THE TOP male amateur golfers from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have descended on Moortown for three days of golf that will decide which nation claims the Home Internationals crown.
Three Yorkshire players are in host England’s 11-man squad – 2016 English men’s amateur champion Dan Brown (Masham), Shipley’s Will Whiteoak and Malton & Norton’s David Hague.
They will be hoping to help England reclaim the Raymond Trophy, which they last won on Yorkshire soil, at Ganton, in 2013. Ireland have won the title for the following three championships.
Three days of round robin match play means that Moortown’s members will have to look elsewhere to get their regular fix of golf, with secretary Peter Rishworth having arranged with neighbouring clubs for them to get the courtesy of their courses.
But many members are leaving their clubs in the boot of the car in favour of doing voluntary work to ensure an event that has been planned for ever since it was allocated a couple of years ago runs smoothly.
“We do have an arrangement with courses around us for members to go and play golf this week, but interestingly enough you end up with a lot of members helping out at the event,” he said.
“A lot of them prefer to stay and do a couple of jobs – and watch people playing the course how it should be played, people who are at the top of their game.”
Moortown members are used to their club staging major events. Last year it hosted the Yorkshire men’s amateur championship, for example, and the summer before was the venue for the British ladies’ championship.
Pre-planning for the Home Internationals accelerated in January, said Rishworth.
“Events like this you get about two or three years’ notice and then in January we started pre-planning with James Crampton (England Golf Championship Director) and had periodical meetings,” he explained. “With emails and the phone you can be far more efficient than having to travel up to Woodhall Spa (England Golf’s headquarters) and sit around a table.
“Getting the course to the required standard is one of the biggest jobs, but we keep the course to a pretty decent standard at all times any way. It’s trying to get things timed.
“Maintaining a golf course most of the days of the week is an on-going process; you are working towards the next key date, maybe the Saturday or the Tuesday competition, whatever it is, but this week we’ve been trying to keep it to that exact level every morning for five days straight (including practice days).
“It has meant the guys coming in at silly o’clock every morning and getting moving and trying to time things between play.
“It’s slightly easier for the greenkeeping staff – although they’ll kill me for saying this – because they have fewer golfers per day out on the course. This means they have gaps in play where they can get out and do the fairways and keep on top of the work a bit easier. When you’ve got a full course it is very, very difficult.”
England’s White Rose trio are all familiar with the course having been regular visitors over the last few years.
Moortown share England Golf’s hope that Yorkshire fans will turn out to support the home nation. “Entry is free and people are very welcome to come along,” continued Moortown’s secretary. “We’ve got overflow parking at a couple of places around the course while the main clubhouse is for players and officials.
“There will be on-course catering, too, for spectators and four on-course boards to keep them updated on how the matches stand.”
England Golf, as hosts, manage all the tournament elements and the set-up of the course, selecting the daily pin and tee positions.
In cricket, host nations often look to produce pitches that will suit their bowlers, but Rishworth does not believe golf courses can be ‘loaded’ to the same degree to favour home players.
“I’m not sure (weighting conditions in a home side’s favour) applies too much in golf because, although it’s a team event, it’s very much an individual playing each shot,” he said. “Certain holes suit certain players and certain types of shot, so it’s quite tricky. I suppose if it was us playing Spain in might be different, but all the Home Nations are used to playing in windy conditions or rainy conditions.”
He believes most tees will be set back as far as possible to provide a stiff test, with the possible exception of a few holes, such as Moortown’s fifth and eighth.
“Here you can push the tee forward and make it driveable, which in match play can make it a bit more exciting, whereas in stroke play you’re trying to make it tough,” he explained.
“This is arguably the biggest event, barring the British amateur, of course, that we could be hosting. We’ve hosted the ladies’ and the boys’ Home Internationals, but it’s the first time we’ve done so with the men’s.
“It’s historically been Royal courses or top-end Open qualifying courses that have chosen, so it’s a nice one to be asked to do.”