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Open record prompts tour hunt for sponsor

By Tim Taylor

A RECORD five golfers who started their professional careers on the Manchester based 1836 Tour competed in The Open Championship at Carnoustie after battling through Final Qualifying.

One of them, former European Tour player James Robinson from the Southport & Ainsdale club, made the most of his majors debut by enjoying practice rounds with Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett and Rafa Cabrera-Bello.

The previous record was set last year when four ex-1836 golfers played in the Birkdale Open which brought Jordan Speith his third major title. These are remarkable achievements for Jonathan Cheetham, a former PGA Northern Order of Merit winner from Gatley in Cheshire, who for eight years has run the circuit virtually single handed.

The Callaway supported tour has produced 15 winners on the Europro and Challenge Tours and now two summers of continuous progress in Open qualifying has prompted Cheetham to seek a title sponsor.

One cheerleader for such backing is Robinson who says: “I wish Jonathan the very best of luck with his search. The 1836 is one of the better mini tours I have played on and it is a valuable stepping stone. Jonathan makes a great job of running the tour which is played at good venues on decent courses.”

Robinson, who coaches at Clarkes Golf Centre in Rainford, St Helens, enjoyed his brush with the stars saying: “They were fine with me putting my name down to practice with  them. Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter were very entertaining – Ian is a little bit crazy and loud and Sergio was good with the crowd – a real people person.”

Robinson progressed from the 1836 Tour to the Europro Tour, the Challenge Tour and, in 2016, the European Tour.  The other four ex-1836 players who won through to Carnoustie are Marcus Armitage (Howley Hall), Tom Curtis (Pannal), Jack Senior (Carus Green) and Ashton Turner (Kenwick Park). Armitage finished top of their Open “mini league” on seven over for the halfway mark following a second round 69.

Also backing Cheetham’s hunt for a tour title sponsor is Martin Wild, Callaway’s Regional Sales Manager for the UK, Ireland and Northern Europe. Wild said:“ We enjoy supporting this tour and its success in giving up and coming young professionals a chance to start finding their way to become winners and Open qualifiers. This is a testament to the work Jonathan does. We are delighted for him and the players.”

Said the 2018 England Golf Coach of the Year, Mottram Hall’s Matthew Turnock, “I hope Jonathan quickly finds his sponsor – he totally deserves backing after all his hard work.”

Cheetham, who plays regional PGA tournaments, is a former Bury assistant, teaching pro at Mobberley and club pro at Gatley. He said: “I think the players have achieved something special with how they have put this tour on the map, but we cannot grow without title sponsorship.  My ultimate objective is to put on a tour which will provide a living for the players.”

The 1836 Tour – so called because it consists of 18 and 36-hole events – is open to PGA members, non members and amateurs. It covers a 100-mile radius with some of the 90 playing members travelling as far as 200 miles to compete.

Cheetham spent nine years on the Challenge and Asian Tours, playing a dozen European Tour events – on one occasion vying with Ernie Els at the top of a leaderboard. He funded his golf working as a van driver, order picker at adidas and supermarket shelf stacker.

He said: “How many people who have worked the floor at Sainsbury’s and M&S have stood on the first  tee at Troon looking out over the bay as I did in 2004, waiting for the magic moment when I teed off in the Open myself. What a memory!”

Cheetham’s success with the The 1836 Tour also reflects well on the 16 clubs who host tournaments.

They are: Bramall Park, Davyhulme Park, Dunham Forest, Formby Hall, Huddersfield Fixby, Lancaster, Manchester, Moortown, Northenden, Ringway, Swinton Park, Warrington, West Lancs,  Withington, Worksop, Wychwood Park.

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Picture caption: Jonathan Cheetham (left) with former England and Manchester United footballer Paul Scholes making an 1836 Tour presentation to David Booth at The Manchester club.