TOM Rowland has already marked himself out as a player to watch. The Prudhoe golfer’s latest exploit is to become the third Northumberland player in a row to win the St Andrews Boys’ Open.
Nicky Maddison lifted the title in 2008 and Richard Robson-Crosby brought it back to the North East last year, while at 17 Rowland has the chance to become the first player to retain the trophy for a quarter of a century.
Rowland won the scratch event with a three under par 67 and then went on to beat Aberdeenshire’s Calum Hill 4 and 3 in the matchplay final for the Merchant Cup and looks a player of rare promise.
When he was 16, he improved his handicap from four to scratch in five months, finished fourth in The Journal Champion of Champions and won the Northumberland Under-21 stroke play championship. This year, still eligible for the Northumberland Under-18 Championship, he won it by eight shots.
Rowland shot rounds of 70 and 69 in blustery conditions to win the title from City of Newcastle’s Jack Hermeston, who at least had the consolation of winning the Under 16 title with rounds of 74 and 73.
Club and county team mate Andy Scrimshaw shot two 74s to finish third. Both players made a major contribution to Northumberland’s Northern Counties victory over Lancashire when Rowland also gained his county colours.
City youngster Hermeston continued his good form when he finished runner-up in the English Boys’ Under-14 Championship at Hesketh.
He finished three shots behind Neil Bradley from Blairgowrie, who has won the Scottish Boys’ Championship twice.
Hermeston pushed Bradley all the way with a closing 72 as Bradley held his nerve with a closing 75 for 218.
“If I had started my first two rounds like I did today I would certainly have been challenging for the trophy,” said Hermeston.
Hermeston, 14, a member of the City men’s team and the Northumberland under-18 side, also finished runner-up to Bradley in the Scottish under-14 Championship.
Meanwhile, over in Durham, they have a 17-year-old of their own who is matching Rowland in the shape of Whickham’s James Simpson, who has an incredible 100% record, having won all eight of his foursomes and singles matches in the four matches Durham have played in the Northern Counties League this season.
He was awarded his county colours after the win 9½-8½ win over Cheshire which took Durham to second place in the table
It was close at Durham City with their last three singles players – Ian McEntee, Joe Fraser and Bryan Ross – all at two or three holes down in the later stages of their matches. Durham needed a h ero.
Who should step up to the plate but 43-year-old David Innes, the newly- crowned county matchplay champion from Hartlepool, playing his first league match for over five years.
With the three team-mates behind him eventually losing, Innes beat Caldy’s Josh Sims on the last hole to seal victory.
Innes’s return to the team came after he won the County matchplay championship for the second time.
It was five years since he last played for Durham and 10 years since his first county matchplay title.
His more recent triumph came at Dinsdale Spa, where he beat Michael Curry – twice a winner of the county strokeplay championship – at the 20th in the final. Curry may have lost that one but he did lead his club Brancepeth Castle to victory in the Durham County Clubs’ Championship over his own course with rounds of 65 and 74 to win the individual competition and Brancepeth.
He now goes on to the national finals at the Woodbridge club in Suffolk.
Had he not three-putted three times in the first round, Curry would have broken the Brancepeth course record of 64. Against Innes, he lost the first hole of the final, drew level at the next and was never behind again until when it mattered most, the second hole of sudden death.