Countdown begins for Brabazon Trophy's big return to Seaton Carew

Big summer: Seaton Carew Golf Club

Big summer: Seaton Carew Golf Club

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

THERE are just 47 days until the largest amateur strokeplay championship arrives in the North-East, with golfers from around the world preparing to descend on the challenging links at Seaton Carew.

Forty-four exemptions, including the best from South Africa, have already been pencilled in to compete. By the time the Brabazon Trophy actually comes around, they will be joined by other future stars of the game from across the globe.

By the time the first tee shot of four days play has been struck on June 25, all the preparations will have been completed. For the first time in 29 years the course on the outskirts of Hartlepool will be on the international stage once more.

Seaton Carew is often referred to as one of the best courses in the country and it has previously held renowned competitions, but the Brabazon presents something different – and the members are well aware.

Jane Longhorn, Seaton Carew's committee chairman and former captain, said: “We feel that it's the largest sporting event in the North-East this year because it is the most prestigious. It's the flagship event for England Golf amateur.

“We are expecting hundreds every day made up of the golfers and their supporters plus golfers from around the region. We will send personal invitations to all of the clubs and the captains. We hope people who don't even play golf will come along and see golf is the fun thing to do.

“We have earned hosting the Brabazon by reputation. We had it in 1985 and since then we have done a lot of work on the course. We have improved the greens, which had basically got a bit old.

“We started to host regional events, then north of England events by demonstrating the course and administration was set up correctly. Then we got a letter, remarkably, to host the Brabazon Trophy. You earn it. It's a really big thing for us all here – and for the region.”

The Brabazon has always been played on prestigious courses across the country. Royal Birkdale and Hunstanton have hosted it five times, while Ganton, Woodhall Spa, Moortown, Hollinwell, Royal Liverpool and Saunton have been visited.

This will be the second time it has visited Seaton Carew. In 1985 former Ryder Cup player Peter Baker shared the honour of winning the competition with well-known Darlington golfer Roger Roper.

Long serving Seaton Carew member Roy Leonard said: “People like Sandy Lyle and Charl Schwartzel have won it over the years. This sort of competition produces some of the future stars of the game.

“Now with the professional circuit as it is, there is a good chance that some of the golfers who play at Seaton during that week will be on the pro circuit in a few years time.

“Italians, French, New Zealand, South Africa, Australians … golfers from all over the world will play. There will be quality golfers. The maximum handicap you can have is a one handicap to play. The vast majority of these will be plus figures, they really will be the top amateurs around.”

Justin Rose, who finished runner-up to Graeme Storm in the Carris Trophy in 1996, has sent a letter of congratulations to Seaton Carew ahead of the Brabazon's return.

The hope among the committee members is that the top amateurs - including 2012 English Amateur winner Harry Ellis - who grace the North Sea-lined track this summer will remember their trip just as fondly in the years to come.

Longhorn said: “We are proud of our history, we are proud to be the tenth oldest course in the country, but we also want to be proud of our future. We want to be a championship links course, but eminently playable all year round for the members. We pretty much get it about right.

“We have been lobbying and getting things right for the last ten years to put us in a position where England Golf selected us to run it. The hard work now goes in to the golf course to make sure everything is right.

“Tony Cartwright, our head greenkeeper, has been with us for forty-something years. He was here the last time. He will be receiving a service award after the Brabazon. It's a fantastic achievement and I'm sure it will be a fantastic week.”

Seaton Carew are planning a prize draw to commemorate the return of the Brabazon. A 12-months membership is among the things on offer along with a Cleveland Driver and a custom fit supplied by Rockliffe Hall's Steve Atkinson.

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