GOLF clubs across the North-East can expect contact from the European Tour in the coming months after it was confirmed the British Masters will be returning to Close House for the second time.

Tour chiefs were that impressed with how Graham Wylie’s stunning championship venue hosted the event with resident Tour star Lee Westwood in 2017 that they wanted to bring it back, and it was announced on Sunday that it will be.

Almost 70,000 fans visited Close House to support the event last time around, when Ireland’s Paul Dunne chipped in on the last to finish three clear of four-time major champion Rory McIlroy.

It was a week that will never be forgotten in Heddon-on-the-Wall, just ten minutes drive from Newcastle, and hosting the British Masters again had always been the ambitious and luxurious club’s thinking – even if it was the Tour’s idea to head back to the area.

Close House’s owner Wylie said: “2017 was very successful. There was a record crowd, record social media and the Tour were delighted so they asked if we wanted to bring it back.

“Our membership grew quite dramatically after it, so did the play and stays, so it was well worth it from a commercial point of view.

“It was great as a one-off event that might have faded in to history, so to bring it back keeps the brand alive, it keeps Close House in the minds and is good for us from a commercial point of view.”

The danger of playing host again after such an excellent debut is that it might be a struggle to repeat the success. However, the stars are already aligning to suggest Close House will pull it off.

“Lee (Westwood) is already working on that one already!” said Wylie, referring to how impressive the field was last time when McIlroy was just one of some huge names on show.

“There are a couple of things helping. It’s six weeks before the Ryder Cup, therefore starting this September players who play on the European Tour, the top nine points earners qualify for the Ryder Cup and when it gets to our event the points on offer multiply by one and a half. Any golfers close to getting in will want to play.

“It’s also the same week as the Olympics, in Japan, where the top two players qualify from each country. They might not want to go, but even if some do we have a great chance to get a good field because that Olympics field is limited.

“It’s also a great time of the year, right in the school holidays. We are happy they have picked a week that is not too bad for a clash, so should be great for families and the Under-12s will go free. Tickets are on sale now from the website, and there’s a fantastic early bird price where you get a five-day pass for 75 quid for an adult.”

For the time being Wylie is only thinking about making sure the British Masters’ second visit to Close House will be just as enjoyable, rather than making it an annual event because sponsors Betfred are only secured for a further year.

“They can’t guarantee it for more than one year, I am just delighted it is coming back. Clearly the European Tour thought it was great,” said the 60-year-old.

“It is them saying the venue and course is good enough. The fact they have said they have come back to me because the course was magnificent, the venue was great, the area is fantastic, is great for us all at Close House.”

From a wider perspective, sport lover Wylie, who owns a number of racehorses too and is a graduate of Newcastle University, knows what such an event means to the North-East.

He said: “The European rugby finals came up last weekend to St James’ Park, there’s an England game in September, but there’s not too much else after that. It’s great for the region and we do support any major event.

“Within an hour’s drive of Close House I’m told there there is about 200 golf clubs, and members would love to come and watch top class play golf played by world class players.

“We are talking through with the European Tour now an offer for those clubs. We would love to connect with all of those clubs so we will see what happens. Hopefully the whole area will support the event, I’m sure they will.”