PGA News

Europe’s largest pro-am returns to PGA’s 2021 tournament programme

Thousands of golfers from the UK and Ireland will get the chance to qualify for the golfing experience of a lifetime thanks to the return of Europe’s largest pro-am to the PGA’s tournament schedule.

The PGA’s National Pro-Am Championship has not been contested for two years, most recently because of the coronavirus pandemic, but is back on the Association’s packed programme for 2021.

Its 36-hole final will be staged at The PGA National Turkey in November and feature a dozen pairs who have qualified via one of 12 regional tournaments held in the UK or Ireland.

The dates and venues for the 12 regional tournaments will be finalised shortly and each one will be contested by a maximum of 74 pairs comprising a PGA professional and an amateur from his or her club.

“Each amateur will have earned the chance to partner a PGA pro by winning a qualifying competition run by their club,” explained Charles Hine, the PGA’s head of national tournaments.

“That means thousands of amateurs will start off on a golfing journey that could end with an all-expenses paid trip to Turkey playing on Antalya Golf Club’s PGA Sultan course and staying in its associated five-star accommodation.

“The PGA’s National Pro-Am Championship has been a hugely popular event since it was first staged more than 20 years ago and we’re delighted it’s back on the schedule. Its return also makes up for the Staysure Trophy which is not being held.”

The final of another tournament involving pairs comprising a pro and amateur, the popular PGA Pro-Captain Challenge, will also be staged overseas at The PGA National Italy in October. 

Sponsored by PGA Partners SkyCaddie for the fourth year running, the final at Argentario Golf Resort & Spa will feature the victorious pair from each of 10 qualifiers contested by a collective total of more than 400.

Closer to home, the winner of the Association’s flagship tournament – the PGA Professional Championship – will be crowned in Scotland after four negotiations of the Lansdowne course at Blairgowrie Golf Club, Perthshire.

The event will run in tandem with the PGA Play-Offs, which will be contested by the top three in the 2020 Order of Merits from each of Association’s seven regions. The 24-strong field will also include the winners of the 2020 PGA Professional and Assistants’ Championships plus the runner up from the former.

Somewhat appropriately, the Lansdowne course was designed by two former PGA Captains, Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas.

Similarly, the original design of the course at Kedleston Park, Derbyshire, where the WPGA Championship will be staged for the second successive year in early July, is the work of another former PGA Captain, five times Open Championship winner James Braid.

“Courses of this standard are in keeping with a packed and varied programme that, carrying a combined prize fund of more than £300,000, features tried and tested venues along with some similarly challenging new ones,” added Hine.

The PGA captaincy connection is very much in evidence at Foxhills Resort, Surrey, the venue for the first event of the 2021 programme in May - the Senior PGA Professional Championship.

The 54-hole tournament will be played over the resort’s two courses, the Longcross and Bernard Hunt, named after the club’s onetime professional and former PGA and Ryder Cup captain.

In addition to staging the tournament for the seventh year, Foxhills hosted the PGA Cup in 2017 and will do so again in 2022.

Meanwhile, the resort’s sister venue, Farleigh Golf Club, which is also in Surrey but close enough to London to afford a view of its skyline, will host the PGA Assistants’ Championship for a second time.

The tournament, sponsored for the second year in succession by PGA Partners Coca Cola and won in 1965 by two-time major champion Tony Jacklin, will be staged on the last three days of July, a week after the English PGA Championship.

Revived in 2019 after a seven-year hiatus but cancelled 12 months later due to Covid, that event will again be played on the Bowood PGA Course at Bowood Hotel Golf and Spa, Wiltshire.

Neighbouring Gloucestershire will provide the venue for the PGA Super 60s in the first week of August. The popular 36-hole tournament which, as well providing competitive golf for the Association’s more senior Members affords them a chance to catch up with old friends, will be staged at Tewkesbury Park.

The resort is due to host the event for three years and is just one of four with a golf course to feature in the Sunday Times latest list of the Top 100 British Hotels.

The PGA Fourball Championship, once again sponsored by PGA Partners and extremely popular with pros, follows at the end of the month and returns to Carden Park, Cheshire, after an absence of five years.  

Heading into autumn, the domestic programme winds up with two 36-hole tournaments: the Welsh National PGA Championship and PGA Inter-County Championship.

The former, sponsored by PGA Partners and leading supplier of branded golf accessories Asbri Golf for the ninth successive year, will be held at Aberdovey Golf Club, Gwynedd, in the second week of September.

The latter, the last tournament on the schedule to be staged on home soil, will return to Sutton Coldfield Golf Club, West Midlands, for a second year.


Long-serving PGA North press officer David Birtill passes away

David Birtill, the highly-respected journalist who served the PGA North region as its press officer for more than 30 years, has passed away at the age of 79 following a lengthy illness.

His role with The PGA was one facet of a career that began with him working on his local paper, the Chorley Guardian, and followed by spells with the Lancashire Telegraph and the Wigan Evening Post and Chronicle.

David then moved on to work for several national titles, including the Daily Telegraph, when their northern editions were produced in Manchester. However, he remained in Lancashire when production moved to London in the late 1980s and wrote for trade magazines.

He joined the Manchester Evening News as a sub-editor in 1999, by which time he had served PGA North for the best part of 15 years after being hired by Norman Fletcher, the region’s secretary.

“The regions wanted to get more media coverage,” recalled Fletcher, “so I approached David. He was a member at Chorley Golf Club where I played and wrote on the game as well as other sports.

“At that time he could get articles in the Telegraph and, in addition to reporting on our tournaments, he wrote extensive pieces for The PGA Professional magazine.”

David, who joined the Association of Golf Writers in 1995, retired in 2006 but continued to write about golf and run a website on the game until ill-health began to take its toll a year-and-a-half ago.

His book to mark the centenary of the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs in 2010, Lancashire Links, was highly praised and seen as the standard other county associations should aspire to.

Similarly, his work for The PGA was well-regarded and his bulging contacts book that featured the names of many of the country’s let alone region’s most accomplished golfers was matched by a fund of stories. 

“He kept us entertained at events over the years,” said Jonathan Paine, the current PGA North manager. “He did a top job for us and he’ll be sadly missed in the north and probably many other places. 

“I’ll certainly miss him. He was a big supporter of Chorley Football Club – we spent days together there and it’s sad he did not get to attend the victory over Derby County last weekend.”

David, who was pre-deceased by his beloved second wife Val in 2016, is survived by two sons and a stepson. The PGA expresses heartfelt condolences to them, David’s other family members and many friends on their loss.

Neil Manchip appointed Golf Ireland’s High-Performance Director

Neil Manchip, the Scottish-born PGA coach who played a key role in in Shane Lowry’s 2019 Open Championship triumph, has been appointed Golf Ireland’s new high-performance director and national coach.

Manchip has presided over Ireland’s male amateur players during an unprecedented period of team and individual successes since 2005.

Some highlights include two European Team Championships, five Men’s Home Internationals (including four-in-a-row from 2014) a bronze medal in the 2016 World Amateur Team Championships and three Amateur Championship titles.

In addition to winning The Open at Royal Portrush, Manchip’s relationship with Lowry (above) has produced a series of top-level professional victories.

Manchip is also no stranger to success on the course: he was a dominant force on the Irish PGA circuit around the turn of the millennium, the highlight being his 1999 PGA Championship win at The Island, where he defeated notables such as Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.

Off the golf course, Manchip has been instrumental in instilling a culture and philosophy of success within the GUI and in developing its high-performance programme.

Manchip will now turn his attention towards Golf Ireland’s fully integrated, inclusive high-performance programme which will support players’ development from regional to national level and during their early years as touring professionals.

Commenting on the appointment, he said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be part of the Golf Ireland Team during what promises to be an exciting and innovative period for golf in Ireland.

“Irish golfers have enjoyed huge success on the world stage over the past number of years and we hope to build on their legacy with continued success with today’s very talented group of golfers.” 

Mary Culliton, chair of the Golf Ireland transition board’s high-performance committee said: “Neil’s appointment is a very exciting development for golf in Ireland. 

“We’re delighted that Neil will apply his skills, experience and leadership more widely to include women’s and girls’ golf, enabling equal access to world-class support and technical expertise as part of Golf Ireland’s integrated high performance programme.”

Golf Ireland chief executive, Mark Kennelly, added: “Neil has vast experience at all levels of elite competitive golf and also has a deep understanding of high performance systems. 

“Added to this, Neil has an extraordinary work ethic and is adept at getting the best from his teams and players. I am confident that we can look forward to continued success in team and individual championships into the future.”