Yorkshire golf: McKee is eager for Leeds to get underway in YIDU League
Leeds have home advantage in their first two 2017 Yorkshire Inter District Union League fixtures and captain Nigel McKee is looking for them to win both to give themselves a platform for a title bid this summer.
McKee, who is just shy of a half-century of appearances himself, took over as non-playing captain last year.
After an indifferent start, Leeds turned their season around and as well as winning three of their last four fixtures also finished just four shots shy of sharing glory in the six-man team championship at Halifax Bradley Hall.
McKee is delighted he can field a strong line-up in Sunday’s first match against Halifax-Huddersfield at Wakefield although there is a fitness doubt over reigning Yorkshire boys’ champion Tom Gray (Moortown), who hopes a damaged thumb will have healed by Sunday morning.
“We have a lot of young lads who are coming through, which is fabulous to see, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday,” says McKee, who on Monday showed his skills remain undimmed when he was part of a four-man team that won the Leeds Cup pro-am at his home club.
“We have got two home games to start with. I think if we can get off to a better start this year we’ll have a chance. With the young guys in there, we should do well.”
Leeds’ captain is giving youth its head from the first foursomes match on Sunday when Dan Bradbury, Yorkshire boys’ captain and Leeds’ juniors captain, will tee it up with club-mate George Heath.
“What I am trying to do this year with foursomes is getting people playing together who know each other really well and gel together,” says McKee.
“We need to get a better start in the foursomes this year as last year was horrendous.
“We were playing catch-up every match last year after the morning session and that is no good. You need to get a good footing to start with in the foursomes.
“If we can get that then in the singles we are very strong.”
He will be blending youth with experience, and one of his seasoned players, Waterton Park’s Damian Simpson, is in the hottest of form.
“Damian Simpson is just on fire at the minute,” says McKee.
“He’s just had two rounds at Waterton Park, 67 and 68, in the last two medals.
“Andy Wiltshire and Daz Walton, both from Pontefract, finished second in the East of England foursomes at Hunstanton, so that’s good too.”
McKee, club-mate Andrew Plews, David Stirk (Scarcroft) and pro Peter Scott (Peter Scott Golf School) carded a 13-under-par 125 aggregate to triumph in the pro-am ahead of the Leeds Cup itself, which is back at its spiritual home of Cobble Hall.
Second place went to Mark Pilkington (Pwllheli), and Wike Ridge’s Nigel Sweet, Mark Forster and Jim Roberts, who were one shot back.
In third were home pro Adrian Newboult and Cobble Hall members Simon Marshall, Richard Davenport and Matthew Ellis, who were bested by the runners-up on countback.
Garry Houston has given himself a chance to win the Leeds Cup for the third time in five years after taking a two-stroke lead with a four-under-par 65 in the first of two rounds at Cobble Hall.
The Carden Park-attached Welshman, who won in 2012 and 2015, battled the testing conditions of wind and rain to card five birdies, the only blemish in his round being a bogey at the 10th.
A group of Yorkshiremen tracking him down are led by Renishaw Park’s Michael Ramsden and John Wells, from Snainton Golf Centre, on 67.
Defending champion Phil Archer, former European Tour winner from Cheshire club Birchwood, is tied 20th on 71.