AMID the glorious plains of Bishop Auckland Golf Club there’s a Texas scramble and shotgun start, appropriate because the day’s beneficiary is himself Texan.

But why a Texas scramble? None knows. “Back home we just call it a scramble,” says James Glenn, 30, club champion and winner of last year’s British Universities and Durham County orders of merit.

The internet simply supposes that the format was popular in Texas in the 1950s. At Barnard Castle the women play Australian spoons, and may be little wiser.

Interesting chap, young Glenn. Raised in southern England between the ages 6-13 while his father worked as a chiropractor, he returned to these shores to take a masters degree at Durham and is now close to completing a PhD.

His doctoral subject? Golf.

“I had a very encouraging supervisor,” he recalls. “I explained my ideas for the masters dissertation, she said I’d never get it all into 12,000 words and suggested a PhD.”

His studies explore the abiding perception that golf is elitist, a belief still held either side of the Atlantic though as manifestly untrue at Bishop Auckland as elsewhere.

“So much of the game is about much more than hitting a golf ball,” says James. “It’s about developing transferrable skills like etiquette, honesty, respect, perseverance. Social skills, too.”

At home, he says, they’d think nothing of it if a player had a few cool cans on his buggy or was playing country music on his Bluetooth.

They might at Bishop; I forgot to ask.

“Some of golf’s structures may be elitist but its players certainly aren’t,” says James, who has played out of both Bishop Auckland and Brancepeth – where he worked behind the bar to help make ends meet – while studying.

Amid the work/play balancing, he found time to marry his American girl friend, Amanda. “She’s incredibly supportive other than being disarmingly attractive, way out of my league,” he says.

He has now secured Category 3 on the PGA EuroPro tour, dreams of winning a European tournament, of wearing a green jacket. The Texas scramble was to help raise cover his expenses.

PhD nearing completion, he remains philosophical, nonetheless. “If I can’t make a living playing golf I’ll maybe be qualified to make a living working in the industry.

“Bishop Auckland have been wonderfully supportive, every one of them. A less elitist place it would be impossible to imagine.”

RARE to be in the vicinity of Bishop Auckland Golf Club without bumping into former World Cup referee George Courtney, 78 next Tuesday and famously as fit as a butcher’s dog. Sadly, however, he fears he may be blowing the whistle on an illustrious career. “My left knee’s shot. I’ve had an MRI scan and may need an operation,” he says. “If I have to hang up my boots, it’s been wonderful.”

WHILE the nation awaited the Derby, attention in Ingleton – between Darlington and Staindrop – was firmly on the race before, the £61,000 Investec “Dash” Handicap, run over five furlongs.

It was won in exactly 54 seconds by Ornate, home at 33-1, just 0.41 seconds off the world (and course) record and ridden by 220year-old Phil Dennis, Ingleton’s finest.

Just six days earlier, Phil had partnered Duke of Firenze to a 16-1 win at York – last Saturday the horse was one of many in his wake.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said of his 96th career win. “Last week on Duke of Firenze was my highlight At the time but that just blasts it out of the water.”

Phil’s sponsored by Knightsbridge Neckwear, which has a factory at Melmerby, near Ripon, and is run by Staindrop lad Darren Farrell.

GARY Brand spent last weekend in Harrogate and Otley, watching the Conifa Heritage Cup, for the world’s independent states and intended to feature the likes of Jersey, Ellan Vannin (aka the Isle of Man) and Kernow, claiming independence for Cornwall.

Sadly, an absence of independent means obliged the last two to call off, though the Chagos islands made a last-minute appearance.

The Chagos Islands, as all will know, are a Pacific archipelago quite a long way from North Yorkshire. This, perhaps happily, was their Crawley branch. They lost 9-2 to Jersey.

THE Ebac Northern League’s annual dinner last Friday proved as convivial as ever, and with an unexpected diversion.

Outside the function suite at the Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham is one of those wall-mounted ash cans, with a little row of square holes along the top.

This one carries a sign urging smokers to refrain, because birds are nesting in there and, presumably, trying to give the weans a decent start in life.

Blue tits are said chiefly to favour such improbable habitats, though they might be grey tits if they hang around much longer.

To date we have been unable to discover if the birds have flown, feathered their next or succumbed to one of those nasty diseases they warn about on fag packets.

….and finally, last week’s column sought the identity of the footballer across all of Europe’s top leagues who’s credited with creating most chances (including assists) in the past five years. Surprise, surprise, it’s Mezut Ozil.

Readers are today invited to name the two Welsh and the two North-East clubs, Football League members in the 1920s, who long since relinquished membership.

The answer, and something from last night’s centenary dinner of the Wensleydale Football League, next week.