Shirtsleeve weather in October! That's what the competitors in the 2002 BIGGA National Championship were treated to at the wonderful Hillside and Hesketh courses in the north west of the country.
And the quality of golf played more than lived up to the conditions up above and the condition of the two famous golf courses.
Inspired by Sam Torrance and his 12 heroes who clinched the Ryder Cup on the eve of the Championship the entrants in the Championship could not fail to raise their games, especially given the quality of the venues selected for this year's event.
Hillside has long been regarded as one of the finest links never to have hosted an Open Championship while the history at Hesketh, were the English Golf Union was formed, is the equal of any in the land.
It was BIGGA National Board member, Ian Semple, Course Manager at Old Folds Manor who lifted the major spoils and was acclaimed BIGGA's Champion Golfer - an exceptional feat given that he is a 2 handicapper. Indeed he went one better than he did the previous year when he won the Best Gross prize. Ian had endured a slow start, taking three to get out of a bunker on Hillside's 5th, he bounced back on the back nine with birdies at the 14th and two of the last three holes to post a score of 75. He followed that up with a round of 77 at Hesketh for a nett score of 148 over the two days.
'I'm absolutely delighted to win, especially after coming so close last year at Royal Birkdale and Southport and Ainsdale,' said the man who won the South of Scotland Championship in 1986 and who was a regular county player for Kirkcudbrightshire before moving south.
A talented long hitter Ian's other golfing claim to fame is a tied fourth finish in the Scottish Champion of Champions at Leven in 1987, one of the most prestigious events on the Scottish amateur golfing calendar.
'I don't play as much as I used to now and certainly don't win much in handicap competitions so winning this is fantastic,' said Ian, who was playing in the event for the fourth consecutive year. 'I'll certainly be back next year to defend,' he said.
Last year's winner, Chris Ball, was on home soil this year. As an assistant at Hillside he used his local knowledge to good effect to put himself in with a chance of defending his title but a poor second day's performance put paid to his chances.
Winner of the Gross prize was Noel Crawford, of Royal County Down GC, a +1 golfer.
He was delighted to pick up the prize but a little embarrassed to do so as Ian's score, as well as being the best Nett score, was also the best gross. As it was a nett competition the nett prize took the top slot and Noel's score of 157 was promoted to best gross.
Martin Twist at Hillside and Kevin Gould at Hesketh and their respective teams worked hard to produce wonderful tests of golf for the two days and they must be congratulated on their efforts.
The team prize went to the South East Region to prove that their policy of investing the prize money in sponsoring members to attend the Championship, and thus strengthen the Region's team, had paid off yet again.
BIGGA National Chairman, Richard Barker, a 1 handicapper, was one over after the first round. Not bad you might think but in fact it was one over fives! His round started ignominiously with a trudge back to the 1st tee when his drive drifted into the right rough never to be seen again. Perhaps it was the fact that he was partnered by the Editor, invited to turn a twoball into a threeball, who brought him down to his more moderate level. That looked a more likely possibility when without Mr MacCallum to drag him down he improved by 12 shots the following day at Hesketh.
Alan Birch was again the official photographer at the event. The quality of his photographs is first rate and all at BIGGA thank him for the excellent work he does.
Next year's National Championship will be played at Coxmoor GC, on October 6 and Holllinwell (Notts GC) on October 7, 2003, keeping up the tradition of only playing the BIGGA National Championship on the finest courses.
BIGGA National Champion Best Nett Score/BIGGA Challenge Trophy
Ian Semple, The Old Fold Manor GC, 148
BIGGA Scratch Champion / BIGGA Challenge Cup
Noel Crawford Royal County Down, 157
2. Dave Goddard, Sunningdale, 157 (B. 2nd round)
3. Gareth Roberts, Hankley Common, 157
2. Kevin Humphreys, Croham Hurst, 149
3. George Brown, Turnberry, 150
Scr to 7
Chris Ball, Hillside, 73
8 to 15
Tony Bremer, Dorking, 69
16 to 28
Charles Tadge, International Member, (retired); 76
Scr to 7
David Murdoch, Liphook, 74
8 to 15
Dan Wheeler, Roehampton, 72
16 to 28
Gary Crawford, Royal Co Down, 71
Nearest the Pin
Sid Arrowsmith, Frilford Heath
Dave Blank, Newcastle Under Lyme
Winners South East Region, 601
Runners-Up Midland Region Total 619
TurfTrax Ground Management
Scotts UK Professional
European Turf Technology
Rufford Soil Technology
VIPs - George Charnock, Captain of Hillside & John Graham, Secretary of Hillside