Yorkshire Challenge starts at Moortown

Former Ryder Cup player and captain Mark James pictured by the blue plaque at Moortown GC commemorating its standing in golfing history as the first British Ryder Cup venue.
Former Ryder Cup player and captain Mark James pictured by the blue plaque at Moortown GC commemorating its standing in golfing history as the first British Ryder Cup venue.
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EVERY golfer who walks the fairways at Moortown GC will get a frisson from knowing they are walking in the footsteps of Ryder Cup history-makers.

The first edition of the event in this country was staged there when it also produced the first victory for the Great Britain & Ireland team.

For today’s competitors the excitement will be threefold as the Leeds club hosts the opening round of the Moortown Series, part of a trilateral Lexus Yorkshire Challenge event also involving two other Ryder Cup venues of the past, Ganton and Lindrick.

Having played Moortown, the 140-plus strong field will move on to Lindrick tomorrow and Ganton on Friday.

A similar number of players will compete in the Ganton Series, involving rounds at the 1949 Ryder Cup stage, Moortown and Lindrick, and the Lindrick Series, rounds at Ganton and Moortown following an opener at the 1957 Ryder Cup venue.

As well as daily prizes and those for series winners there will be rewards for the ultimate champions – players with the best scores across all three series.

The Lexus Yorkshire Challenge is only in its third year, but its success in its inaugural campaign in 2013 – when each of the three courses took its turn to welcome players – led to an immediate expansion last September to its trilateral format.

Lindrick head professional John King was one of the men behind the concept, which was born during a marketing committee meeting looking at ways of attracting players to the three Ryder Cup venues with which the area is blessed.

“We’d talked to Moortown and Ganton in the past as Yorkshire Ryder Cup courses about trying to get more visitors into the area,” said King.

“The idea for the Yorkshire Challenge came about because our betterball events that we run at Lindrick are very popular and I thought that form of golf would lend itself to maybe a three-day event where we could look at southern-based golfers coming up in groups. That was the initial idea. We are getting people travelling from a little further now, but it has been so popular in the locality in the first years that we probably filled it mainly with more local players from the Yorkshire area itself.”

Within a month of announcing the new format last year the Lexus Yorkshire Challenge had a full field and the same occurred this year.

As well as the lure of playing on three Ryder Cup courses, King believes the three-day format holds massive appeal.

“Being a betterball event over three days makes us fairly unique and obviously it’s the 
icing on the cake that it’s staged at three Ryder Cup venues, three great golf courses, and it’s a good test on each course,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to play in a friendly but competitive environment and over three days not just one,” he continued.

“And with having prizes for each day it means that for all contestants there is something to play for every day.”

The competitors get a feel of being a touring professional on the last day as the field goes out on a score basis with the leaders teeing off last.

Players register as a pair and are then teamed with a different pair each day, another facet which competitors enjoy.

“One of the things that comes back to us is that they love the event because they are playing with people from different clubs in a friendly environment,” said King.

“Putting the players out in leaderboard order is also very popular. All the leaders at the three courses are playing in the last few groups and it creates a really good theatre for the event.

“On the last day there’s a real buzz about the clubhouse when the leading groups are going out.”

Luke Allen, King’s assistant, is the tournament administrator and has the task of co-ordinating it all.

Among those competing, and in the first group off today at Moortown, is former Leeds United player Lee Sharpe.

For more details on the event go to yorkshirechallenge.co.uk

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