LEEDS produced an emphatic Yorkshire Inter District Union League win over Teesside that underscored both the present and the future look very bright.
Captain Nigel McKee had to make a late change to his team that lined up at Howley Hall when Yorkshire Boys captain Dan Bradbury, of Wakefield, was forced to withdraw through illness.
In stepped Cookridge Hall 15-year-old Nathan Ali for his senior debut, and he lived up to the billing that had been prodived by his club’s junior academy organiser Jonny Pearson by winning both his foursomes and singles matches as Teesside were downed 25-11.
“Nathan was fantastic,” said an impressed McKee. “He won both his games and he’s a lovely lad. He’s a great credit to his parents.
“When Dan had to pull out, I rang Jonny Pearson up at Cookridge – he was my old partner in the Leeds team – and asked him about Nathan.
“Someone had told me, ‘you want to see him strike the ball, he strikes it like a tour pro and he’s only 15’.
“So I rang Jonny for his recommendation and he said he was worth a game, definitely.
“Nathan’s been doing great for the juniors. He’s a definite prospect for us for the future. He’s under county coaching at the moment so Yorkshire have got him as well. He’s in their set-up, which is good.”
Last year, in his first season as Leeds’ leader, McKee bemoaned his side’s failure to give themselves a lead going into the afternoon by dominating foursomes sessions.
On Sunday his charges came up just short of a perfect start, winning five of the six matches.
“It was incredible, we got off to an amazing start,” enthused McKee. “I’ve said before that I’m trying to put together people who get on together and it seemed to work.
“The team spirit was infectious. Right from the off on Sunday everyone seemed really up for it. We had a good team talk before the game and everybody, to a man, was fantastic.”
As well as Ali, six other Leeds players enjoyed wins in both sessions – his club-mate Adam Frontal, Andy Wiltshire and Ryan Armitage (Pontefract), Rob Wardle (Selby), Sam Stokes (Wetherby) and Damian Simpson (Waterton Park).
Neil Coyne, from McKee’s home club Leeds (Cobble Hall), ended the day with a win and a half.
“The course was in amazing condition, the greens were super, and it was a fantastic win,” continued McKee, whose side drew their opening match 18-18 with Halifax-Huddersfield.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic. It gives us a platform to work on. Obviously we could have beaten Halifax-Huddersfield, but we remain unbeaten, which is better than it was last year because we’d played two and lost two.”
McKee received text messages of support and congratulations from players who were unable to play for various reasons, including from Cookridge Hall’s Tom Broxup, holder last year of all four major Leeds titles who is waiting to be reinstated as an amateur after a brief spell as a professional.
“He can’t wait to get back into the fold,” said McKee.