Northumberland: Women’s County Championship

Northumberland champion Rebecca Ferguson putts for birdie at the eighth at Bamburgh Castle. Picture courtesy of Bamburgh Castle Golf Club

The curious case of a mischievous seagull and last-gasp sprint to make the first tee

N’LAND: Thursday June 3rd

It was certainly three days to remember for Tynemouth’s Rebecca Ferguson who was “over the moon” to claim her first Northumberland Women’s County Championship title after being seconds away from disqualification ahead of her opening matchplay tie.

After ten years of trying the plus 2 player rose to the occasion in the final and was three under par for 13 holes in defeating Close House’s Claire Brown at Bamburgh Castle.

However 24 hours earlier it was panic stations as Bank Holiday traffic and roadworks combined to turn the 50-mile journey north into a nightmare and the personal trainer literally sprinted to the first tee just in the nick of time for her last eight match-up with Candy Brown (High Gosforth Park).

Rebecca managed to par the first and never looked back but for a while it was not looking good. Her sat nav was telling her she would reach the coastal location at 1.30pm while her tee time was 1.32pm.

“Me and my boyfriend left with two hours until I teed off,” said Rebecca, whose other half Stewart Fell, is one of the leading players in the county and will be hoping to complete the double at the men’s county championship at Whitley Bay (June 19-26).

Rebecca with boyfriend Stewart Fell

“My mum, dad and uncle left a few minutes after us with my clubs in the car.

“We got to the A1 and the traffic was absolutely gridlocked; I was besides myself. Thankfully me and my clubs made it to the tee with a few minutes to spare. I was so close to disaster!”

There was also an unusual moment in her semi-final with Ponteland’s Ami Ewan, who beat Rebecca the only time she had previously made the final.

On the fourth tee Ami realised she had 15 clubs and under the rules her opponent was awarded all the holes played to that point although Rebecca was already two up and went on to win 3&1.

All of that after suffering the indignity of being pooed on by a seagull while training on her local beach just a few days before the competition began. Folklore dictates that is a forebearer of good luck and certainly it didn’t do any harm for the 28-year-old although once she had beaten Claire in the final her work for that day wasn’t done.

To take her place in the Tynemouth Club Championship she had to get her qualifying round completed that night and made it back to her home club at 7pm and just about beat the darkness and record a four over par 76 and make it through.

Three days earlier she arrived in plenty of time at Bamburgh Castle for the 36-hole qualifying and set the pace with an opening 71, four clear of field. In the afternoon she had a “nightmare” but her 80 left her level with Ponteland’s Zara Naughton and the top two, along with third placed Ami, received a bye into the quarter-finals.

Then having sprinted to the first tee for the quarter-final, she quickly got into the groove and was never behind. Some heroic long putting at the end from Candy took the game to the 16th, where a halve was enough to give Rebecca a 3&2 win.

That night she arranged with Bamburgh member Holly Hardy to caddy for her the next day.

“Holly was amazing,” said Rebecca. “She really helped me on the greens and generaly kept me calm all day.”

Rebecca gets her hands on the trophy she has coveted for ten years

Holly certainly helped in the morning semi-final. After the 15-club incident was sorted out, Ami fought back superbly after being three down in as many holes to make it all square after seven.

Around the turn the Tynemouth golfer re-established her lead – she was two up after 11 – before Ami won 12 but Rebecca won the next and kept her at bay all the way until she was dormie two. The soon-to-be-champion won 17 just for good measure to take it 3&1.

And her day just got better as she played impeccable golf in the final. Birdies at three, four and six helped put her 4up after nine holes and pars on the back nine were enough to give her a 6&5 success.

If the victory wasn’t big enough it was also made emotional by her victory speech which paid tribute to her recently-departed grandfather, who was one of her biggest fans.

And because the county could not properly celebrate its centenary, she received a special silver locket as well as the trophy.

Rebecca’s personal training company is called ‘Simply The Bex Fitness’  – and finally she was on the course as well.

Matchplay qualifiers (par 70)
1) Zara Naughton (Ponteland) 76, 75, 151*
2) Rebecca Ferguson (Tynemouth) 71, 80, 151*
3) Ami Ewan (Ponteland) 75, 78, 153*
4) June Lomax (Hexham) 75, 78, 153
5) Coralie Bretez (Gosforth Park) 75, 80, 155
6) Charlotte Naughton (Ponteland) 79, 76, 155
7) Nicola Rose (Bamburgh Castle)  79, 81, 160
8) Claire Brown (Close House) 80, 80, 160
9) Judith Moore (City of Newcastle) 81, 80, 161
10) Candy Brown (High Gosforth Park) 85, 80, 165
11) Holly Hardy (Bamburgh Castle) 82, 86, 168
12) Gabriella Oliver (Arcot) 100, 88, 188
13) Louisa Hamilton (Ponteland) 100, 93, 193
*Received a bye into the quarter-finals
Matchplay – First round 
– Cl Brown beat Moore 5&4
– Lomax beat Hamilton 6&4
– Bretez beat Oliver 8&6
– Ca Brown beat Rose 2&1
– C Naughton beat Hardy 2 holes
Cl Brown beat Z Naughton 20th
Bretez beat Lomax 3&2
Ferguson beat Ca Brown 3&2
Ewan beat C Naughton 4&2
Cl Brown beat Bretez 4&3
Ferguson beat Ewan 3&1
Ferguson beat Cl Brown 6&5