Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Whipping Boys Durham Could Be Leaders of the Pack This Year

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Whipping Boys Durham Could Be Leaders of the Pack This Year

Article excerpt

DURHAM started the season as the whipping boys of the Northern Counties League, having won once since June of 2006 with even that victory achieved because of a result distorted in a match shortened by rain.

Yet if James Handy's team beat Cheshire at Durham City on Saturday - and Northumberland lose against Yorkshire at Whitley Bay - Durham will go top of the table with one fixture to play. The 100% personal league record of Whickham teenager James Simpson has been a factor in the transformation during Handy's third season as captain, as has a more general effect now being felt from the long-term coaching programme devised by Andrew Nicholson, from the David Leadbetter Academy at Wynyard.

Better and younger players has been the theme, which makes the return of 43-year-old David Innes to Saturday's team all the more dramatic.

Less than two weeks ago Innes won the Durham County matchplay championship for the second time. It is over five years since he last played for Durham and ten years since his first county matchplay title. His more recent triumph came at Dinsdale Spa, where he beat Michael Curry - twice a winner of the county strokeplay championship - at the 20th in the final.

Curry, always a calming influence on the Durham County league side, even in the times when they couldn't win a raffle, has enjoyed his own tonic going into Saturday's big match.

Last weekend, he led his club, Brancepeth Castle, to victory in the County Clubs Championship.

Playing his own course, Curry shot 65 followed by 74 to win the individual competition and Brancepeth now go on to represent their county in the national finals at the Woodbridge club in Suffolk next month.

But for three putting three times in the first round, Curry would have broken the Brancepeth course record of 64, on one of the toughest tracks in the country. A week earlier against Innes, Curry lost the first hole of the final, drew level at the next and was never behind again until when it mattered most, the second hole of sudden death.

Innes said: "Michael is a really good player, he had been two up with seven to play and I felt for him. …

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