GOLFERS are used to aiming for birdies, eagles and albatrosses.

But enthusiasts at Blackwell Grange Golf Club, in Darlington, spent much of Sunday (May 17) afternoon trying to avoid a ferret.

That isn't obscure golfing slang for being wildly over-par, but the reason a weekend round of golf with the girls may never be quite the same again for Jayne Bowen.

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Mrs Bowen and her friends were walking to the first hole when a friendly ferret emerged from the bushes and tried to join the party.

The women were bemused when the animal - resplendent with its reddish-brown fur - started following them to the tee.

Mrs Bowen nicknamed the ferret Freddie, before realising it was female - and swiftly renamed it Freddi.

The impudent intruder climbed on one of the ladies' golf trollies and showed an interest in making a makeshift bed in one of their club bags.

Mrs Bowen said: "It could not get into the bag, but it was not showing any signs of going anywhere.

"I thought it must be tame because of the fact it had come out and met us, so I stroked the top of its head and picked it up."

It is not known whether Freddi is a family pet and had escaped from a nearby home, or whether she was being used by poachers to catch rabbits in nearby fields.

Mrs Bowen added: "We didn't want it to follow us round all afternoon, so I took it into the pro shop.

"When I first showed them the ferret, they thought it was a club head cover."

Freddi was put in a cardboard box for safe-keeping while the ladies played the front nine holes.

Mrs Bowen checked in halfway through her round and was told that Freddi had already chewed her way out of two boxes.

The RSPCA were called and took Freddi away to the ferret equivalent of kennels, where she has slept for much of the week, entirely oblivious to the interest in her golf course adventure.

That interest included The Northern Echo spending much of the working week making inquiries about Freddi and arranging for her to be brought back to the scene of her caper.

Thankfully, those efforts were not in vain. An RSPCA inspector took Freddi back to Blackwell on Friday (May 23) for her 15 minutes of fame.

Freddi will be cared for at the RSPCA's animal centre, in Great Ayton, for the next week, to give her owners a chance to come forward.

If that doesn't happen, she will be available for rehoming.

Anyone who thinks Freddi may be their pet ferret can call the RSPCA's 24-hour hotline on 0300-1234-999.