Leeds go close in six-man event to buoy captain McKee’s hopes

HALL MARK: Tom Broxup, seen putting at the 17th, posted Leeds lowest round in the six-man team championship at Halifax Bradley Hall, a 71.

HALL MARK: Tom Broxup, seen putting at the 17th, posted Leeds lowest round in the six-man team championship at Halifax Bradley Hall, a 71.

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LEEDS Union’s captain Nigel McKee found his frustration ultimately subsided into satisfaction after his team finished just four shots away from tieing for first place in the Yorkshire Inter-District Union’s six-man team championship at Halifax Bradley Hall.

Four shots would be a considerable margin of victory in most competitions, but in an event where all six men play two rounds, it equates to finding one shot fewer against the card every 54 holes.

“There were five teams within four shots of one another,” said McKee, who saw Sheffield defend the title on an afternoon count back after finishing level with Halifax-Huddersfield.

“I think it was incredible that only four shots separated five unions and I think it shows what a level playing field it really is in the county nowadays.

“I was proud of all the guys. They went out there and played their hearts out – and it was tricky.

“When you see players off a plus-three handicap shooting 80 – and that’s 10 over par on that course – that is testament to how tough the pin positions were.

“They were in very tricky spots, particularly when you add in that there was a little bit of wind.

“I caddied for Ben Firth on the front nine and the pins were just on the slopes everywhere. He hit shots to two of the par-3s and spun both of them back off the green. One had pitched about two foot away and the other about three foot away.”

The final hole, a 158-yard par-3, exemplified the difficulty produced by combining a severely sloping two-tier green with a cute pin position.

The combination cost Leeds seven shots in the morning round while another short hole, the 195-yard par-3 ninth, cost York Union – who finished two shots back in fourth place – the title.

Their last player, having started his afternoon round at the 10th, finished at nine – and took a quadruple bogey eight.

“I watched it,” said McKee.

“He hit his first one out of bounds and then plugged in the bunker. Then he got it out, on and three-putted from about eight foot. You wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

One of the most pleasing aspects of Leeds’ performance was that they had the smallest gap between their lowest round – a 71 from Cookridge Hall’s Tom Broxup – and their highest – 78 by Tom Madden (also Cookridge Hall) and Pontefract’s Andy Wiltshire – of any of the unions.

“The fact that there were only seven shots between our lowest round and the highest round on Sunday tells you our guys were really consistent and they all did their bit,” said McKee.

“I was gutted on Sunday that we had missed out by just four shots, but I have got over it. The lads were brilliant.”

Leeds achieved the result without one of their star men, county champion Ben Hutchinson (Howley Hall), who was competing in England Golf’s Champion of Champions event at Woodhall Spa.

“Apart from Ben Hutchinson, who obviously is the Yorkshire champion, I would have picked the same team,” said McKee.

“He probably would have made the difference, but we had two plus handicappers and four off scratch and handicaps don’t lie, do they? These are fantastic players.”

The result, in McKee’s first year in charge, complemented Leeds’ solid display in the league, in which they won three of their last four fixtures.

“I think I have gelled with the guys and that bodes well for the future,” said the captain.

“Next year I am sure we will do better, particularly if we get a better start – that is what we need. If we do, I am sure we will go very close. People do realise that this is a great union and they want to play for it and want to put their best foot forward.”

Becki OGrady has followed her year as lady captain at Howley Hall by becoming the clubs first female director in their 117-year-history (Picture: Chris Stratford).

Yorkshire golf: Becki O’Grady is blazing a new trail with Howley Hall as director