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Open record prompts tour hunt for sponsor

A RECORD five golfers who started their professional careers on the Manchester-based 1836 Tour will compete  in The Open Championship this Thursday after battling through Final Qualifying.

Among them is Marcus Armitage, born in Salford. Brought up in the Rossendale area, he moved to Huddersfield as an 18-year-old having started out at Oldham Golf Club.

Also teeing it up at Carnoustie are Lancashire’s Jack Senior and James Robinson, Yorkshireman Thomas Curtis and Ashton Turner from Lincolnshire.

The clubs represented by former 1836 Tour players in the Open are Howley Hall in Leeds, who have made Armitage an honorary life member, Carus Green (Senior), Southport and Ainsdale (Robinson), Pannal (Curtis) and Kenwick Park (Turner).

The previous record was set last year when four golfers competed at 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.

His success also reflects well on the the 16 clubs who host tournaments for The 1836 Tour, so named because all events are either 18 or 36 holes.

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.

Said Martin Wild, Callaway’s Regional Sales Manager for the UK, Ireland and Northern Europe, “We support golf at all levels right across the spectrum of the sport.

“The success of this tour in giving up and coming young professionals a chance to start finding their way to become winners and Open qualifiers is a testament to the work Jonathan does. We are delighted for him and the players.”

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 ​a title sponsor.  My ultimate objective is to put on a tour which will provide a living for the players.

“The number of our  players winning on the Europro and  Challenge Tours is  a sign that the tour provides winners and gives them invaluable experience in their efforts to get their European Tour cards and go on to win at the highest level.”

The 1836 Tour is open to PGA members, non members and amateurs and 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!”

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.”

Nobody is more appreciative of Cheetham’s efforts than a former 1836 tour player, Yorkshireman Chris Hanson (Woodsome Hall), now in his third successive season on the European Tour.

Hanson said: “The most important thing for a professional golfer is having playing opportunities and when you start out you need to play as much as possible.

“For me having The 1836 Tour to gain experience and learn how to be competitive has been a key factor in my development as a player and 100% helped me get on to the European Tour.”

1836 TOUR VENUES

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

For more information, visit 1836tour.com

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