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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Golfers in the swing to take Masterstroke prize

FOR the past week, entrants have been making their bid to be the winner of our Masterstroke golf competition. Now, after each player has had their chance to impress, we reveal the results of the trials and the six players going forward

GOLF balls have been flying left, right and centre at the Fairway Hotel driving range as players of all ages and abilities have staked their claim for the Masterstroke prize.

With the offer of a year’s coaching with PGA professional Paul Rawlinson, a year’s membership at Furness Golf Club and the supply of equipment and coaching on the line, there has been strong competition.

For four nights last week – and one day this week – hopefuls lined up on the driving mats and showed off their skills at straight hitting and pitching, as well as telling the Evening Mail why they wanted to win.

In total, 23 of the 34 trialists turned up to take their chance, with members of the Evening Mail sports desk, Rawlinson himself and his Zone Golf assistant Gareth Butcher, all casting an eye over their abilities.

DAY ONE

THE opening night of the trials set the standard – in terms of both players and the weather.

In cold conditions which would only deteriorate as the week went on, five players, aged from 24 to 75, with between 40 minutes and 40 years of golfing experience, lined up to take their shot.

Among them was the oldest of all the entrants – Bill Wood – a man who has been a regular on the fairways for four decades, without having a single lesson.

“I’ve been playing for too long to remember,” he said. “It just seems that my golf is so inconsistent and I’m at a point now where I don’t seem to be getting any better.

“I play every year in a stableford competition at Garstang and I want to be able to turn up this year and score a lot better.”

At the other end of the scale, experience-wise, 24-year-old Craig Palmer had never picked up a club in anger in his life before the trial.

His stepfather is a regular player and he has long harboured a desire to give the game a go, something Masterstoke allows.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever hit a ball,” he said after showing what he could do in straight-hitting and pitching challenges.

“I’ve got quite a lot of time though and I want to understand the fundamentals of the game, which Masterstoke would allow me to do.”

In between Bill and Craig were three men with varying degrees of experience.

Both Steve Chapman and Neil Bremner are 50 years old, but while Neil has a handicap of seven – having once been down as low as four – Steve is an occasional player, never having had an official handicap as he plays mainly with his friends.

The third player was Andy Clough, a 35-year-old who only took up the game last year and is a regular on the driving range as he looks to improve his game.

“I think this can help get my handicap down,” said Clough, who plays off 24.

“I don’t have much confidence at the moment because I only started the game 12 months ago.”

DAY TWO

ON a bitterly cold evening four golfers braved the conditions to compete for the fabulous top prize.

As temperatures plummeted below zero the hardy quartet, under the watchful eye of Zone Golf’s Gareth Butcher, set out in the hope of progressing into the final six.

All – Stewart Moscrop, Ashley Daley, David Kyriacou and Mark Slater – had to undergo two tests – firing a ball between two targets and aiming at a trampoline set some 56 yards away.

The trampoline test proved to be tough as the ice nipped the players’ fingers with Kyriacou hitting it once, with his first shot, while Moscrop and Daley went close.

The last player to arrive, Slater, was successful twice with his five attempts.

Dad-of-two Kyriacou brought along his clubs, purchased in Florida during his honeymoon.

He has not been playing golf for long apart from the odd pitch and putt, along with Daley, also a dad-of-two, and Kyriacou’s friend for 15 years.

While quite nervous as he hit the ball at the targets, Kyriacou, 29, said: “If I am selected I think it would help me learn how to play the game of golf properly. If I do something I always give 110 per cent effort.”

Slater, who works at Tronic in the sales department and is married, plays at Ulverston Golf Club. He said: “I am very much into my golf, I come down to the range twice a week and knock the ball for a few hours.”

A player for six years, Slater, 30, got down from a handicap of 18 to 13 in his first year and then later off eight, but he wants to improve further.

Barrow Golf Club captain Stewart Moscrop, 51, who plays off a handicap of eight, also took part.

Butcher said: “I thought there was a good mix, we had absolute beginners all the way down to people who play a lot of golf. I thought the variety was good. They all did really well and seemed to enjoy it.”

DAY THREE

WITH snow threatening and a biting wind cutting through the thickest of clothes,  the eager party of eight were, like other competitors, put to two tricky discipline tests.

Kimberly-Clark electrician Steve Quinn, 31, said if he was chosen as a Masterstroke finalist he would like to hopefully show a big improvement over the year. He has been interested in golf for quite a while and since retiring from football is looking to dedicate more time to the greens.

As well as playing pitch and putt at Rampside Links when he was younger, Quinn used to play with his dad Mike at Dunnerholme, using cut down irons.

He said that given the chance: “It would give me a massive chance to improve my game.”

Ian Hanna, 37, is looking to improve his handicap. He feels his golfing weakness putting and his strengths driving and chipping.

The Barrow Golf Club member plays two or three times a week and has been playing golf regularly for six years.

Hanna’s dad Ken entered him in the competition. Asked what it would mean if he won it, he said: “It would mean free membership over at Furness and plenty of new gear.”

The dad-of-two, a joiner, added his daughter Sophie is keen to start playing.

Adam Kendall, a psychiatric nurse working for the community drug and alcohol team, has a handicap of 13 and plays two or three times during the summer but rarely in the winter.

If selected the 33-year-old said he would be committed to improving his game to reach the potential he feels he has. He wants to play more on the course and to practice.

“It is a fantastic prize, anyone who plays golf locally would want to win it,” he said. “I think the opportunity to be trained intensively by someone is definitely key for me and hopefully saving a bit in green fees.”

He added: “To me it is about consistency and that is what these intensive lessons would provide, and certainly sharpen up some of the weaker parts of my game.”

Kimberly-Clark worker Frank Lacey believes his strengths are driving and the short game, with long irons his weakness.

The 58-year-old, with a handicap of 19, wants to improve his golf and is willing to put the effort in.

“I thought it was an ideal way of improving my golf,” he said.

“I have been playing three years at Ulverston and I just yo-yo up and down. I’m just trying to get my handicap down. I know I can do it, but it’s just pointing me in the right direction.

“I enjoy golf and I thought it was the ideal way of improvement.”

Others taking part that night were grandfather-of-two John Freel, 68, who is looking to improve his golf, Dave Roberts, 64, a one-time BAE Systems electrician, Gary Regan, 61, and Alan Barton, of Askam, who plays golf three times a week and feels his strengths are chipping and putting, with his weakness the long game.

He is looking to improve his handicap so he can help his son Francis, 11, who took up the sport last year.

DAY FOUR

 THE final night of competition brought five hardy hopefuls on to the range for their shot at success.

Once more, the age range was vast, with 70-year-old Mark Wilson – ‘Mark from Cark’ as he had it – and 24-year-old Stuart Roberts teeing off. They were joined by two experienced players in Dennis Crabtree – a man with an impressive 3.2 handicap, which was once as low as 1.5 – and Terry Hall, as well as a well-known figure from another sport, former cricket professional Justin Quint.

Justin, now 44, has given himself six years to become good enough to compete on the senior tour and is already well on the way.

His handicap is down to 5.3 – some lessons last year paying dividends as he went down from 7.9 – and he has only been playing ‘properly’ for three years.

“I probably want to get some decent coaching,” he said. “I came for some lessons with Paul last year and he gave me something to work on.

“I just want to get the practice and everything that goes with it. I’m 44 now and I want to have a stab at the senior tour, but I had self-belief in cricket and I don’t have that with golf.”

Mark, who has been playing for 48 years, harbours no such ambitions of the senior tour, but now has a handicap of 15 and hopes to return to close to his best of six.

“I just hope to improve,” said the Grange-Over-Sands member. “I want to be back down to single figures – a lot of people try to sit on their handicaps, but I want to come down.”

Stuart has not played since he was a junior – when he had a handicap of 24 and won several competitions at Ulverston.

He wants to return to action now and said: “I just like competing and I want to be good enough to lower my handicap and take part in competitions.”

DAY FIVE

A HOLIDAY in Belgium prevented Dennis Yates from taking part on his initial trial date, but the keen player turned out on a snow-covered range to take his Masterstroke chance.

The 68-year-old was a dab-hand on a par-three course in Zambia when he worked overseas, but admits it is his longer game that causes problems.

“Since I finished work, I have started to play a bit more and I would like to get down to a 14 or 15 handicap – I think I’m capable if I can get the incentive to do so,” he said.

THE FINAL SIX

AFTER going through each night of competition, we have selected six players we feel would most benefit from the Masterstroke experience.

They range from beginners who have shown they have the ability and desire to improve, through more experienced players looking to up their game, all the way to veterans of the sport who could still have their golden days ahead of them.

Each player will take part in the first knockout stage of the competition next week, when the last six will be cut down to a final five.

THE FINAL SIX

1. Steve Chapman, age 50, no handicap.

2. Justin Quint, age 44, handicap 5.3.

3. Frank Lacey, age 58, handicap 19.

4. Bill Ward, age 75, handicap 24.

5. Andrew Clough, age 35, handicap 21.

6. David Kyriacou, age 29, no handicap.

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