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King Wants National Crown Back

There’s a big year ahead for Yorkshire Seniors Captain Andy King, as he sets about trying to bring home yet another Northern Counties title for Yorkshire and win back the national title, while juggling his management responsibilities with England. Oh, and he’d quite like to get a few rounds of golf in himself!

There was heartache for the reigning champs at the Northern Qualifiers on the Isle of Man last year. After being seven shots behind Durham at lunch, Yorkshire fell an agonising 2-strokes shy of a return to the nationals.

“We ended up being the [Northern Counties] champions which was fantastic, again, and it put us in good spirits for the big tournament on the Isle of Man,” recalled the Garforth member.

“That was a week long adventure! We play the 36-holes at Castletown in one day but with it being in the Isle of Man we ended up leaving on the Monday morning and not getting home until the Friday night.”

He described the experience of mixing with the Yorkshire Men who were in competition on the island at Mount Murray and said: “It was great to share with them their success the day before our event.”

Of the big day itself, he went on: “We were some shots behind after the morning … but the guys played really well and with three or four holes left to go it was wide open. Unfortunately we came up just short at the tricky short 18th.

“It’s been remodelled and they’ve brought the sea into play with a ravine in front of the green and depending on the wind and where you put your ball it can be anything from a 9-iron to a 6-iron. It becomes quite a daunting second shot.”

Normally just a hazard, it was declared out of bounds and it cost Yorkshire dear with two doubles and a bogey on the last. Durham’s last man out held his nerve, closing par-birdie-bogey to seal the win.

“Obviously we were bitterly disappointed, but we came up just short,” said King. “That’s something for this year. We want to have the team ready to go, be ready for Newcastle [this year’s venue] and we’ll be back to a more traditional format, going up the day before to practice then the tournament the next day.”

Reflecting on 2023, the Captain had high praise for Seniors Champion Frank Greaves.

“Frank has been a squad player for some years but he was the [County Seniors] champion and he forced his way into the team and did himself proud. He played in the Champion of Champions down at Woodhall Spa and that’s what players have got to – stand up, and if they are playing well at events and in tournaments, then they’ll get a chance.”

The squad was missing a couple of stalwarts last year in past county champion Dave Sanby and a seasoned performer in Stephen East, who were both were injured for most of last year. Thankfully they’re both fit and raring to go so we’ll welcome them back,” said the skipper.

“Johnny Lawrence, a past champion, was busy with his captaincy year at Moor Allerton, so we’ll welcome him back too.”

He also pointed to quality golfers approaching the 55th birthday threshold: “The likes of Nick Wylde from Garforth, Barry Hardcastle from Wike Ridge, Warren Lockett from Fixby … they should be coming into consideration.”

King thanked the YUGC for providing a coaching budget for the seniors, with players getting fitness training through the winter and a session with coach Steve Robinson is on the cards, looking at short game and tournament prep.

There’s a pre-season squad session at Scarcroft and a friendly against Lincolnshire at Brough, before the season opener – against the old enemy Lancashire at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s.

“Obviously everyone is wanting to play in that game!”

Asked if that could be the season decider, in round one, he was adamant not.

“No it isn’t. Durham will be buoyed by their success, Cheshire have some outstanding players, Northumberland – all of them, it’s become a lot closer, a lot more competitive, and yes the Lancashire game is special, we’re the two biggest counties and it’s a big start to the season, but everybody’s in with a shout. That’s my view.”

The selectors this year will be King and county veteran administrator John Grimbleby, assisted if required by YUGC Secretary Jonathan Plaxton. King’s ‘sidekick’ Garry Cuthbert will still be involved with assisting the team but wants to focus on his own playing this season.

“It was a big year for Yorkshire’s senior golfers in that the county got behind the new team championships, they introduced a new matchplay event, we had the English Senior Championships up here at Alwoodley – and while we didn’t have a winner, a lot of the Yorkshire players competed and did well.

“Hessle and Garforth both ran [scratch] seniors events and I think both clubs were really pleased with the turn-out and both are staging them again this year … I’m hoping our players will go out and show what they can do.”

There’s also the prospect of international recognition. King was called up to assist the England Seniors team last year.

“There’s so much happening, lots of big tournaments, national competitions and the prospect of getting to play for your country. It’s a great experience being involved with England and playing abroad.

“Richard Jones was part of the England team that won the European title in the Czech Republic, plus being part of the mixed team winning the Home Internationals at West Kilbride.”

It all sounds rather exhausting, but apparently not.

“I thoroughly enjoyed last year,” he said. “It is a bit of a juggle between playing, doing the captaincy and the managerial bit – obviously the England job is a non-playing role, so there’s a little bit of ‘not playing’ while away with that – but I’ve been trying to take on the exercises and keep-fit routines the lads have been given.

“I’m looking forward to the season personally and want to give it another go.

“But we have a big year ahead of us and we’ve got to focus on going and winning back the English county title!”


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