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The tournament that helped launch the finest European Tour careers is back - and spectators are allowed in

The tournament that helped launch the finest European Tour careers is back – and spectators are allowed in

Some sparkling names have claimed the Lagonda Trophy at Gog Magog and, says general manager Brad McLean, the omens are good for another great tournament this year
 

It’s the Lagonda Trophy at Gog Magog this week and one of the first clear signs that – maybe – things are really starting to get back to normal.

For a start, spectators will be on site at the Cambridge club, managed by GCMA chairman Brad McLean, as they welcome some of Britain’s brightest amateur talents on Wednesday and Thursday for a tournament that has proven a launching pad for some stellar careers.

Former World No 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, along with one-time Ryder Cup stars Andy Sullivan and David Gifford, are among the players who have written their name into lore over 72 holes of the Old course.

Like many clubs over the coronavirus pandemic, Gog Magog received a membership boost after the first lockdown was eased and, after an incredible renewals period last October, have got a busy waiting list.

The rush to join, and play at the 36-hole venue, has also been reflected in this year’s Lagonda Trophy field – with a host of England internationals, a lowest handicap of +6, and a ballot for entries which finished at an impressive +2.1.

“The club has hosted the event since 1990 and it’s a big part of our history,” explained McLean. “There’s a fantastic pedigree of players coming through and winning – Lee Westwood and Luke Donald probably being the two biggest names. But it’s a real springboard for the amateur talent that enter.

“This year, we’ve had an incredible field that’s come through and this would be probably one of the first big amateur events in the country coming out of lockdown.”

The players will tackle the chalk downland turf of the Old, a course McLean describes as “unique” and – regardless of the incredible talent on show – he expects it to show its teeth.

“They’re playing something a little bit different, a different style of golf course. It is tree lined on some holes and isn’t an easy test of golf.

“You look at the scorecard and you think it’s not that long and that scores are going to be lights out. But they never really are. It plays more difficult than it looks.

“It’s a good traditional test for all 72 holes over two days. Then, of course, when you have Westwood and Donald as early winners, people want to see their names attached to it and want to be on the same board as those names.”

Looking back at the golf rush last year, which has continued into 2021, McLean said that when the club reopened after the second lockdown ended last December more than 900 members were looking to book games across Gog Magog’s two courses.

“Trying to spread that across a six-hour window in the winter period was nigh on impossible,” he explained.

“Like most clubs, we saw a big influx last summer. [Then] we ran through our normal subscription time in October, and we had a minimal amount of people leaving – fewer than 10 overall and we have a membership close to 1,400.

“It’s an incredible retention rate, which meant that we have an increasingly growing waiting list. Our club has a pretty good rate anyway – much less than the industry average.

“But to have fewer than 10 was incredible, and they weren’t leaving. They were relocating. It causes its own challenges, of course, with the waiting list but I’ve never seen anything like that. It was incredible.”

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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