Whickham Golf Club wins national final of the John Deere Team Championship
The team, joined by a fifth player from the local John Deere dealership Greenlay (Grass Machinery) Limited of Choppington in Northumberland, beat off stiff competition from clubs across Great Britain to take home the title. With this comes an invitation to Scottsdale, Arizona where they will play in the world final at Grayhawk Golf Club in November, against teams from Ireland, North America, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.
Bill Hopper (club vice captain), Gary MacDonald (competitions secretary), Tony McClure (head greenkeeper), Andrew Hall (club professional) and Roger Stewart (Greenlay) finished three shots clear of the field on a net team score of 56. It was second time lucky for Whickham, as the club also played at The Belfry in last year's Team Championship finals.
"Playing on the world famous Brabazon course is amazing for a golfer like me," says Roger Stewart. "I only took up the game eighteen months ago and had to buy a new set of clubs for this final. The weather was atrocious, and for the first few holes it felt like I was only there to hold the umbrella!
"Now I find myself in a team of very experienced golfers and on the way to a world championship competition in America. I just can't believe it."
"Greenkeeper Tony McClure has won a few prizes in the past," adds Gary MacDonald. "He's played for Durham and represented England in the Nations Cup. Also, our young pro - Andrew is just 25 - only joined the club in March. We're all delighted about the trip to the USA."
Whickham Golf Club was founded in 1911 and has around 700 members. Set in the Derwent valley, it is a picturesque course with spectacular views, although it is only a few miles from Gateshead's Metro Centre.
In order to qualify for the national final, Whickham beat 16 other teams in their regional qualifier, organised by Eric Pattinson of Greenlay, and held at Morpeth Golf Club in June.
Altogether 23 John Deere dealerships took part in the Great Britain tournament, with a total of 390 teams (1560 players) competing. The qualifying tournaments ran from April to July at host golf clubs throughout Great Britain, with each winning team going through to play at The Belfry.
Now in its 17th year, the John Deere Team Championship has traditionally been open only to teams from the USA and Canada, although in recent years invitations were extended to Germany and Australia. Last year saw Great Britain and Ireland taking part for the first time.
At the awards ceremony John Deere Limited also made a donation of £25 for every British team entered, to support BIGGA's educational activities. Donations are made to greenkeeping associations in all the countries which take part in the Team Championship.
Runner-up in the Great Britain national final was the team from Brickendon Grange Golf Club in Hertford, who won their qualifying tournament, organised by Allen Percival from John Deere dealer Turner Groundscare in Dunstable. Third place went to Sweetwoods Park Golf Club from Edenbridge in Kent; they won the qualifying tournament held by John Deere dealer Palmers Agricultural, who are based in East Sussex.
Photographs show teams playing the 18th hole at The Belfry; and winners of the GB final of the John Deere Team Championship 2003 Whickham Golf Club, (left to right): Andrew Hall (club professional), Tony McClure (head greenkeeper), Bill Hopper (club vice captain), Gary MacDonald (competitions secretary), and Roger Stewart (salesman, John Deere dealer Greenlay).
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