Could Durham Union be touched by Open presence?

The Northern Echo: High praise: James Simpson in trouble on the 17th hole at Seaton Carew Golf Club which has been praised by the English Golf Union. Picture by Tom Collins. High praise: James Simpson in trouble on the 17th hole at Seaton Carew Golf Club which has been praised by the English Golf Union. Picture by Tom Collins.

FOLLOWING the success of the Brabazon Trophy’s second visit to Seaton Carew, the English Golf Union is ready to recommend more visits to the area – and there is even a chance of it becoming an Open qualifying venue.

This week has seen 11 golfers from the North-East trying, and failing, to seal one of 12 places that were up for grabs for Royal Liverpool at four different final qualifying venues. A fortnight ago, even more tried to advance to the latter stages at local qualifying.

Over the years Open qualification has taken place in England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, although it is not thought to have ever seen a course from Durham Union host the event. “I have done this job 20 years and I’ve never heard of it coming to us,” said Union secretary Graham Hope.

The Northumberland Union has hosted qualifying before; only last month Northumberland Golf Club in Gosforth held a local qualifier for Hoylake. Now, following the success of hosting the Brabazon Trophy for a second time, it is hoped Seaton Carew follows suit.

While it will be the Royal & Ancient who ultimately decide, the EGU can at least provide feedback based on the experience of visiting the gruelling links. Seaton Carew had to wait 29 years for the Brabazon to pay a second visit, but the EGU is confident the third occasion will arrive much sooner.

“I mean it when I say this, when can we come back?” said Ray Saunders, the president of the EGU, after witnessing Ben Stow claim the 2014 title last Saturday. “It won’t be 29 years again I can assure you, coming here is just something we have enjoyed doing.”

Saunders, 72, a past president of the Kent Union, said: “We have never had a response for help like we had from Seaton Carew. Everybody bent over backwards. This golf club is amazing and so friendly. There is an absolute buzz around here.

“We have to spread these competitions around the country. I suppose you could say there are about 20 clubs, along the Lancashire coast, the Kent coast, Royal St George’s, these places, and Seaton Carew is up there as well, where we go to.

“England is all about links golf and the Brabazon is our premier tournament ... we need the best supporters and the best courses and we have had it all here.”

Since the Brabazon was held on the track in 1985, Seaton Carew has held the Carris Trophy – the Boys equivalent – home internationals and inter-county events. The standard of the course last week was praised for the work of head greenkeeper Tony Cartwright, his assistant Andrew Wood and Ian Stewart, a greenkeeper at the Open at Turnberry in 2009.

President of Seaton Carew, John Hall, said: “If the EGU’s decision makers are true to their word, and they plan things well in advance, and we like hosting such events, then we will get big events back to us again. We would love to have events like the Brabazon again and again.

“We have had the Carris Trophy, we have had R&A tournaments in the past ... I was captain in 1991 too so I know what we have had here. It was a particularly proud moment for us all and it’s marvellous it has happened in Arthur Gatenby’s year as captain. It was fantastic and hopefully we can get similar events again soon.”

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