SOME have said that Sir Bobby Robson can walk on water so he is no stranger to suggestions that miracles are not beyond him and in just a few weeks, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has raised in excess of half a million pounds for cancer research - a miracle in itself. The charity's aim was to raise £500,000 to help establish a new unit for the early detection of cancer at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.
And golfers have played their part in the mammoth fund-raising effort at a special golf day at Matfen Hall in Northumberland.
Former Newcastle United and England football manager Sir Bobby, who has been having treatment for cancer himself, explained how the campaign got underway.
He told Golf North East: "It is a charity I decided to give my name to because I was asked by my medical advisors a few weeks ago about the possibility of some promotional activity. As a result I formed a small committee and we discussed it and we decided to go ahead with it.
"We are going to kit out a new facility at the Freeman Hospital. This facility is already built and it's beautiful and brand new. With it being a modern building, it is light and airy but they didn't have the funds to equip it.
"I asked how much was needed and they told me that £500,000 would get it going and more would be better. And with it needing to be opened by October, that sum was the minimum requirement.
"I can tell you that within seven weeks, we have raised a total of £560,000, which is an incredible sum of money and shows the generosity of everybody who has become involved with the project.
"There are very few of us who haven't been affected by someone who has suffered from cancer in one shape or form and this money will provide the North East with a state-of-the-art cancer trial and research centre so it's for a very commendable cause."
Scores of people from all over the region have helped Sir Bobby in his incredible efforts.
One of them is Tony Peacock, the Managing Director of Peacock Financial Management, whom organised the golf event at Matfen.
Tony said: "My father raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for various cancer charities at South Shields Golf Club and when we saw that Bobby was setting up this Foundation, I thought it was a good reason to get involved.
"A very good friend of Bob's introduced us and although he didn't feel that arranging a golf day wasn't necessarily suitable at that moment, I said that I would do it and that's how it came about.
"With Sir Bobby getting his treatment at the Freeman Hospital, he became aware of the new unit for the early detection of cancer - a magnificent unit but they needed money to furbish it.
"The NHS built it and then told the doctors and nurses that they would have to raise the money to equip the unit and Bobby being Bobby said 'no, I'll do that' and basically that's what happened.
"The target was to get half a million pounds by the end of July and without doubt that has been exceeded, quite considerably. Not just by the golf day but by all the events and the great generosity of Newcastle United with a massive dinner.
"But other things have been important, the first donation that Bob received was on a Sunday when a lady wandered into his front garden and said my husband died last week and we had a whip round and we would like to donate £231.50 to your cancer charity, which is a lovely story and perfectly correct."
Sir Bobby's Foundation has only been in existence for seven weeks and many of the donations have come from all walks of life and the response can only be described as phenomenal.
Tony added: "I know that it has been extremely hard work for Sir Bobby and he was at the golf day doing all the things he was called upon to do and all I can say is that I am massively impressed with his resilience. And of course, he is infectious and you don't mind doing the things you do because he is such a nice man."
Although Sir Bobby was unable to play due to his own medical problems, he spent more than six hours at Matfen greeting the teams at the 10th tee, being photographed with the players and watching some of the on-course play from a buggy.
He is an honorary member at Brancepeth Castle, Ramside Hall and Matfen Hall golf clubs and was clearly missing playing one of his beloved sports.
Sir Bobby added: "I enjoyed the day very much. I think we just about had the perfect day. First of all, there was no wind, which is a crucial element, the sun came out, the course was magnificent, we got a full house and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, the food was great, we got some nice prizes and we hope to raise quite a decent amount of money for a very worthwhile cause."
As the teams started the back nine, little did Sir Bobby know that he was about to witness the shot of the day executed by local North East businessman John Duffy on the par 3 10th - our front cover star this issue. Having selected a nine-iron, John hit the perfect shot into the heart of the green and as everybody watched, the ball vanished into the hole for a stunning ace.
John said: "It was my first hole-in-one after playing for more than 40 years, but I was more pleased with the four points for the team - we needed them! I saw the ball hit the green and was relieved that I would possibly make par and two points, so the extra two points was a huge bonus."
A member at Slaley Hall Golf Club for many years, John added: "The best part of my shot was my reward - having my photograph taken with Sir Bobby. He is a wonderful man, a fantastic ambassador for the North East and a tremendous worker for all his charities.
"I took part in another Sir Bobby Robson charity golf day last year in the Algarve at Villa Sol Golf Club and that was another great day. Sir Bobby organised it for Portuguese orphans and he raised a huge amount of money."
Although it is customary to buy everyone a drink having scored the elusive ace, John decided that the money would be best spent supporting the event and so he kindly donated £250 to Sir Bobby's appeal.
John concluded: "I would like to congratulate Craig Parkinson, Matfen's golf director, for the superb condition of the course. He is another ex-Slaley lad and is doing a fantastic job following in the footsteps of David Burton. I hope David is enjoying his well-earned retirement. Also well done to Tony Peacock on a marvellous day, well-organised and with great prizes - well done to all."
On the day, 28 teams took part with Matfen Hall taking first place with 124 points. Swinburne Maddison finished second on count back with 117 points and Whickham Golf Club had to settle for third place.
To make a donation and view messages of support, or for more information on the Foundation, visit: www.sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.co.uk