Leeds Golf Club has always been the spiritual home of the oldest trophy in professional golf and will again host the Leeds Cup in early August.
The decision by the PGA to return to Cobble Hall last year after a significant absence reflected their confidence in a club which is going from strength to strength after battling through financial issues back in 2012.
Through adversity came solidarity and the mood around ‘Cobble’ has never been more positive with 52 new members joining since Christmas last year. These include course record holder Simon Betteridge and former Leeds Rhino Danny McGuire.
Betteridge returned to Yorkshire recently after a spell working down south and is a well- known figure in local golfing circles. It will be interesting to see if any of the North’s top professionals can get close to his 63 which he posted back in 1999 when he was a 2-handicap member of the club.
HOME FROM HOME ... MESSRS PULLAN AND MAWMAN
Another high-profile signing is new course manager Ian Pullan, a local man who held the same position at Slaley Hall before returning home to Leeds.
He already has one eye on the Leeds Cup but before that will turn his attention to making sure the course is in perfect shape for the Yorkshire Challenge Bowl which is one of the premier events on the calendar of the Yorkshire Ladies County Golf Association from July 10-12.
Secretary Paul Mawman said: “It’s a real coup for us to get Ian who has replaced Neil Hullet who was with us for 23 years . We are also extremely proud to be hosting the prestigious Yorkshire Challenge Bowl.
“When it comes to spending money, we have always put the golf course first and I’m pleased to day the condition of the course is attracting rave reviews from members and visitors alike. Historically the course has been something of a late developer, getting better as the season progresses, but this year we had it in good shape from an earlier point than ever before so full credit to our team who had to take responsibility after Neil left in January to take a job in the greenkeeping equipment sector.
“ Ian didn’t arrive until May so the hard work they put in during the early part of the year has to be applauded and we are excited about what Ian can bring to the role.”
Added value is very much the watchword for Mawman who is equally keen to keep members as he is to attract them.
“We are always looking at our offering and the decision to introduce the flexi play system has been a great tool for attracting new members and it’s also encouraging to see so many new members under the age of 40 which is a great sign for the future.
“We are always looking for ways to improve what we can offer and the new business directory, where local companies develop special offers exclusively for our members, and the new website featuring the course flyover are just two examples.
The next challenge is making improvements to the characterful clubhouse which dates to 1909 and showcases award winning food and beverage operations.
Dave Bayley was voted Bar Manager/Steward of the Year 2017 by Club Mirror who also named Cobble Hall as Golf Club of the Year in 2015, and a year later father and son Ken and Sam O’ Brien picked up the title of Golf Club Caterers of the Year.
With the on and off course operations in such good health it’s no surprise to hear that society bookings continue to be buoyant as they take advantage of a range of excellent value packages starting at £32 for a tea or coffee and a bacon roll plus 18 holes , right up to a full day package which in addition to the aforementioned basic package offers 9 holes in the morning followed by a sandwich and chips plus 18 holes in the afternoon followed by a two course meal.
Professional Ady Newboult’s indoor teaching and fitting centre kept members’ games in shape throughout the arduous winter and his assistant Andrew Rigby has revitalised a junior section many of whom will compete for the impressive Wilkinson Sword Trophy on August 30 which was re-introduced last year.
The Leeds Cup was presented to the PGA on its formation in 1901 by the Lord Mayor of Leeds and the then President of Leeds Golf Club William Penrose Green to be competed for annually by professional golfers, and the 103nd staging will be held on Aug 8 and 9 will be preceded by a pro-am on the 7th. Teams are still available, and the cost is £240 for 3 players which includes coffee and bacon roll on arrival followed by a 2-course meal after the 11 am shotgun start.
The inaugural title went to Ganton’s Harry Vardon in who won the Open Championship a record six times, and a host of celebrated names followed Ray, who had replaced fellow Channel Islander Vardon at Ganton, was victorious in 1903 and went on to win Open Championships on both sides of the Atlantic.
The event was interrupted by both World Wars but notable winners around that time included Huddersfield’s Ryder Cup star Johnny Fallon in 1937, and one of Australia’s great all-round sportsmen Bill Shankland in 1948.
Shankland, who was at the professional Temple Newsam at the time, went on to employ both Tony Jacklin and the late Alex Hay as assistants when moving to Potters Bar in Hertfordshire. The former Kangaroo tourist led Warrington in two Rugby League Wembley Cup finals before retiring and switching to his other sporting passion.
Yorkshire Ryder Cup players Alex Caygill, Howard Clark and Gordon J Brand all went on the lift the trophy, as did PGA Cup captain Mike Ingham, and in 2013 Nick Ludwell followed in the footsteps of another Selby professional David Jagger who tasted victory in 1980.
Hardened Tour players have also taken a liking to the event which had an original prize fund of £20.Ben Mason, now at iGolf Studio in Sheffield, triumphed in 2014 whilst Chester-based Welshman Garry Houston was the 100th player to collect the trophy in 2015 having also won in 2012.
Phil Archer’s win at Moor Allerton made it five wins in a row for former European Tour members and last year’s winner Michael Ramsden could easily have found his name on the famous trophy alongside that of Gary Player but for an untimely incident that befell the South African when the event was played at Fixby in 1955.
It was the first time the nine-time major winner had travelled out of his homeland and he arrived in England with £200 in his pocket and slept in his waterproofs in the dunes surrounding the Old Course before teeing it up in the Open Championship.
Stood on the last tee at Huddersfield, he needed a five to win. “There was a stone wall on 18 and I thought that I could bank my shot off the wall onto the green,” recalled Player. “I went for it and the shot hit me in the jaw and knocked me down for a second or two. They gave me some smelling salts.
“Dazed, I then chipped the ball onto the green. I thought, – ‘great... four shots’. “I then holed the putt for five and thought I had won the tournament, only to find out I was given a two-shot penalty for hitting myself.”