FOUR groups of North-East golfers are heading to the home of golf in search of glory.
Historic St Andrew’s is hosting the British Colleges Sport Open Championship next week when 13 golfers from the region will face the pressures and dramas of team golf on the east coast of Scotland.
Colleges from across Britain will arrive in Fife on Sunday before enjoying three days of experiencing the Open Championship venue – while aiming to ensure the trip ends in glory.
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Durham Sixth Form quartet Aaron Macmanus, Jonathan Cossar, Jake Herron and Tom Skelton will be in the mix against the likes of Gateshead trio Jordan Cook, Adam Nicholson and Toby Purvis as well as Middlesbrough duo Josh Tibbert and Harry Rowbotham.
Hartlepool College of Further Education’s golf academy group - consisting of Tom Nicholson, Matthew Davison, Jonathan Conley and Robbie Bailey – are looking to improve on the College team’s sixth place finish 12 months ago.
There will be two days of championship golf played over the Kittocks and Torrance courses and the three best gross scores will be added together from each of the two days before the winning team is determined.
The Hartlepool College’s academy coach Clifford Jackson said: “It should be a fantastic few days for us all. Last year we went down to Woodhall Spa and did alright, but that was with a patched up team. This year we are going in with a strong team, we are hoping to do even better, it should be great.
“On Monday we can all go out on the course, have a tour of St Andrew’s and have a practice round before going in to the competition days on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s St Andrew’s, none of them have been up there before so they are all really excited about it.”
Jackson, also the club professional at Seaton Carew Golf Club, is mentoring the College’s academy group having seen the club forge strong links in recent years.
“We have golfers on the academy who are at College doing a wide range of course and we have an engineer and sporting students forming part of our team at St Andrew’s,” said Jackson.
“It’s all about helping to develop sporting talent alongside academic progress and as part of the College’s golf academy they get to come down for nine hours of coaching a week with me at Seaton as a break from their studies. They come down around three days a week but also get membership. It’s a great little link and they have reached a standard where they should do well at St Andrew’s.”
Conley and Davison, respectively a one and four handicapper, are both primarily members at Seaton Carew, while eight-handicapper Nicholson also plays at Castle Eden and five-handicapper Robbie Bailey is out of Wynyard.
The trip to St Andrew’s will not be the Hartlepool College’s only adventure in the next few weeks, having also qualified to play in the British College Sports National Individuals Championship to be played at Bath on April 4-6. Conley and Bailey will be pushing for honours there.
Before that, though, the focus is on St Andrew’s. “It’s the home of golf, isn’t it? It’s always going to be a special place for everyone to visit,” said Jackson, who will be assisted in the coaching over the next few days by his Seaton assistant pro, Jeff Musgrove.
“We might not be playing on the Old Course, with all the history, but it’s the whole complex which is special up there, not just one course. It’s the whole area.”