LET’S face it. We were all a little nervous the day before the Europe’s biggest amateur tournament when even ‘cats and dogs’ didn’t adequately describe the deluge of rain over Manchester. However, spirits were risen with the dawn of a dry and bright new day, and it was time to get kitted up, don the signature trilby, and play golf.
Now in its 10th year the William Hunt Trilby Tour at Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club will once again be broadcast on Sky Sports as part of the Trilby Tour series next autumn. The series attracts an annual viewership of over 2.5 million, which officially makes it the largest event of its kind in Europe.
This year’s event was filled with 138 starters who teed off all competition for the crown of Lancashire’s Trilby Tour champion and qualifying spots for the final later this year. The excitement at Worsley Park had been building towards the event for the last few days with Ian Brawn, the course manager, working miracles after the rain to ready the championship course.
With the fairways and green preened and presented to the spec worthy of any major around the world; Sky Sports cameras were put in place and the clock was ticking down to the first three ball to kick off proceedings an honour that fell to Lee Crossley.
With a steady stream of players arriving throughout the morning, Worsley Park was a buzz with energy and anticipation. The nervousness around the first tee was palpable, but that’s what these big events are all about.
Every corner of the hotel and starters hut was filled with players dressed in their golfing finery, supplied by the team from William Hunt, preparing their bags, all accompanied by their caddies sporting matching white boiler suits – another regular sight on the Trilby Tour.
Having drawn a respectable 11am tee time, I’d managed to stay away from the early build-up of nerves, by busying myself in the office. But that wasn’t to last long as soon the time had come to start preparations.
All registered, dressed, and trilbied up, I took the time out to loosen up on the driving range. It was great to get the swing going and with the grass driving range at Worsley Park, you get a much more lifelike practice, rather than hitting from mats. I was feeling good and still pretty calm, unlike one of my fellow competitors on the driving range who was shaking like a leaf.
Time ticking down and it was my turn to move over to the first tee. With the mandatory arrival time set for 20 mins ahead of your scheduled tee time you have plenty of time to contemplate your first drive. Partly I’m sure this is to done ensure you are there, but mainly, I think it’s designed to make sure the butterflies in your stomach get the chance to really get going before you step up for your fist drive.
I arrived to the putting green awash with players warming up, and a sizable crowd around the first tee. After a couple of warm up puts it was time to join the spectators to watch the players ahead of us tee off.
Luckily enough, this wasn’t my first big amateur tournament. Having played in one of the Trilby Tour events last year, I had an idea of what I was letting myself in for. Somehow, that helped keep any nerves in check, however I’d be lying to say I was free of the jitters.
As GM of Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & County Club, I know the course well, so you’d hope that would give me an advantage – however only time would tell.
The time had come and I’d been called to the tee. This is when you really see how nervous you are, and to add to the pressure on the tee, the Sky Sports presenter and camera join you to do a pre round interview – all designed to build up the nerves to boiling point.
Despite a final shot across the bows from William Hunt who was personally there to see me off with a “you might want to watch those trees on the right…” I kept a steady hand and stepped up with a straight drive down the middle. Phew. We were off.
Golf is such a precise sport. It doesn’t take much to knock you off your stride. Some can harness that tension and others can’t. Riding on the back of the build-up I managed to knock in a net par for two points on the first. Feeling pretty settled, the second, however, didn’t go so smoothly. Followed by a no score on the 4th and 8th, after the front nine, I was already on the back foot.
By then I was resigned to the fact that there was no chance of bringing it back. Pressure off for the back nine, and there was a change of fortune with scores starting to come in, however it was never enough to ultimately challenge the leader board.
Although I’d played much better on previous rounds, the Trilby Tour does give you a rare insight as an amateur golfer into the world of a major professional tournament. Opportunities to play in front of photographers, TV cameras and an expectant crowd are few and far between – but that’s exactly what you get from the William Hunt Trilby Tour.
At the end of the day, the crowd overlooking the 18th were in great spirits as players came in and the leader board changed hands. Leaving the top four to battle it out for the title in a three hole, head to head, shoot out.
There were nerves, some great golf and a fiercely contested amateur tournament captured for posterity on Sky Sports where all came away having been challenged by Worsley Park’s championship course – a true test of anyone’s game.
After a thoroughly enjoyable day, it was more evident to me that these big tournaments are all about using the nerves and pressure to your advantage.