THE Leeds Cup, professional golf’s oldest trophy, will return to its spiritual home, Cobble Hall, next month.
It is a decision that provides the ultimate proof that Leeds GC have emerged successfuly from their darkest days to re-establish themselves as a leading club in the city.
As recently as 2012 the club faced the prospect of falling into administration.
Five years on and membership is up by 30 percent and visitors by 85 per cent.
Secretary Paul Mawman said: “We have come on leaps and bounds since 2012 in terms of where we are.
“There was a downturn in the industry in golf in general and there were some decisions made internally that were not correct.
“One impacted and compounded the other and the club found itself, subsequently, with a severe cash flow problem.
“The only way to resolve that was to replace the management team to pick up the reins and get the support and the backing of the members.
“If we had not had that we would not have survived.”
Members were asked to contribute a lump sum above their subscriptions – around £550 – and it led to some leaving. But a sufficient number met the request and Leeds are now back on a sound financial footing.
“It has been a gradual process,” continued Mawman. “Once it was out there that we were in dire straits it has taken us all this time to change that rumour.
“The embers are still out there, and occasionally people will say, ‘Oh, are you all right now?’ It is five years on and we need to put that to bed.”
Once the new management team was put in place they promised to look at the club “root and branch” in terms of their operation.
As a consequence Leeds acquired a new caterer, a new steward and – in January 2015 – a new professional in Adrian Newboult.
“It is all about retention of members,” said Newboult. “I think we had 352 members and now we have got it up to about 415.”
Newboult doubled the size of the professional’s shop and introduced a new swing centre, the latter overcoming the problem of the club’s practice facilities being “quite small”.
As well as providing an area for indoor teaching and club fitting, it has enabled him to run a winter league in which players compete against one another by playing simulated golf on top courses from around the world.
Four players get two hours’ use of the indoor studio’s facilities for £45; by booking five sessions they get a sixth free.
Another indicator of the club’s rise is the growth of the junior section, ably overseen by assistant professional Andrew Rigby, which sees academy coaching sessions on Saturdays, and has led to the revival of the Wilkinson Sword competition, which once attracted a field of around 100 top youngsters.
Recognition for changes made have come in the form of two major awards – Club Mirror awarding them the Golf Club of the Year accolade in 2015 and Golf Catering Club of the Year in 2016.
Chairman Kevin Rourke explains that another boost has been a deal struck with Marston’s brewery that has provided a revenue stream where none existed previously.
“Before the bar was just self-funding,” says Rourke. “Now I’m forecasting that contribution to the bottom line will be about £25,000.
“Marston’s also make available anything that is available to their retail outlets; for instance we use them for our payroll and health and safety, and we have introduced a chip and pin machine.
“We’re opening up the club and doing more in terms of functions. It’s just a general good feeling about the club.”