The 2007 season started with new players having the opportunity to test their skills against the best in the Northern Counties league.
We lost players to America on scholarships, others to the professional ranks and we lost the vastly experienced England international, Shaun Philipson, when he decided to hang up his soft spikes.
The new-look Northumberland team had a daunting prospect of defending the Northern Counties league title.
The Winter Golf Development programme, held at Matfen Hall, produced a number of young stars who would get their first taste of men's county golf. Thanks must go to the development staff, 'super coach' John Harrison, the 'Chuckle Brothers', John and Steve McKenna, and our 'flexible friend', golf physio Louise Lewis.
Our plan for the Winter Development Programme is to continually produce players of county standard. This year's programme was very successful in producing a number of players who significantly contributed throughout the season.
We started the season by successfully retaining the Peter Davidson cup, which we compete for annually against a very good Lothians team. This was the 5th consecutive win in this very tough match and gave us a great sense of achievement for the hard work during the winter. It also gave our newly capped players a boost of confidence.
The first Northern counties match was away and was played at the fabulous Royal Birkdale, Lancashire. We had a number of young players making their debuts, and they got a real taste of how tough this league is. It was a fantastic match. Ten of the 12 singles matches came down the last hole. I've personally never seen anything like it before. We narrowly lost the match 9.5 to 8.5. However, we left Birkdale knowing that our young stars had come of age. The average age of this team was 20 years old.
Yorkshire defeated us in the next fixture and proved once again that they can set the benchmark for any county. They went on to be Northern League winners once again.
Our next fixture was at home against Cumbria. The team realised all of its potential. We took control of a tight match and ran in a convincing victory over a very good Cumbrian team. The success continued at Hexham, against Durham, in a match we dominated from the start. The last match was against Cheshire we drew 9 points each, and secured a very credible 3rd place in the Northern Counties League, finishing only one point behind Lancashire in 2nd.
My personal highlights of the season were:
how successfully the Development squad integrated into the main team;
following 2 defeats our win at Foxton against Cumbria was inspirational to everyone involved as such a young team started to perform at the highest level;
Mark Penny holing his putt for eagle on the last hole at Birkdale and a 45-foot birdie putt at Foxton - both being huge team putts.
Just a few, of many a memory from 2006 that I will never forget - county golf at it's most inspirational!
Congratulations must go to Sandy Twynholm on his record 6th win in the county 72-hole Strokeplay Championship; Simon Lee for dominating the Order of Merit from the start by winning the North & South Trophy, then never finishing any lower than 5th in all other qualifying events; Chris Paisley's unbelievable run of 9 threes and 3 fours in the afternoon round of the County Championship final defeating Craig Penny, arguably the most improved player of 2006; and Chris continued to impress when he defeated the area's top professionals convincingly winning the Rock Tournament at Matfen Hall.
Northumberland Golf would like to thank all our sponsors for their vision in supporting Team Northumberland during 2007 - De Vere Slaley Hall clothing sponsor, RailNews golf ball sponsor, Big Six sponsor Cellular Solutions and our match days sponsors MGM Construction Ltd and Straightline Construction Ltd.