THERE was a fitting tribute to the memory of Seve Ballesteros yesterday, coinciding with statistical proof of an upturn in the form of Spanish golfers over the past year.
It came the day after Guy Carr, a committee man and former captain at the South Moor club, was announced as the England Golf Volunteer of the Year for club development following his work on the 2011 McGregor Trophy.
Last year, South Moor wrote to top players past and present seeking testimonials after the club was chosen to host the McGregor, the England Boys Open and the world’s most important Under-16 event which attracts an international field.
In one of the last and kindest acts of his life, Ballesteros became the first golfer in the world to reply.
With fond memories of Durham County from the 2005 Seve Trophy at The Wynyard, he wrote: “I wish all the organisers and the players the very best of luck for the McGregor.
“I hope everything is a huge success and the event brings extra awareness for your wonderful golf club and for Durham County.”
In March of last year – two months before Ballesteros died – South Moor heard their application for a £23,000 grant for the tournament had been successful. The grant was awarded by Durham County Council through the Stanley Area Action Partnership.
The partnership’s then chairman, Carl Marshall, recalled yesterday: “We seriously consider any event that will put Stanley on the map and benefit the area.
“Guy Carr and others at South Moor were meticulous in doing the paperwork and presented their case impressively in terms of the improvements they made to their course, clubhouse and facilities.
“But the letter from Seve Ballesteros was inspiring, it was the final factor in turning a probability into a certainty.” Ballesteros, arguably the greatest golfing entertainer of all time, would have smiled at that, as he would have done at no less than five Spanish players teeing off in yesterday’s first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship including Sergio Garcia and big hitter Alvaro Quiros.
The tournament is open to the world’s top 64 players, only two of the five made it last year and every time one of them wins, which has happened more often in recent months, the victor dedicates his success to the memory and inspiration of Ballesteros.
Life has been just as peachy for South Moor following their own experience of the Ballesteros factor. The McGregor, which produced a rare North East winner in City of Newcastle’s Jack Hermeston, was so successful the club have been chosen to stage the first regional qualifier for a new national event this season, the Tiger Cub Tour for Under-12s.
England Golf described the 2011 tournament as “the best McGregor ever” and Stanley’s only golf club profited from the spotlight being thrown on the fact their course was created by Dr Alister MacKenize, who designed Augusta National.
Moor, who started life in 1923 as a miners only golf club, closed 2011 with a 10% annual increase in membership and a 40% rise in green fees paid by visiting golfers.
The club estimate the tournament brought over £100,000 into the Durham County economy. Carr, a 47-year-old IT consultant from Chester-le-Street, is a PGA Level One coach who helps club pro Shaun Cowell at weekly junior sessions.
Hefty contributions were made by Carr into the club input for the McGregor which led to him being feted at an England Golf awards dinner at their Woodhall Spa HQ in Lincolnshire on Tuesday.
He said: “I am absolutely staggered and deeply honoured, this is fantastic. It is really an award for everybody at the club who contributed to the McGregor. I just collected it on their behalf.”
A former England Golf president, Roy Case, who oversaw the McGregor, said: “We could not have chosen a more deserving person for the award. Well done to Guy in particular and to the club and all its members. They must be justifiably very proud.”