YORKSHIRE’S triumph in the EGU Northern Counties League at the weekend was reward for the hard work of both their players and captain Darryl Berry.
It also reflected the unstinting efforts put in by a backroom team which includes chairman of selectors Anthony Abraham and secretary Keith Dowswell.
And it is further vindication of the decision a couple of decades ago to put into place a coaching system which has evolved down the years and has helped shape the games of Tour professionals such as Danny Willett and Matthew Fitzpatrick, both of Sheffield.
It has also produced successive English Men’s Amateur champions in Lindrick’s Joe Dean, the current holder, and Huddersfield’s Nick Marsh, his predecessor.
“I think the emphasis on our wide-ranging and detailed coaching scheme over the years is probably the key item,” said Dowswell when asked to comment on Yorkshire’s prominence at county and national level.
“We continue to be able to bring in high-standard young players to deputise for the highest-ranked of our players who are frequently unavailable due to national and international calls.”
This is the same dichotomy faced by their cricket counterparts at Headingley, but – like Yorkshire CCC – there is a feeling of a job well done when national and international demands take precedence.
“We set up the coaching scheme almost 20 years ago and have developed it tremendously over the years,” continued Dowswell. “Before that time there was virtually no coaching at all. We certainly set the standard for the country and now many others have followed.”
The other counties are still playing catch-up judging by the latest rankings which show an astonishing 10 Yorkshire players resident in England Golf’s top 30.
Dean leads the way at third, with Yorkshire’s recently-crowned champion Jamie Bower (Meltham) sixth.
Steve Robins (Hull) also sits inside the top 10 while Marsh is 12th and Dean’s Lindrick club-mate Jonathan Thomson one place further down.
Dan Wasteney (Bondhay) is 21st, The Oaks’ James Walker 22nd and Dan Brown (Bedale) 23rd.
Shipley’s Will Whiteoak is 24th and Rotherham’s Sam Haywood – recent winner of the Lee Westwood Trophy – is 29th.
“Much credit should be given to the likes of Peter Cowen, who initially was our lead coach before his commitments to many leading professionals took all of his attention,” said Dowswell.
“His successor Graham Walker was recommended to us by Peter and Graham has progressed to our lead coach and to England Golf. Our other county coaches are Steve Robinson, Gary Brown, John King and Mark Moore. All are vastly experienced at the highest level.
“The fact that we have more golfers and golf clubs in Yorkshire than elsewhere is, of course, a factor, but if you don’t identify the most potentially talented ones and work with them, you will produce very little.
“Yorkshire has produced two world No 1 amateurs in the last eight years, in Willett and Fitzpatrick [the latter of whom also won the US Amateur], and the English Amateur champions in the last two years – Marsh and Dean.”
Before his English title defence at Alwoodley and Pannal, Marsh expressed his immense gratitude for the help he has received from the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs.
No doubt it is a feeling shared by Willett and Fitzpatrick who are reaping the financial rewards at the highest level; Willett is the second-highest money earner on the European Tour this year with earnings of €2,648,805 while Fitzpatrick has amassed €609,640 in his first full season.
There is no way of putting a precise figure on the value of the Yorkshire union’s input into their abilities, but both are no doubt aware of the debt they owe to everyone who works so hard to ensure the county continues to produce top-class players.