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England and Wales (North) Region

The Leeds Cup is still a major event

28 Jul 18

NORTH Harry Vardon WEB

It’s difficult to imagine that the great Harry Vardon, in his last year as Ganton professional in 1902, was the first winner of the iconic Leeds Cup which is still held in great esteem today, writes David Birtill.

Since then, many other famous names have been inscribed on the trophy including former Open champions, Ryder Cup players and notable club professionals from both sides of the Pennines.

A report in the Golf Illustrated magazine of the opening tournament recognised the generosity and enterprising spirit of the committee. Vardon’s winning score was 149 followed by Alex Herd and J.H. Taylor, both on 153 and played over for 36 holes.

Prize money in the early days was derisive and yet the tournament attracted most of the big names of that era. It is recorded that in the 1911 tournament, the Leeds Club had generously given £18 to provide £2 each for the first 14 players who would qualify for a foursomes competition at Walton Heath.

The PGA had provided £20 in prize money for which £4 was voted as assistants’ prizes, divided into four prizes of £2, £1, 10s, and 10s. Penrose Green, the club president, also donated a prize of 5 guineas to any player breaking the course record of 72.

The 1911 tournament was won by Ted Ray for the second year in succession. When he arrived at Leeds, he brought the trophy which had been kept at Ganton Golf Club and it was found to be already engraved with his name and the date for being the champion in 1910 and 1911. The cup was still to be played for!

The Ganton secretary apologised for what he claimed to be a mistake by the engraver. The president of Leeds Golf Club, Penrose Green, presented the cup to Ted Ray amid laughter,

The tournament has continued to this day, although from the early 1930s it was decided by the PGA North Region to restrict entry to their regional members, except when overseas professionals were playing in the Northern qualifying section of the PGA Match Play Championship.

On one such occasion at Huddersfield Golf Club in 1955, Gary Player, then only 19 years old, narrowly failed to win on his first visit to Britain.
And he sent his memories of that occasion to mark the tournament’s return to Cobble Hall in 2006.

“As I came to the last hole, I needed five to win the tournament. There was a stone wall on the 18th and I thought that I could bank my shot off the wall on to the green. I went for it... and the ball hit me in the jaw and knocked me down!

“They gave me some smelling salts. Dazed, I then chipped the ball on to the green. I thought, great... four shots. I then holed the putt for five and thought I’d won the tournament, only to find out I was given a two shot penalty for hitting myself!”

NB: The Leeds Cup will be played at Leeds Golf Club on August 8-9.

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