England Golf: Northern Counties Men’s Qualifier

DONE IT AGAIN: The Northumberland squad with their prizes at The Manchester

Golden generation delivers again for Northumberland

N of Eng: Friday, August 6th

FORMAT: 36-hole strokeplay

History was made at The Manchester last night as Northumberland completed an incredible turnaround victory in the Northern Counties qualifier.

The reigning northern champions were 17 shots behind Lancashire at halfway but, led by a stunning seven-under-par 65 from City of Newcastle’s Alex Dixon, ended up eight clear of Cheshire in the final reckoning, with Yorkshire a further three shots back. It was their third win in the last four playings.

At the end of June the Northumberland Boys team won the junior equivalent for the first time in 28 years meaning the county has secured both regional titles in the same season for the first time.

It also means they get another crack at winning the national title having been edged out in dramatic circumstances by Kent two years ago. Ben Quinney (Kings Hill) holed a 15 footer on the last to deny them a first English title since 1965.

County stalwart Phil Ridden, this year’s English Mid Amateur champion, believes Northumberland are enjoying something of a “golden period” rather than anything more fundamental.

“It’s just one of those periods where we have got lucky and have got eight really, really good players,” said Phil.

“If we need 12 players we might struggle but in this format we are very strong.”

Alex’s remarkable afternoon effort included eight birdies and critcally he went bogey free in the final three holes where the blustry wind was directly into the players’ faces. The par three 16th measures 230 yards off the back tees so proved a particularly difficult proposition late on.

ROSE TO THE OCCASION: City of Newcastle’s Alex Dixon. Picture courtesy of Leaderboard Golf

“It was a really tough finish,” said the 29-year-old, who learned his golf at Royal Cinque Ports having been born in Newcastle and then returning to the North East a decade ago.

“I’m not sure what the 16th was playing but I hit three wood in and managed to hole one from seven feet for par so was really pleased with that.

“I did shoot 64 earlier in the year but this is my best round for a while. Critically I hit all the par fives in two and that gave me the basis to build a good score.”

After the morning groups Lancashire were ten clear with county champion Harry Lord leading the way. The Rossendale teenager posted the best first-round score (66) and was ably supported by home club player Aiden Hoosen (68), Haydock Park’s Ian Kenwright (69) and Royal Lytham’s Callan Barrow (70).

Yorkshire were ten back in second. Wakefield’s Dan Bradbury almost holed his opening tee shot at the short par four before registering an eagle on his way to a 68.

But after lunch it all changed. Cumulatively the Red Rose squad was 30 shots worse in the second round while individual champion Dixon, Andrew Minnikin (City of Newcastle), Gary Donnison (Gosforth) and Joseph Robson (Hexham) all went under par in their second rounds.

Cheshire jumped from fifth to second as they were cumulatively four under in the worst of the conditions.

The only bad news for Northumberland is they will be missing Robson for the final at Remedy Oak (Dorset) in September (24-26). He will be back in New Mexico at college. The other qualifying counties are BB&O, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.

Scores (par 72)
1) Northumberland 439 + 421 = 860 (-4)
Alex Dixon (City of Newcastle) 70, 65, 135 (-9)
Joseph Robson (Hexham) 71, 70, 141 (-3)
James Wilson (Close House)) 69, 72, 141 (-3)
Andrew Minnikin (City of Newcastle) 76, 69, 145 (+1)
Gary Donnison (Gosforth) 76, 70, 146 (+2)
Phil Ridden (City of Newcastle) 77, 75, 152 (+8)
2) Cheshire 440 + 428 = 868 (+4)
3) Yorkshire 432 + 439 = 871 (+7)
4) Lancashire 422 + 452 = 874 (+10)
5) Cumbria 439 + 437 = 876 (+12)
6) Durham 446 + 439 = 885 (+21)
7) Isle of Man 469 + 468 = 937 (+73)
For all the scores click here