Yorkshire golf: Range finder helps Jon Hall place Headingley firmly on the map

BEGINNING a round at the 13th hole for a shotgun start would be considered an unlucky omen by many golfers, particularly in an important competition.

Headingley Golf Clubs secretary Jon Hall receives The Golf Club Secretarys Open Championship trophy.

Rather than succumb to superstitious negativity, Headingley’s secretary Jon Hall instead turned it to his advantage at Royal West Norfolk GC.

The result was a one-under-par 70 that saw Hall triumph in The Golf Club Secretary’s 20th Open Championship.

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The event’s prestige can be gauged by the fact that golf club secretaries from around the UK have to pre-qualify, whittling an initial 400 plus entrants down to fewer than 60 in Norfolk.

“I started at the 13th tee and was taking care to notice the pin positions on the adjacent holes as I was walking down the fairways,” says the three-handicapper.

“It proved very useful in the end because the last hole I played, the 12th, was the second most difficult to see where the bottom of the pin was.”

Hall made a par to finish for a 40-point Stableford total that was a record for the championship, and saw him win by four points.

“It was nice to play good golf on a very fine and tricky golf course,” he continues. “I hadn’t played it before, but ignorance is sometimes bliss when you don’t particularly fear anything; you don’t worry about what’s over a hill.”

Having won so comfortably after earning qualification at Royal Birkdale, it comes as a surprise to hear Hall say that both his driving – normally a strength of his game – and his putting were off on the day.

“I didn’t putt particularly well,” he says. “If I’d putted even normally I would have been two to three shots better, no question.

“The strength of my game normally is driving, but I didn’t hit it particularly well off the tee. Fortunately, this time of year the rough is fairly forgiving on these types of courses, and where I did extremely well was with my iron play, which was absolutely fantastic.”

Complementing precise yardages gained with the use of a laser range finder with his observations of pin positions on the way round, Hall overcame his ‘poor’ driving and putting with some exemplary iron play.

“All the distances that I was trying to achieve were spot on,” he says. “I had someone with me who was buzzing the top of the flag with a Bushnell so I knew the exact yardages to the flag, over the hazards and stuff.

“I don’t always use a range finder, but it’s always good to know these things.

“It was quite testing conditions. I might have hit a nine iron downwind to a flag 185 yards on one hole, but a six iron 130 yards into the wind on another. I didn’t drive particularly well, but you didn’t get unduly penalised as long as you missed the bunkers – and I didn’t go in one bunker all day.”

Headingley members are delighted by Hall’s success, which will help raise the profile of the club. But they will not have been too surprised at his fine scoring.

Hall has held the course record at the club, setting a new mark of 68 back in 2010 – and then lowering it by three shots just three weeks later.

“I’m a really streaky player,” he explains. “I struggle with my short game and my putting’s never been that good although my long game is very, very good.

“What I tend to do is not score well for a while and then suddenly, from nowhere, I’ll have a good day where everything comes together and I’ll go low.”

He hit a phenomenal 17 greens in regulation on the way to his Open title.

“I’ve had loads of messages of congratulations from members and the captain’s committee had made a big thing of it,” he says. “We’re a club that’s trying to put ourselves on the map.

“The facilities are continually improving, the course is continually improving, and this adds a little bit to our PR. It’s nice to have a good round when it matters.”