In his 95-years golf nut Bill Allchurch has found himself in the rough more than he’d hoped but it’s never stopped him swinging.
Bill, from Brandon, County Durham, faced down German Panser tanks in Normandy on D-Day as a paratrooper during World War Two.
He was captured and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, the Luftwaffe run POW camp, before escaping the advance of the Russian Army in 1945 to reach safety in Czechoslovakia.
The lifelong golf fanatic was honoured yesterday morning at his home club, Ramside Hall Hotel and Golf Club, when he was asked to strike the first shot to open a new £3m golf course.
Bill’s ceremonial drive off the 1st tee of the new Ramside Cathedral Course marked the opening of Britain’s newest 18-hole championship golf course.
His wife Joyce, 81, also teed off to officially open the course for Ladies. They have played golf for a combined 119 years after taking it up when Bill left the Army in 1954.
Helen Roseberry, director of golf at Ramside Golf Club, said: “Bill Allchurch and his wife Joyce are loved by everyone here at Ramside and we could not think of a more fitting person to open our new golf course than Bill.
They were our first members to join when we opened in 1995 and until recently Bill was still taking golf lessons, playing three or four times a week and always trying to improve his swing.
He was still caddying for members of the club’s league team every Tuesday night right up until his 90th birthday.”
Bill is an honorary member at Ramside Golf Club, along with Joyce and former Newcastle United managers – the late Bobby Robson – and Kevin Keegan, and has been desperate to see the Cathedral Course open for play.
Bill, said: “I’ve always loved golf, my entire life, and I’m convinced it’s helped me live so long. Ramside is my golfing home and I’ve been so excited to see this new course open and what an honour to hit the first shot.”
The opening of the brand new Cathedral Course is the first phase of a £15m development underway at Ramside which will see a luxury spa, health club, gymnasium, swimming pool and 47 new hotel bedrooms open in Spring 2015 at the four star resort.
Parent company Ramside Estates Ltd estimate the development will create more than 100 new jobs and generate an additional £11m of spend in the Durham visitor economy annually.
Ramside Estates Ltd currently employs 550 people and visitors to Ramside Hall Hotel bring around £2.67m into the North East economy each year.
John Adamson, Ramside Estates director, said: “I’d like to thank Bill for supporting Ramside today and driving in a new era for our hotel and golf resort.
There are now 36 holes of championship golf at Ramside offering an exciting risk and reward golf experience in a stunning setting on the doorstep of Durham City.
Our goal is for members, visitors and hotel guests to see Ramside as the place to play golf and spend their leisure time in North East England.”
The Cathedral Course at Ramside, designed by Jonathan Gaunt of Gaunt Golf Design, is now open for play to club members, the general public and golf societies.