A FREAK accident deprived Ravensworth’s youngest ever champion of a place at Close House, but Nick Waddle has a bright golfing future ahead of him
IT says something about the affection golfers in the North East have for The Journal Champion of Champions that record-breaker Nick Waddle shed a few tears when a holiday accident in the Algarve robbed him of his place in the field at Close House.
This season, Waddle, a student at Emmanuel College in Lobley Hill, became the youngest player in the 105-year history of the Ravensworth club to capture the men’s club championship.
When he won a play-off against Louis Fraser to earn a place in the Champions, he was 16 years, eight months and four days old. It enhanced the victory that the beaten Fraser is a good enough player to have landed a top 50 place in this year’s English Under-18 Boys Open at Broadstone in Dorset.
But in Portugal last week – two days before the end of a fortnight’s family holiday at the Ocean Complex in Praia da Luz – Waddle gashed his toe taking a running dive into the swimming pool. He needed eight stitches and was ruled out of last weekend’s Champions on the Colt Course. His father Chris, a property manager based at Newcastle Business Park, who lives in Wrekenton, Gateshead, said: “We saw a doctor right away. But it was the following day, when we went back to have the injury checked, that the doctor said he would not be able to play golf for a week to ten days. By that stage, it was only four days to go to the tournament. When Nick knew for sure he was out of the Champions he shed a few tears, but only in front of me and his mum.
“He got over it right away and then was very brave about it all, and we immediate rang the golf club in Ravensworth from Portugal.
“Louis stepped in as a substitute for the Champions and Nick made sure he wished him the best of luck at Close House. How much Nick had been looking forward to the event and his practice round on the Colt was a big talking point on our holiday. It was a huge disappointment for him.
“But you have to put it into context. It could have been far worse had he fallen on his head rather than catching his toe on the stone on the side of the pool.”
At the Champions, it seemed as if the event had claimed another injury victim in Bryan Ross, the Durham County player from the Heworth club who organises the Marshall North East Masters Series of 36-holers.
He cut short his warm-up on the range at the Close House Academy because his back seized up and he handed in a nil return for his round. “The back was fine as it turned out, it loosened up straight away,” said Ross. “It’s just that I played so terribly that a quality course like that found me out. So when I lost a ball with my approach shot at the last I decided I had taken enough punishment.”
It was a memorable occasion for Jordan Cook, the junior champion at City of Newcastle club who caddied for winner Phil Ridden.
The 15-year-old Gosforth High School pupil said: “I got to pick up a few tips watching Phil. The biggest one was the way he always kept going and never got his head down.”
Ridden, who followed Lee Westwood round when the latter opened the Colt Course in May’s Celeb-Am, said: “That was enjoyable but it had no effect on my round in the Champions.
“My practice round was vital. The big greens on the Colt with all their slopes are commonplace in America, but unique to golf courses round here. Weighing up the greens and the areas around them was the most important factor in my preparation.”
Ridden is showing two wins and a tie for second place in the last three Champions – on the Hunting Course at Slaley, at Rockliffe and now the Colt.
This year’s tournament brought an end to the amateur careers of Richard Robson-Crosby, a member of both Ponteland and Close House, and Prudhoe’s Andy Scrimshaw.
Both became PGA assistant professionals this week. Scrimshaw is on the staff at Close House and Robson-Crosby is working for his father, Alan, the pro at Ponteland. Former England Schools cap Scrimshaw signed off in style, with a tied third place behind the runner-up Tom Rowland.
Like Robson-Crosby, Rowland is a former St Andrews Boys Open champion and, like Ridden, he can hang in there when things get tough, a quality lacking in a few of the club champions on Sunday.
Three over after six holes, Rowland recovered to win the £400 second prize and his 142-yard pitch to 18 inches for birdie at the downhill 13th was a gem.
As a bonus, Rowland has been picked for the Canadian International Junior Challenge in Toronto next week.
NEPIC, the North East of England Process Industry Cluster, hold a tournament at Slaley Hall today which they describe as the largest UK single corporate golf day.
The event raises funds for Children Challenging Industry, NEPIC’s education programme aimed at enthusing young people about science and mathematics subjects. Boc and Lucite International are among the 50-plus international names competing in shotgun starts over the two Slaley courses with an Audi A3 the prize for a hole in one at the sixth on the Hunting or the 11th on the Priestman.
The winning team play in The De Vere Club PGA Seniors Championship Pro-Am on the Hunting next year.
LINDEN Hall are putting on a Pro-Am on September 23 (£225 per team, Linden members £195). The amateur first prize is a fourball at Kingsbarns plus B&B at MacDonald Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews.
Contact Sam Oliver on 01670 500011 or Tom Flowers on 07958 043403 by September 16.
MATFEN Hall have a spots left for the Northumbria Police Pro-Am on September 21. This year’s chosen charities are the Calvert Trust Kielder, Over the Wall, Slaley Riding for the Disabled Association and Gateshead Crossroads Care. Call Claire Clark on 01661 868 015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
PONTELAND host the Sport Newcastle tournament on September 27. It costs £55 a head, you need to enter in teams of four. Contact Malcolm Dix on 0191 267 6342 or email email@example.com