Back in November 2019 Chris Hanson and Adam Walker launched the 2020protour, the culmination of several years of discussion around the possibilities of setting up a mini Tour in the north of England.
Their idea of adopting an equitable policy which would allow men and women professional golfers to compete fairly for the same OOM and prize money was ready to go in February 2020. A schedule comprising 22 events, sponsored by an impressive host of business partners, was announced and entries started to come in!
However, atrocious weather conditions meant a delayed start to the season. After some rescheduling, the Tour kicked off on Monday 16 March, when clear blue skies and bright sunshine greeted the players at Crosland Heath Golf Club, Huddersfield.
Sponsored by The Body Doctor, The Eye Doctor Classic, produced some excellent golf. Nicholas Poppleton, from Wath Golf Club, carded a high-quality 64 (-7), which included 8 birdies and he took away a first prize of £1,200.
A couple of days after the inaugural event came the ThinOptics Masters, played at Fixby Hall, the home of The Huddersfield Golf Club. Again, the day produced some great scoring; home favourite Nick Marsh shot 64 (-6) in the feature group with European Tour player Marcus Armitage (-5), and Richard Mansell (-5).
However, the schedule was once again halted, this time by coronavirus and for a while the future of the Tour hung in the balance. Thankfully, golf was allowed to resume (whilst abiding by national and Golf England rules and guidelines) and the Tour has been delighted to welcome past and present European Tour and Ryder Cup stars, such as Jamie Donaldson, Paul Broadhurst, Zander Lombard, Iain Pyman, and Marcus Armitage, as well as numerous Senior Tour and Challenge Tour winners, along with Ladies European Tour winners Meg McClaren, Amy Boulden and Carly Booth.
The Tour has also been open to amateur players off 4 handicap or lower and a significant number of male and female amateurs have been inspired to challenge themselves in the professional environment, enjoying the opportunity to not just play with some of the players named above but against them – and at times beat them!! There can’t have been many times when a 12-year-old girl could play against a current European Tour player!
A massive incentive to members of the Tour has been the McClarrons Sport Race to 100 Birdies. Any player to make 100 birdies by the end of the schedule, wins (or shares) a huge and season-changing £20,000!!! After 21 events, Nicholas Poppleton has 94 birdies – with just the final at Huddersfield Golf Club (5 October) to play, Nicholas therefore requires 6 more birdies to clinch the prize! Can he do it?!
A second amazing incentive was provided by Tour partner Swimnation in the second half of the schedule; if any player were to win (or tie to win) four events out of the last 11, including the outright win at the final at Huddersfield, then he or she would take home £10,000. It’s looking very promising for John Parry who has had three wins – Willow Valley, Low Laithes and Bradley Hall. Can he clinch it at Huddersfield?!
Many of the events have been live streamed by ContentLiveGolf. The coverage that Ian Waterhouse and his team have produced has gone from strength to strength, gaining an ever-increasing number of views as the season has progressed, with a stunning total close to 1 million in the lead up to the Tour final. They will be filming all the action at Huddersfield Golf Club on 5 October and will be streaming to the 2020protour Facebook page.
One of the many highlights of the season has been Ellie Givens taking the win at Rockcliffe Hall, Darlington. Ellie shot -4 around her home course, sharing the spoils with her club compatriot Andrew Wilson. It does appear that this is the first time a woman has taken the title in a UK professional tour event where women were competing with men. Well done to Ellie on becoming a record breaker (we think)!
RRG Kia Bury title sponsored the fabulous Marriott Worsley Park event on 27 July. A tough day for weather nevertheless saw some great golf, with Marco Penge and Wilco Nienaber sharing the win, Wilco going on to secure some top ten finishes on the European Tour.
The final event at Huddersfield Golf Club – the DD Porter Construction Tour Final – will bring a wonderful season to an exciting close. The result of the McClarrons race to 100 birdies and the Swimnation challenge will be decided; the professional and amateur OOMs will be finalised – and the winners will take home prizes from Bunker Mentality, The Golf Travel People, KBS Golf, SwingSpeedGolf, CaddyGolfClub, WowHydrate and Underpin Sports.
A fine 64 (-7) from Nick McCarthy in the penultimate event at Bradford GC, the GolfQuizz Masters, has taken him to the top of the OOM, with Nicholas Poppleton hard on his heels – it’s all up for grabs! Amateur George Mason has a commanding lead on the Amateur OOM, thanks to his impressively consistent performance. Brogan Townend from Pleasington Golf Club is the leading female professional, in19th place, with Thalia Martin the leading female amateur on 11th.
A feature of the finals’ day will be a Shoot Out; after completion of the professionals’ event, the leading 16 players will go into a head-to-head for a bonus £500 prize. If the coverage of the Low Laithes Shoot Out is anything to go by, then it will certainly provide some exciting entertainment!