LEEDS Union captain Nigel McKee has seen instant improvement from his team on last season and cannot wait for Sunday week to come around.
That is when they will play their second Yorkshire Inter District Union League match of the season, at home to Teesside at Howley Hall, having got their campaign underway with a tense 18-18 draw with Halifax-Huddersfield at Wakefield.
McKee had to wait until the fourth match last season – in his opening year as leader of the team – for Leeds to register their first league points.
So to get a point on the board already has shown that momentum has been carried over from 2016, when Leeds won three of their last four matches, losing the other only by the narrowest of margins.
“A draw was a fair reflection, I think, and at the end I was happy with a point – but it could have swung either way,” said McKee. “It was really, really tense at the end.
“We had a good start in the foursomes; we were 7-5 up and I couldn’t have been happier, and on the plus side we’ve got a point.
“That means if we win all our other games we win the league. I am not saying that is going to happen, but you have to think that way. Last year, first game at Teesside, we got hammered, so this is a great improvement.”
McKee had hoped to field Yorkshire Boys’ champion Tom Gray (Moortown), but a cut thumb did not heal in time, and he cannot play against Teesside because of work commitments.
However, in a sign that the team spirit McKee has engendered is spreading throughout the ranks, Wakefield youngsters Dan Bradbury and Tom North are both swerving the Woodthorpe Trophy, a Yorkshire Order of Merit event, to play for Leeds.
“Dan is a member at Wakefield and he rang me and said, ‘Nige, I’m going to play for you’ and that’s fantastic,” said McKee. “He’s Yorkshire Boys’ captain and Leeds Union junior captain and it really touched me. It’s fabulous, good on you kid.
“And Tom North is doing the same. Fair play to him.
“The big thing for me is getting a rapport with the guys and getting on with them. It’s a snowball effect in that respect.
“If we can finish higher than we finished last season, then it’s a plus, and obviously then I’m going to look towards the six-man team championship that ends the union season.”
McKee sent Bradbury out in the top singles at Wakefield to show his faith in the lad, and he took a fine player in Longley Park’s Mathew Colcombe all the way to the last green.
“Dan’s a great golfer and the guy that he played had to hole a 20ft, swinging, right-to-left putt to beat Dan one up on the last,” said McKee.
Having racked up one short of a half-century of appearances as a player, McKee is enjoying the role of non-playing captain.
“I think the sign of a good captain is knowing when to speak and when not to speak, and that’s definitely the way forward as I see it,” said McKee.
He has 10 names pencilled in for the match against Teesside, but will finalise his choice at the start of next week in the countdown to Howley Hall.