Lee Westwood has been announced as the tournament host for the 2017 British Masters supported by Sky Sports, with the Englishman choosing Close House, near Newcastle upon Tyne, as the venue from September 28-October 1.
It will be the first time a European Tour tournament has been held at Close House, the club which the Ryder Cup legend has been attached to as the Tour Professional since 2011.
Westwood succeeds Luke Donald in the role following the success of last week’s event at The Grove where he finished third, meaning for the second consecutive year the host of the British Masters will be a former World Number One.
“I’m delighted to announce that I will be taking over as host of the British Masters from Luke next year,” said Westwood.
“I’m well connected with Close House, and I’m sure it will be a fantastic test of golf for the players coming up to the North East. The British Masters is back on the map and we should try to move it around the country a bit and let as many people as possible see it. We’ve not had a tournament up there for a few years now, even north of Birmingham, so it will be great to take the British Masters to Newcastle which has been missing a big tournament.
“Close House is not the longest golf course but it’s tricky in places, quite tight, and very undulating. The wind can come in to play a lot, as you would expect in the North East. There’s a little bit of water on the golf course as well, which keeps it interesting.
“I’ve got a few tweaks in mind for the golf course, putting a few bunkers in, taking a few out, putting a few tees in and everything is already under way. I was at the golf course the other day and you could probably hold the tournament there now. It’s always in fantastic condition, so I’m sure the players will enjoy it.”
Westwood was a former winner of the British Masters in the tournament’s first spell on the European Tour, claiming the title at The Belfry in 2007 and then narrowly missing out on successfully defending the title 12 months later when he lost in a play-off to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño at the same venue.
The ten-time Ryder Cup player has featured in both editions of the event since it returned to the European Tour schedule in 2015, finishing just three shots behind winner Alex Noren at The Grove last week. Having observed Ian Poulter and Donald embrace the hosting role, he is now looking forward to building on some of the innovations that have been introduced aimed at appealing to a new audience, such as the Hero Challenge, a new one-hole shootout, which made its debut under the lights at The Grove, and Sky Sports Thursday which offered 20,000 fans the opportunity to attend for free.
Westwood said: “I think golf needs innovative things like that to draw in kids and people who maybe don’t think that golf is the game for them. We’ve got to jazz golf up and make it cool. Sky Sports work hard with the European Tour all year round, but they’ve put their name to this tournament, and as players, we appreciate their involvement to a greater degree during British Masters week.
“It’s good to see innovation and I’m sure the European Tour and Sky have a lot more in store for us next year at Close House.”
Keith Pelley, The European Tour’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are delighted to have yet another wonderful ambassador, and another former World Number One, take on the role of tournament host and I’m certain Lee Westwood will continue the success of the British Masters supported by Sky Sports since it returned to our schedule two years ago.
“Lee has made a huge contribution to the European Tour over the past 20 years, and we are all really looking forward to working with him and Sky Sports to make next year’s British Masters something special. Ian and Luke have both really enjoyed the role and each player brought so much to the event, and it is great that Lee is taking the British Masters to a different part of the country so even more fans can see the stars of the European Tour.”
Barney Francis, Sky Sports’ Managing Director said: “There’s huge momentum behind the British Masters and it’s become a really important part of the golf calendar. Everyone is working hard to encourage more people into golf and taking the event to the North East with Lee Westwood hosting, is the next chapter in that story.”
Close House, a country estate near Heddon-on-the-Wall, boasts two 18-hole courses. The British Masters will be played on the ‘Lee Westwood Colt Course’ which was designed by Edinburgh based, New Zealand-born Scott Macpherson and opened in May 2011**.
Scott Macpherson told GBN, “It is really exciting for me that my first solo design in the UK is set to host the British Masters. The theme of the course is based on the design styles of Harry Colt. I visited 43 Colt courses before finishing the plans for each of the 18 holes, and think the course now has a genuine olde English look and feel complete with classic Colt strategies. Each hole on the course plays in the different direction to the previous hole, and combines with regular elevation and fairway width change to keep golfers thinking. With mildly contoured greens that often sit at an angle to the line of play, the result is a shot maker’s course where ball control – spin and trajectory – are key to scoring well.
“Set on a south facing slope amongst trees – many of which are over 100 years old – I am looking forward to seeing some of the best players in the world compete on the course. Certainly the course has been beautifully maintained by the Head Greenkeeper, Brian Clark, and his team since it opened, and I expect it will be in excellent condition come the British Masters.”
Graham Wylie, owner of Close House, said: “We are very excited to have the British Masters next year. The North East loves its sport, but we don’t get that many events, so when we do, people support them in tremendous fashion.
“To have the British Master next year will be fantastic not just for Close House, but for the whole region. We are grateful that Sky Sports are supporting the event and Lee Westwood is a great ambassador for the sport, as well as being our Close House Tour Professional, so we are delighted he has chosen Close House to host the British Masters and we will put on a great event for him”
** Footnote: earlier editions of this article wrongly attributed the course design to Harry Colt. We apologise for this error and the misunderstandings that it has caused.
European Tour www.europeantour.com
Close House http://closehouse.com/