When Premier League legend Alan Shearer talked then World No 1 Lee Westwood into opening the Colt course at Close House, few could have predicted what would happen next
It’s a curious quirk of fate – an unintended consequence of a world that locked itself away for three months – but it might just play right into the hands of Lee Westwood.
He certainly won’t be able to say he wasn’t prepared. When the European Tour explodes back into life with the British Masters, no one will be in better shape to tackle the demands of Close House than its attached touring professional.
“I’ve been up there playing and practising pretty much every day, give or take a few,” he says of his routine building up to the start of the UK swing of tournaments that get under way in the North East towards the end of this month.
“Nobody will have played it more than me. That’s a big advantage. Hopefully.”
Of course, for Westwood, Close House is more than just a place to practise.
He’s been part of the furniture at the Newcastle venue for nearly a decade now, ever since former England and Toon legend Alan Shearer enticed the then World No 1 to open the brand new Colt course and clubhouse.
Later this year, he’ll even become part of the family when he marries Helen Storey and becomes club owner Sir Graham Wylie’s brother-in-law.
For the members, he’s an adopted Geordie – such a part of Close House life that he’s even turned out in the club knockout.
“I love the club and I love this area and I like the members at Close House. I get on really well with them and the staff are great as well.
“If I need to practice I can go to the range. I’ll hit balls and nobody will come up. At the same time, I like to think that people can come up and say hello and stuff like that. It’s a good balance, I think.”
So while many of his tour rivals have had to make do with a launch monitor and scraping a round wherever they can, Westwood has been able to fine-tune his form on the field of battle.
But it will be a very different experience from the first time the British Masters arrived three years ago.
Nearly 70,000 spectators thronged the four days of competition in what was a celebration of golf. They’ll be absent as Covid-19 ensures the tournament is played behind closed doors.
“It’ll be strange, won’t it?” Westwood adds. “But it’s better to be playing and it’s good we’ve actually got tournaments back on.”
With the British Masters the biggest prize fund on the UK swing, Westwood’s also hoping the continent’s star names will consider getting their disrupted seasons under way with him.
“It’s the start of the UK swing and it’s the biggest prize fund on that and it’s the first one back from everyone having four or five months off. It should get a good field. Everyone should be dead keen to play so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. But, as for predicting it, you can’t at the moment.
“My swing feels good so I am looking forward to getting going again. I’ve worked out during lockdown and that has hopefully improved a lot and the game still feels there. I am keen to get playing in some tournaments once again.
“It’s a great place for me to start. It’s in my comfort zone up here.”
Watch the British Masters from Close House on Sky Sports from July 22-25. Learn more about Close House on the club’s website.