Leeds Castle made history on Thursday 5th June when the Ryder Cup trophy returned to the Castle, in Kent, for the first time in 77 years as part of the golf course’s first 9 hole Pro-Am Tournament. 2014 seems to be the year when new Pro-Am formats are coming to the fore and a new event at Leeds Castle was yet another: a 9 hole Pro-Am. To make it genuinely unique, the Ryder Cup trophy was on display in the Castle Dining Room for visitors to view.
The Leeds Castle Pro-Am supported by Arkas Limited is believed to be the first nine-holes-only Pro-Am format in the region, it celebrated the ongoing redesign and re-launch of the golf course at the historic Leeds Castle. However, the venue’s links to the Ryder Cup in fact go back to the 1930s, so Chief Executive of The PGA Sandy Jones was the guest of honour for the day with the Ryder Cup in attendance.
Twenty pairs were made up with one PGA Professional and one amateur. Sandy Jones and Leeds Castle Foundation Chairman, Niall Dickson, also participated. The First Placed Better Ball Team was Benn Barham from P Golf Coaching at Pedham and Mr A Church. The Best Individual Professional was David Green from Wildernesse Golf Club.
Shane Guy, Head of Tourism for Leeds Castle Foundation commented: “Does golf get any better than this? Twenty of the regions Pros and twenty amateurs, a course in great condition and the backdrop of ‘the loveliest castle in the world’, all supported by the Professional Golfers Association and the Ryder Cup! The event was a great success and I’d like to thank Sandy Jones, Chief Executive of the PGA, for attending and making the dreams of many golfers come true.”
Alan Walker, PGA Professional, Past Captain of The PGA and Golf Consultant, has been overseeing the redesign and renovation programme of the nine hole golf course at Leeds Castle: “Sir Guy Campbell did a terrific job originally,” he said, “but like many courses, golf equipment and new technology have meant that it’s become necessary to look at how the course can be updated successfully, retaining all the best things about it while enhancing the challenge for the modern golfer. I think the new Pro-Am will be a terrific way to prove that we’re achieving all that and more.”
The par 33, 2,681 yard course was originally built on the 500 acre Leeds Castle Estate in 1931 by Sir Guy Campbell of West Sussex GC fame. Benefitting from its recent update by Alan Walker, combined with the maturity of the Kent parkland surrounding Leeds Castle, the nine hole course provides both challenging and spectacular holes from start to finish.
Steve Purves, Leeds Castle’s own PGA Professional and Golf Manager commented: “It was an honour to have the Ryder Cup visit Leeds Castle on this our first PGA Pro-Am. The course at Leeds Castle is currently undergoing a major investment project to restore it back to its former glory when the Ryder Cup last came to visit in 1937 with the USA Ryder Cup team.”
Of course, Leeds Castle itself is famous for all sorts of other reasons. It has been a Norman stronghold; it was the private property of six of England’s medieval queens and it has been a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. The 900 year old Castle has gone through many architectural styles from Jacobean country house to a Georgian mansion and then an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous.
In the 21st century, Leeds Castle has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain. Its links to the Ryder Cup are by way of the Castle being the place where both the 1933 and 1937 US Ryder Cup Team Professionals stayed while they were playing in the event in the UK.
The Leeds Castle Pro-Am with the Ryder Cup was supported by Arkas Limited, thinkzest, A Parkes Construction and Cliffe Enterprise and is likely to become an annual event.
Leeds Castle Golf www.leeds-castle.com/golf