WHEN the dust had settled it was one of the season's serial winners Simon Lee who wore the Green Jacket awarded to the North East's No 1 amateur after the final event of the 2009 ZFL Golf Order of Merit.
It was a proud moment for his club City of Newcastle, whose trophy cabinet is groaning with the weight of success, and a tribute to Lee’s consistency throughout the 10 events of the rankings series.
He chiselled out a sixth-place finish in Saturday’s deciding tournament, The Leonard Crawley Medal at Brancepeth Castle, on a day when he was cold with his putter.
This enabled him to overtake Prudhoe’s Daniel Shevill. who started the day as series leader but had to settle for the No 2 spot after coming in 18th.
The Leonard Crawley Medal, sponsored by the civil engineering and construction company Lumsden and Carroll, is an event so steeped in the tradition of the sport in its own right, it has in the past attracted players such as Colin Montgomerie in his amateur days. The hero on Saturday was one of Brancepeth’s own, Richard Aisbitt, a former Durham County champion who won the tournament for the fourth time with a level-par total of 140. He signed for 69 and 71 to edge out The Journal Champion of Champions, City’s Phil Ridden, by one shot.
Aisbitt was just as big a hero yesterday with his wife Louise and children, Nell, 5, and Charlie, 2, when the family travelled to Paris for a visit to Eurodisney.
There was nothing Mickey Mouse, however, about the 35-year-old Aisbitt’s tournament preparation on Thursday and Friday.
He took a two-day break from his job in an accident repair centre to work on his game with David Fletcher, the Chester-le-Street club professional.
Aisbitt said: “David and I have been pals since we were kids. We grew up together on the Pye Estate in Bishop Auckland and our dads both taught at St John’s School.
“On the practice ground, David worked mainly on keeping my club face square at the top of my backswing and, although I went in the bushes for a double bogey at the first, after that I pretty well hit the ball straight all day.
“If I had not won this one, I would have gone through the season without winning anything and I cannot remember the last time that happened, which is why I went to see David. I really did not want that to happen at all.” Aisbitt finished fifth in the Green Jacket series, despite playing in only half the tournaments, and said: “Louise, who is a nurse, has been working shifts this year, so I have been looking after our youngsters a lot more, which means I have not been able to play as much golf as usual. Louise will have come off shifts by the time next season comes round and I will be hoping to play in all the Green Jacket tournaments in 2010.
“It was fantastic the Order of Merit came back on the fixture list after 10 years away.
“There is no better way for good club golfers to get the tournament experience they need to try to become county players.
“Bringing it back has created a big buzz and a lot of interest and discussion. Winning the Green Jacket means a lot to the region’s golfers.”
ZFL GOLF ORDER OF MERIT 2009 FOR THE GREEN JACKET
North East Rankings - Final placings - top 20 and ties
1 Simon Lee (City of Newcastle) 1162.5pts.
2 Daniel Shevill (Prudhoe) 1095pts.
3 Phil Ridden (City of Newcastle) 1045pts.
4 Michael Curry (Brancepeth Castle) 767.5pts.
5 Richard Aisbitt (Brancepeth Castle) 610pts.
6 Jason Jones (Saltburn) 337.5pts.
7 Nigel King (South Shields) 317.5pts.
8 Will Bowe (Workington) 305pts.
9 Graeme Marchbank (Durham City) 290pts.
=10 Callum Tarren (Dinsdale Spa) 275pts.
=10 John Longcake (Silloth) 275pts.
=10 Tony McLure (Whickham) 275pts.
13 Joe Buckley (Harrogate) 250pts.
14 Gareth Cooper (Brancepeth) 247.5pts.
15 Mark Penny (Morpeth) 242.5pts.
16 Charles Tetlow (Hartlepool) 240pts.
17 Thomas Rowland (Prudhoe) 222.5pts.
18 John Hutton (Whickham) 215pts.
19 Craig Wilkinson (Blyth) 210pts.
=20 Nicky Maddison (City of Newcastle) 200pts.
=20 Martin Coup (Hexham) 200pts.
=20 Adam Reay (Ravensworth) 200pts.
Page 2: Results of tournaments already played >>