winner at his previous club, Newcastle United.

The 41-year-old, who lives in Denton Burn, works as contracts manager for Baydale Architectural Systems in Newton Aycliffe, where one of the directors - Jonathan Smith - is among several workplace colleagues who are members of Darlington Golf Club.

"I'm expecting a few hard words from Jonathan," said Graham. "The Darlington golf lot in our firm are not going to like it that the Newcastle lad has put one over on County Durham."

What the contest lacked in consistence of quality, it more than made up for in excitement, with the well-prepared greens graced with the putting they deserved in the decisive stages.

Houghton were one up after 17, where Machin rolled a 25-footer across the slope of the green with Curry less than two inches short with an uphill 40-footer. But Prudhoe won through with birdies at what turned out to be the closing two holes.

At the 18th, Curry pulled Prudhoe level with an 18-footer. Graham said: "That pumped me up and made me feel good.

"I knew the winning putt at the extra hole was going in from the second I hit it.

"The tournament finished as it started for James and myself because we beat Slaley Hall at Bedlingtonshire in our very first match at the first extra hole. It was a double thrill for me because I had my 18-year-old son, Christopher, on the bag."

Prudhoe had to sweat it out, though. All square after nine, Houghton went one up at 10 and held the lead until they missed the green at the 181-yard 14th.

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