Anyone who knows me will tell you that on many occasions I embrace wearing my heart on my sleeve.
Driving back into the car park at ‘our HQ office’ – Woodhall Spa Golf Club – on 28 July was a thrill for me as a proud advocate of the amateur game.
For I was not only returning to the office, but also to witness our Women’s and Men’s Amateur Championships. A total of 288 competitors out of an entry in excess of 500, all with the same dreams, desire and target of becoming a champion.
The nervous excitement was palpable.
I don’t mind admitting that it was an emotional moment for all of us who had been involved in the planning. Would government allow us to stage such an event? Could we make it work? Would all competitors adhere to new rules?
After months of preparations and a few sleepless nights for our director of championships, James Crampton, history was in the making as we jointly staged the English Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships.
It would have been easy to cancel all championships this year.
However, we wanted to plan for a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ moment. We wanted a celebration of golf when our championships returned. I’m proud to say the last two weeks have delivered.
James and his championship staff went above and beyond to make this vision a reality.
From temperature checks at the gate and social distancing banners, one-way systems and sanitising stations as well as tight restrictions on numbers, the safety procedures were followed to the letter.
It felt safe. It was safe. It felt special. It was special.
And to cap it all, after the year we have all endured, it felt so right to have the men and women competing at the same venue, at the same time for their respective championships.
Moving forward, we will do all we can to make championships like this a regular feature on the calendar.
From 14-year-olds Frank Kennedy and Maggie Whitehead taking their first steps in the game at this level, to golden oldie Paul Wharton striking a blow for us fifty-somethings and making the quarter finals of the men’s there were stories galore.
Golf is a game for all no matter your age!
There was amazing golf too. Harrison Ottley-Woodd and opponent Jack Cope each holing out from 100 yards on the 16th fairway for a remarkable half in eagle twos!
Jack then went on to shoot a seven under par round 66 on the Hotchkin in the first round of the final. Amazing stuff. Poor Callan Barrow was two under par and found himself five down at lunch – that’s a tough school!
Jack, of course, continued his wonderful play to close out the match and add his name to an illustrious list of champions.
And in the women’s championship the standard of play was exceptional. From Thalia Kirby shooting 69 on the par 73 Hotchkin to the relentless consistency and class of winner Emily Price as she came from behind to defeat Lily May Humphreys, the best of women’s golf was on show.
As the governing body for amateur golf in England we exist to support all our clubs, counties and golfers no matter what standard of golf they play, but surely getting excited about developing future Solheim and Ryder Cup players can’t be a bad thing?
Then, of course, came the Senior Men’s Championship. Having learnt many lessons from the week before, James and team delivered again, providing for another excellent week of competitive golf and a deserving champion in Rupert Kellock (pictured below)
An incredible sidebar of golf’s successful return to playing has been the surge in membership numbers.
As such and in the spirit of seizing the moment, we launched our membership campaign last week with a fundamental aim – to not only continue driving and inspiring membership but also very much to retain our newly acquired numbers.
Our COVID-19 resilience fund set up to help golf clubs who have suffered as a result of the crisis has received over 700 club applications that we are now in a stage of assessing on a case by case basis.
Looking towards the end of the year and launch of the new World Handicap System, we continue to deliver our education campaign “Know the Score”. Anyone needing reference details can find them on www.englandgolf.org/whs
So, with continued drive, I wish you all well, reaffirming our passion and energy to keep delivering on golf’s wonderful return and road back to normality
The past couple of weeks saw hurdles cleared and a celebration of new champions.
I hope all of you and your families remain healthy and positive as we look to overcome future challenges that may lie in our path.
Keep enjoying your golf.