District Championship celebrates centenary

OLDHAM’s most prestigious golf trophy, the District Championship, is celebrating its centenary year.

And to launch the opening of entries for the competition, local golf’s finest met up at Saddleworth where the event will be played on Saturday, July 2.

Five players, all of whom have won the district title on three or more occasions, were in attendance.

CHAMPIONS ALL, l-r, Gary Melling, Les Lawton, Alan Squires, Mark Riley and Lee Rowbotham

And the quintet shared a host of memories and stories with the captain and lady captain of Saddleworth Dave and Linda Newman and district chairman John Barlow.

Local legend Alan Squires, who has represented both England and Lancashire with distinction in the amateur ranks, led the way with 13 titles, one short of the all-time leader, the late Harry Swailes who had 14 championships to his name.

Also at the photocall were current champion Mark Riley, who has seven wins, Les Lawton (4) Gary Melling (3) and Lee Rowbotham (3).

The only other player still living to have won it three times is Kris Sutcliffe, but he was away.

Stars of the evening were undoubtedly the double act of Squires and Lawton.

Lawton, who celebrates his 86th birthday in June, was in fact Squires’ mentor back in the day and he used to take a young Squires with him to compete in regular scratch competitions held all over Lancashire and beyond.

LOCAL LEGENDS: Les Lawton and Alan Squires with the District Championship trophy they have done battle over many times

They were such a force in golf that in one 16-year period, either Swailes, Squires or Lawton won the district crown with the others in hot pursuit.

Squires was only 18 when he won his first district title, a feat matched by Lee Rowbotham when he beat Crompton and Royton’s Andy Clarke in a play-off at Oldham in 2003.

Lee would go on to retain the title the following year and had to wait another 10 years before he robbed his younger brother Adam of a double by beating him in a play-off in 2014.

Adam, now off a plus handicap of +2.4 at Saddleworth having honed his skills at Werneth, will be one of the favourites this time around as he set the course record last year and recently finished an impressive third as an amateur guest in a Lancashire PGA event held at the Mountain Ash course.

Lee’s first win aged 18 has been eclipsed by another three-time winner, C&R’s Gary Melling.

He first won it in 1990 when only 16 and has a 27-year span with his other wins in 1997 and 2017.

He now has his eyes set firmly on the 29-year record span of wins held by Squires.

Melling’s youngest winner record might well be under threat from his own son Daniel.

Daniel (handicap 2.6) is the current Lancashire Under-16 champion and won a nett prize at last year’s district event at Brookdale.

DISTRICT ELITE, l-r, John Barlow (district chairman), Les Lawton, Alan Squires, Linda Newman (Saddleworth lady captain), Mark Riley, Dave Newman (Saddleworth captain), Gary Melling

Saddleworth this time around might be a tough ask but Daniel will still be a younger than his dad if he was to triumph at his home course C&R in 2023.

Last but not least in this parade of champions was current holder Mark Riley.

He has won the last three in 2018, 2019 and 2021 – the gap caused by the Covid pandemic.

Riley has proved an amazing competitor only taking up golf after attending the 1990 Open Golf Championships.

Of his seven wins, he is most proud of a success at Werneth where he was unfancied against a strong home brigade and yet he turned in a 129 total over 36 holes that has never been matched in Werneth’s own club championship.

Riley paid tribute to the Swailes-Squires-Lawton era for laying a bedrock for the competition that the current golfers have a duty to continue.

And he also pointed out how lucky he feels to have won seven times… when such great golfers as Pete Buckley (Brookdale) and Les Dooley (Werneth) have come so close on many occasions without ever getting their names on the coveted trophy.

The five clubs in the Oldham district will have entry forms on their noticeboards. Other clubs within the Oldham and District Golf League are eligible to enter and can send their name, handicap and current CDH number to secretary@saddleworthgolfclub.co.uk. The deadline for entries is Monday, June 20.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.