YORKSHIRE will look to lay claim to the English men’s amateur championship for the third year in a row without the pair of players who have triumphed in the past two years.
Their challenge will also be weakened by the enforced absence of their champion Jamie Bower (Meltham), who is too unwell to compete.
But Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs’ president Jonathan Plaxton believes there is still a good chance of a hat-trick, on home turf, as the championship gets underway today at Ganton and Scarborough South Cliff.
Both Huddersfield’s Nick Marsh, who won at Saunton in Devon in 2014, and Lindrick’s Joe Dean, who succeeded him at Alwoodley last August, have been lost to the professional ranks.
However, Yorkshire remain a force to be reckoned with and have several players who can be expected to contest the outcome of the championship, which begins with two days of stroke play. Competitors will play a round at each course, after which the top 64 and ties will progress to the match play stage.
Bower had been the man deemed most likely to carry the Yorkshire flag deep into the week, as he did last year alongside Dean before losing a semi-final tussle in a sudden-death play-off.
Bower has since established himself as an international, won twice in South Africa on tour with the England Golf squad earlier in the year and recently lifted the Brabazon Trophy.
The Oak’s James Walker has also earned his first senior international cap, won the Selborne Salver and reached the last four of the Spanish amateur championship.
Bower lies second in the England order of merit and Walker seventh, but even though Masham’s Dan Brown sits down in 66th place, Plaxton believes he, too, has a fine chance of figuring this week over Ganton and Scarborough South Cliff.
“There are a number of players in the Yorkshire contingent who are capable of winning,” said Plaxton, himself a former international at boys, youths and senior level. “But without naming too many, I’d quite like to see Dan Brown do well.
“Dan’s game hasn’t been at the same level since he was the leading qualifier in the Amateur championship at Portrush in 2014, but he seems to be getting back into his old ways.”
Yorkshire’s president knows both courses well, particularly South Cliff having played much of his golf there between the ages of 12 and 16 while at school.
“South Cliff is what nowadays they call a bomber’s course so it might favour the long hitters,” he said, while cautioning, “but it does have relatively small greens.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if somebody shot in the low 60s around South Cliff, but if someone plays Ganton in the first round and scores 75/76, whereas normally that might count you out that’s probably going to be quite a good score. I don’t think day one will decide the qualifiers.
“The thing about Ganton is it is a course that finds a good winner; you can’t win at Ganton without being a good ball striker and a good course manager against a quality field.
“I gather that the course is a fairly punishing set-up at the moment so anyone who is a little bit wild is going to struggle. Players will need their golfing head on.”
Ganton, currently celebrating its 125th year, is one of Britain’s great inland courses and one of only three clubs to have staged the Walker Cup, the Curtis Cup and the Ryder Cup.
This will be the sixth time it has hosted the English amateur.
Richard Penley-Martin, the club secretary, said: “It’s an opportunity for us to see the young talent coming through and for them to play a classic course which still offers as great a challenge as it did 100 years ago.
“Much as it was at Royal Troon at the Open, it’s a case of plot your way around the course. Don’t open your shoulders and blast it.”
Scarborough South Cliff, by contrast, is hosting the English Amateur for the first time – and relishing the prospect.
Club secretary Shaun Smith said: “It’s the first time we’ve held anything of this stature, it’s something new for us and we are really excited.”
This is a course of two distinct parts, divided by the main road from Scarborough to Filey. On the seaward side the clifftop holes look on one side to the South Bay and Scarborough town and on the other towards Filey.
On the landward side the holes are laid out along the bottom of a rolling valley stretching southwards into the hills and on the slope of a ridge to the east.
Smith commented: “It’s fair but stern and if we get the usual sea breezes they will add to the challenge. There’s nothing tricked up about the course, no one will rip it apart and no one will come off complaining it’s too difficult.”
Spectators are welcome at both courses and entry is free, and Yorkshire players will hope to be aided by considerable home support.