The Golf North East Gents Amateur Classic, sponsored this year by Close House Golf, has proved to be a runaway success for the region's golfers. Following the defeat of our 2007 and 2008 Champions Neil Sanderson and Guy Henderson in this year's Golf North East Gents Match Play Pairs championship, all the pressure was on fellow Eaglescliffe Golf Club member Stephen Pickering, a 12-hancicapper, to win yet another trophy for the Tees Valley club.
And he rose to the occasion, scoring a nett 70 to win by one shot. In doing so, he also won a seven-day golfing holiday to the sun and will now be taking part in our Golf North East/Golfing Holidays Algarve Invitational Tournament later this year.
In total 98 golf clubs throughout the North East took part in our 2009 tournament. And during the spring and summer months, thousands of golfers have battled it out in qualifying medals in the hope of securing a place and the honour of representing their clubs in the final.
With our magnificent crystal claret jug trophy at stake together with a Golf North East prize table with over £2500 worth of top prizes, everything was there to play for.
The 2009 final was staged at Close House Golf and played on an immaculate course with greens that wouldn't be out of place at any European PGA Tour event. All the players were highly complimentary and many have promised to return to play the course in the future.
At just under 6000 yards and a par 70, Close House golf course is a great example, in that long courses are not always the answer to offsetting the advances of modern day equipment - the competition scratch score on the day turned out to be 73 with only one competitor playing to his handicap!!
This is not a course for 'teeing high and letting fly', as many of the players very quickly realised. Miss the fairways, the short lush rough more or less guarantees a dropped shot.
And although the early starters had the best of the weather, many players were returning nett scores in the high 70s and 80's. With nett 72s, the early leaders were Jonathan Ward from Stocksfield Golf Club and former English Amateur Champion, Harry Ashby representing Slaley Hall. Harry's gross score of 75 was the best of the day and he was only one of six players to break 80.
These two were later joined by Ian Symonds from Longhirst Hall Golf Club, who played steady golf to take his place on the leader board carding a nett 72.
With a score of 82-11 for a nett 71, Whickham's Paul Gardner later took the lead along with 8-handicapper David Hughff from Hobson Golf Club, the second player to break 80.
For quite some time these two remained at the top of the leader board with nobody threatening their scores. Although the weather deteriorated Stephen Pickering stuck to the task in hand, making the turn in 40, which included a triple bogey at the 1st, a double at the 6th and a super birdie at the 8th.
His back nine of 42 also included two double bogeys but three excellent pars to finish with secured the title.
Golf North East would like to congratulate Stephen on becoming the sixth winner of the Golf North East Gents Amateur Classic - well done.