Yorkshire golf: Martin Cooper bridges 40-year gap to claim Keighley scratch title at age of 66

Keighley club champion Martin Cooper gets his hands on the trophy for the third time - 40 years on from his previous success in the event.
Keighley club champion Martin Cooper gets his hands on the trophy for the third time - 40 years on from his previous success in the event.
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YORKSHIRE is this week savouring its third English men's amateur triumph in a row after Masham's Dan Brown won the title at the age of 21.

Lindrick's Joe Dean was also 21 when he won it the year before while Huddersfield's Nick Marsh was just 19 when he earned the title in 2014.

But Martin Cooper is proof that the sport is not the sole province of the younger player - having won Keighley's club championship at the age of 66.

It is his third victory in the club's premier men's competition and comes 40 years after his second, and 44 years after his first.

"Nobody was more surprised than me, I am obviously mellowing with age or something," he laughed after successive rounds of 74 earned him not only the club championship but also the Northrop Trophy for the best net 36-hole total.

The five-handicapper trailed by two shots after the first round, but came through to win by one from Mark Cunningham, who carded 77 72. First-round leader Paul Davies placed third with scores of 72 77.

"I thought somebody might come in with a better round in the afternoon to beat me, but they didn't and that's golf," he continued. "I did not expect to win it and that perhaps made it easier.

"At 66 I don't know how many years I will have left where I can play 36 holes in a day, but I'll definitely try to defend my title next year.

"It was difficult as the greens were very fast and slick and hard,so actually getting the ball close even from near or on the green wasn't easy. However, the wedge and the putter got me through.

"Perversely, I didn't really play that well and I don't think I hit a fairway with the driver. I got to the point of hitting rescues of the tee or my two iron just to keep the ball in play."

Cooper is approaching 50 years of service as a scratch team player for Keighley.

"I played this year although I obviously don't play regularly, only in the holiday season when they get desperate," he said.

He now has three club championship wins and his name also decorates honours boards throughout the clubhouse as he has also enjoyed victory in both President's and Captain's competitions down the years.

He has been as low as one handicap, and had trials for Yorkshire.

" I never played for Yorkshire as I always seemed to get nervous on the day," he recalled. "I'd like to go back now and try again because I think I have matured over the years."

He gave up the game for a few years around the age of 40 when he became a father, taking up rock climbing instead, a dangerous alternative on the face of it.

"I never got injured rock climbing but I have been injured twice at golf," he said, having been struck twice by golf balls out on the course, once as a player and once when spectating at the Open.

The Cooper family was left celebrating a double as, on the same day as his championship victory, his son Phillip won the national firework championship for the third year running with his company Optimum Fireworks.

"Maybe my fireworks on the golf course inspired him," joked Cooper.