A RENOWNED coach of the most promising talents in the north has been officially recognised for his exceptional standards and achievements nationally.

Celebrations have been the order of the day at Matfen Hall’s clubhouse after one of the club’s PGA professional coaches, John James Vallely, scooped a big award.

The 41-year-old, who gets called JJ, has been based at the Northumberland club since 1995 and was named Squad Coach of the Year at a gala dinner following the England Golf annual coaching conference at Woodhall Spa Golf Club in Lincolnshire.

As well as taking charge of Matfen’s junior academy and coaching an army of up-and-coming youngsters, JJ has also been coach to the England Golf North region girls’ squad for the past five years.

Three outstanding girl golfers who have all come through the North squad were cited as shining examples of his work with young golfers. He has also worked with plenty of others over the years too as part of the regional squads.

Cumbria’s Caitlin Whitehead won European Young Masters and then helped Europe to a clean sweep in the Asia Pacific Junior Championship, while Northumberland’s Jess Baker and Rosie Belsham have both played their way convincingly on to the national scene.

“And there’s a lot more waiting in the wings,” said JJ, who led an unprecedented five juniors from Matfen up to the finals of the prestigious Wee Wonders finals on the Strathtyrum course at St Andrews in the summer, including 12-year-old Zara Naughton who won the 9-12 section.

“They’re on a mission. They’ve been pulled along by watching Caitlin, Rosie and Jess, they’re inspired and it’s given them belief and made them work harder. It’s like a mini-explosion and we want to keep it going.”

JJ ensures there’s a pipeline of talent by also coaching the girls in the North of England Futures, made up of players who are pushing for places in the regional line-up. Baker and Belsham were among the early intake and together with two other girls, knocked a total of 50 shots off their handicaps in their first season.

He said: “I absolutely love it. I live and breathe it. You do make a lot of sacrifices, but it’s really satisfying to help them understand their game and themselves. Some of the skills and habits they develop are wider reaching than golf and will stand them in good stead with whatever they do.”

JJ’s achievements have also been well received at Matfen Hall. Nicola Hawes, Matfen’s golf manager, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that JJ’s work and achievements have been recognised in this way.

“His commitment to coaching the Junior Academy and so many other young players at Matfen is admired far and wide, and it’s not hard to see why when you see the results he inspires.”

Jessica Baker, Rosie Belsham and Caitlin Whithead’s progress under JJ have earned them a place on the England girls squad for this year.

Baker (Gosforth Park Ladies), Belsham (Whitley Bay) and Whitehead (Carus Green) were all named in the nine-man squad for the 2019 season when there was also an announcement for the women’s and overseas pools, although there were no North-East players in those.

Baker and Belsham are two of five new members among the girls’ squad who all made an impact last season.

DURHAM County Golf Union has confirmed a number of appointments for 2019.

Chester-le-Street’s Tony Garrity is the elected president after serving on the county executive for the last 13 years. He received his badge from outgoing president John Kirk, from Billingham.

Heworth’s Richard Lotz, Ingleby Barwick’s David Collett and Ravensworth’s Neil Burke are all newly-elected members of the executive committee and join the re-elected South Shields man Jeremy Gough on board.

The newly-elected vice presidents for the Union are Beamish Park’s John Sanderson and Chester-le-Street’s Ken Joel. Sanderson has been on the executive since 2005 and Joel since 2011.