Richard Aisbitt recalls 'sicknote' jibes after Champions victory

Richard Aisbitt knows all about the powers of recovery, having spent three years taking painkillers every time he played golf until finding his miracle healer six weeks ago

Richard Aisbitt
Richard Aisbitt

Richard Aisbitt knows all about the powers of recovery, having spent three years taking painkillers every time he played golf until finding his miracle healer six weeks ago.

Yet even Lazurus would have given up on winning The Journal Champion of Champions had he encountered the barrage of dropped shops which battered the former Durham County champion on his front nine over the Lee Westwood Filly Course at Close House yesterday.

Having birdied the first, Aisbitt bogeyed the third and the fifth and a double bogey at seven put him three over par for a tournament in which, ultimately, he was to become the only player in a seriously elite regional field to score better than two over.

His par 70 also became the course record because since Westwood masterminded the Filly’s £1m revamp, which was unveiled in July, Close House have played no medal competitions off the big boys’ tees.

The story of how the 39-year-old father-of-two lifted The Journal trophy and the first prize of a £500 Close House voucher also started in July.

“I was the sort of Darren Anderton of golf,” he said. “I was getting called ‘Sicknote’ because I was always crying off from tournaments with a bad back and I was starting to get a bit desperate.”

He turned to Aron Williams, a fitness trainer at the Redworth Hall Hotel and Leisure Club, near Bishop Auckland.

Aisbitt said: “With him I do all the usual stretching exercises but he also involves a sort of kickboxing routine. I was a bit sceptical at first, but the fact is it works. It has been goodbye to the painkillers ever since because there has been no more pain.”

Aisbitt works in a different sort of body repair shop, for cars, with Alan Reid Ltd in Shildon, near his home in Bishop Auckland. If the reconstruction of his round of golf yesterday was anything to go by, he must know a lot about putting bits back together.

An inspired wild card selection by the Durham County captain, Bryan Ross, Aisbitt made a dream start at the first, where he sunk a birdie putt after drilling a sand iron to eight feet from 85 yards. But he three-putted the third and took four shots to get down from 80 yards at five, where he overshot the green into a bunker.

Worse was to follow at seven, where he four-putted after finding the wrong level on the green.

The key to the door of his comeback was unlocked at the par-three ninth, where he negotiated a birdie by means of a 15-foot putt, downhill and left to right.

Immaculate iron play at 11 and 12 brought him two birdies in a row from short putts and the hole that effectively clinched the tournament for him was 15.

Blocked out by trees after his drive, he gripped down on a three-wood and punched a low fade round the obstacle.

He found the bunker but holed out from the trap and would have been the first player to break par on Westwood’s Filly Course had he not bogeyed the next hole.

The rest of the prize table money went to four players on 72 – Rob Moon (Wynyard), Sean Heads (Westerhope), Ricky Lee (Tyneside) and Jake Storey (Alnmouth).

When Aisbitt came off the course, he expected to be two or three shots off the winning score, which is a compliment to the changes Westwood has made to the Filly.

“The thing about it is,” said Aisbitt, “is that it is a fun course to play and you set off thinking somebody is going to murder it because it is only just over 6,000 yards.

“But there were a hell of a lot of really good players in this field and nobody came anywhere near murdering it.

“The bunkers are positioned perfectly and the greens are fast and slopey. The Filly is a tricky little lady!”

Journalists

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