ANYONE doubting that true golfers never stop looking to improve should look no further than South Moor’s John Cross who has won two competitions and had five strokes knocked off his handicap at the age of 84.

Since he last tasted victory 14 years ago at the County Durham heathland course, John has had a new hip and a brush with serious illness which could have killed him.

So it was the source of great pride for the great-grandfather from Ushaw Moor, Durham, to win the Alan Scott Cup with 44 Stableford points.

Not content with that, John followed it up with victory in the Chairman’s Flag Competition – winning by three shots.

The two victories saw his handicap reduced from 35 to 30, much to his delight.

It followed a decision by the golf authorities to allow the maximum handicap for men to increase from 28, keeping older players competitive and on the course.

John, a former coal miner who became a personnel director, said: “A lot of older players were leaving the game, this change allowed us to compete again.

“It’s fantastic. I was so chuffed to win the Alan Scott Cup, I can’t describe the feeling when I found out. I had 44 points in the Stableford, it was one of those days where everything goes right. It was a fantastic feeling.”

Winning a second competition has meant his handicap has been “hammered”, he laughed.

John, who has been chairman of South Moor’s senior section for 15 years, took up the game late in his 50s, and was an active footballer until 63.

In the winter he plays indoor bowls and golfs with a buggy in summer. He had a brush with serious illness in 2013 when he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disorder which can kill.

He said: “Everything went wrong, my antibodies started attacking my body. Fortunately for me I was sent to the Royal Victoria Infirmary which specialises in Guillain-Barre syndrome.

“At one point they said I had a 20 per cent chance of pulling through. It was terrifying and it can take a few years to get fully mobile again. I worked very hard on my recovery programme.”

The following year he had a hip replacement and as his golf game suffered, his handicap which had been as low as 16, crept up.

But something changed after this season’s winter lay-off, leading to his first competition wins since 2004.

He said: “I never play in the winter, so after my six month lay off from golf I started again in spring and somehow I just had this extra strength and I have been playing pretty good golf. I really love the game. I think South Moor is a tremendous golf course and the camaraderie in the senior section is absolutely superb.”

John, who is married to Jen, with four children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, said sometimes he moans about having to use a ride-on buggy.

“But then my family all tell me I am so lucky to still be playing golf at almost 85, and I do class myself as lucky,” he said.

RICHMOND member John Simpson will this week battle for the chance to win one of 12 spots on a dream trip to play TPC Sawgrass as part of the Hole In One Club Final.

Simpson, who is competition secretary at Richmond, left it late to qualify for the National play-off finals of the Hole In One Club, which is open to golfers across the UK and costs just £5 each season to become a member.

It proved to be £5 well spent for Simpson after he scored an ace at the 187-yard par-3 fourth at Richmond on September 30. He left it late, as that was the last day of the qualification period for the 2018 Hole In One season.

That ace earned Simpson a place in the National Play-Off at West Lancashire where the finalists play for 11 spaces on the trip to the United States to play TPC Sawgrass in Florida in the Grand Final.

The ten leading players at West Lancashire, which has staged qualification events for the Open Championship, will bag themselves a trip across the Atlantic along with the golfer winning the nearest the pin award on the day. One further Hole in One club member will be drawn randomly for the 12th spot in the Grand Final.