Country's finest to descend on Alwoodley to chase top title

ALWOODLEY will provide the stage as England Golf brings down the curtain on its 2017 men's Order of Merit.

After a par-5 to start the back nine, North of England Open competitors will face the 179-yard par-3 11th at Alwoodley (Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images).

The North of England Open Amateur Championship has attracted a field of top players from around the country, including many Yorkshire entrants.

One of the favourites will be Hallamshire’s Alex Fitzpatrick, 18-year-old brother of Ryder Cup star Matt.

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Fitzpatrick completed a remarkable treble at the weekend when he won the Yorkshire amateur match play title, having already claimed the stroke play crown and the Boys’ championship.

Alwoodley’s hopes of a home win will rest with members Tom Irwin and Will Shucksmith.

“Preparations are going really well and we are really looking forward to it,” said Julie Slater, Alwoodley’s secretary/manager.

“We love having a championship here, everyone gets a buzz about having them here. I just hope the weather is fine – kind and not too foggy or too wet.

“The colours in the trees are fantastic this time of year – although hopefully the players won’t be looking at the trees; hopefully all they’ll be looking at are the fairways.”

Only two years ago, Alwoodley played host to the English men’s amateur championship, along with Pannal, and was the venue for the 36-hole final, won by then Lindrick player Joe Dean, now a professional playing out of Hillsborough on the EuroPro Tour.

Alwoodley was also the course on which the North of England title was won last year – by Dean’s successor as English champion, Dan Brown (Masham) – and will continue to be home to the championship for at least another three years.

“Hopefully we are helping to take the championship a step forward with England Golf Order of Merit points being awarded this year, and the field is just brilliant,” continued Slater.

“We are certainly going to be hosting it through to 2020, and it’s great to have the Alwoodley name linked with this new venture.

“They [the Northern Counties Golf Union] have tried to build it up over the years and we’re supporting them through to 2020 at least.”

Alwoodley is used regularly as an Open Championship Regional Qualifying venue, a reflection of its standing as an excellent track with outstanding facilities and a committed and experienced staff.

The course will be off limits to Alwoodley members from next Monday through Thursday – a practice day followed by three days of action – but Slater says they will be amply compensated by the chance to watch the country’s top male amateurs at close hand.

“The members enjoy the buzz of having a championship and seeing such excellent players hitting out there, playing fantastic golf,” she said.

“Members like to follow them round and see how the course should be played, in some ways.

“It is a real treat to see them here and, with them being mainly young guys, it’s good to see the development of golf and the interest that it brings with it.

“We have had members volunteering to help with the running of the championship, but the Northern Counties Golf Union deals with all that side themselves.”

Slater has urged club golfers of all standards and ages to take advantage of being able to watch top-level golf for free next week.

“We have a starting line-up of 111 players, with practice day on Monday, 18 holes on Tuesday and Wednesday and then the top 32 go through to Thursday.

“Visitors are welcome. It’s free and we’ve got catering from seven in the morning until everyone leaves in the evening, and the bar will be open.”