HE was a joiner’s son, raised on a council estate in Lancashire, is now reckoned Britain’s third wealthiest man – down from top place last year – with a net worth of £18.15bn.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is founder, chairman and chief executive of global chemicals giant Ineos, a company with around 21,000 employees and which earlier this year gave its name and its multi-millions to one of the world’s elite cycling squads, the former Team Sky.

He has a home in Monaco, another – said to be worth £6m – overlooking the Solent.

Frequently linked with a £2bn buy-out of Chelsea – though reputedly a Manchester United fan – he last week completed the estimated £92m purchase of French Ligue 1 club Nice, managed by Arsenal great Patrick Vieira.

He and Ineos already own Swiss Super League side Lausanne-Sport. The entrepreneur described as “famously shy and retiring” is also reportedly investing £110m into Britain’s Americas Cup challenge in 2021.

Meanwhile back in Newton Aycliffe…. “I bet the chairman doesn’t even know he owns a nine-hole golf course as well,” says Pat Montgomery, secretary of the perhaps slightly less well known Ineos Golf Club.

Tomorrow they hope to change all that.

Established in 1959 next to what then was the Bakelite factory – “a Quatermass setting” says long playing member Alan Courtney, and back then folk would have known what he meant – the nine-hole course was part of a sports and social club which also had football, cricket and angling sections.

The huge industrial infrastructure at the end of the approach road may be more familiar to many locals than the golf course out the back. “Probably a lot of people won’t even know we’re here,” says Pat.

The club still has no professional, no clubhouse, no shop and no proper bar but tomorrow the nine-hole wonders are in the final of the Durham Golf Union’s five-player Clark Cup, having beaten Durham City in a 19th hole, deciding game semi-final showdown.

“We usually go out in the first or second round. It’s like a third division team beating all the Premier League sides to reach the FA Cup final,” says club secretary Pat Montgomery.

Alan Courtney disagrees. “It’s like a fourth division club doing all that,” he says.

Pat, meanwhile, is arranging an article for internal circulation. “Who knows,” he says, “it might even end up with Sir Jim.”

Bakelite begat British Industrial Polymers which became Norsk Hydro, then Hydro Polymers before a chemical reaction produced Ineos. Alan Courtney, a former chairman of Spennymoor Town FC, recalls Bakelite days in the Auckland and District League.

“If you were a good footballer you had a good chance of getting a job,” he says.

The Northern Echo visited the course in 2014, marvelled at how rural it felt, thought it “quaint and challenging” and talked of views of Roseberry Topping. “It’s lovely, you’d never think you were in Newton Aycliffe,” says Alan. The club website talks of a “vast array of hazards.”

Five years ago there were 240 members, now there are around 190. “It’s fairly typical, a lot of clubs are struggling for members,” says Pat.

The Clark Cup’s a scratch competition, contested by clubs between Tyne and Tees. “The richer clubs like Rockliffe and Wynyard tend to get the best young players,” says Pat/

“They have lots of young lads playing off 0 or better and we struggle to find five men even with a low handicap. For us to be competing on a level playing field with them is massive, a huge boost for us.”

The usual quintet are Shaun Collier, who’s also greenkeeper, Sam Telford, brothers Michael and Stephen Howlett and Billy Bell, who travels from Ryhope but is unavailable for tomorrow’s final, a 2pm start against Heworth at Houghton-le-Spring.

First time in 60 years, the Ineos club are putting on a bus to transport their supporters – and, says Pat, to enable them to raise a glass at the dinner which follows.

“We’ll never be like the cycling team but this is the biggest day I the club’s history. It’s a tremendous achievement for a little club with a nine-hole course. We’re really hoping that someone might tell the man at the top.”

An encounter anticipated equally eagerly, Richmond Mavericks – the midweek cricket side in which the column has a paternal interest – reached a final of their own by beating Middleham last week. After a stumping from a wide, both sides totalled 78-5, necessitating a Super Over (of which readers may have heard in a different connection.) The result was wildly celebrated, the final expected to be on September 8. More next week.

Bedale Town FC, told not to wear their new sausage, mash and mushy peas strip while the FA ponders its legality, have now heard back from the gentlemen at Wembley. “We don’t want to make a meal of it,” they say. (Honest).

Former Darlington FC manager and Sunderland midfielder Martin Gray is on the road to recovery – “still a long way to go,” he says – after an horrific cycling accident.

Martin, who runs his own football academy and is sporting director at Ebac Northern League club Shildon, was cycling home from a match at Willington when in collision with a passing car. He was thrown into a hedge.

“It wasn’t the happiest of landings, but if he’d hit my back wheel and not my pedal I mightn’t be telling you the story at all,” says Martin, 48 earlier this month.

Though he had an operation the same night to repair back wounds, the great problem is with his knee. “It’s very nasty, I’m seeing the specialist again next week,” he says.

Further observation would be imprudent. Legal proceedings are in the offing.

Conspicuous last sizzling Saturday by his absence at Shildon, Martin was marking his birthday with a few days in the south of France. Conspicuous by attendance, Eric Smallwood – among the Backtrack column’s most faithful correspondents – familiarly toted blanket, extra layers, gloves and other items of an insulating nature Though the old money mercury was in the 70s, Eric – unacclimatised of Acklam – was unrepentant. “You just can’t trust the North-East weather,” he insisted.

Recording our annual appearance at the Crook and District Games League’s presentation evening, last week’s column wondered how the Australian in Howden-le-Wear – the night’s principal winners – came by its name. It prompts an email so fascinating from Harold Stephenson in Crook that we may just have struck gold – but more of that next week, too.