NEIL BONNAR: Golf is criticised for being elitist, but that is not my experience

Liam Ball, Glynn Evans (president) and Gareth Hastie

Liam Ball, Glynn Evans (president) and Gareth Hastie

First published in Sport

YOU don’t have to go to Brazil to see top-level sport.

If you know where to look you can find it right here in Bolton.

Last week was the Bolton Golf Championships – one of my favourite competitions even though this year was the first time I have actually watched it live. I love the history of it and have a lot of time for the people who make it happen.

This year was the 78th time it has been held since the Bolton Golf Association was formed and took over the running of it in 1931.

A competition to find Bolton’s best golfer existed before that, from 1913 to 1931 with a little break in between, carrying the Ronseal-type title of Bolton’s Best Golfer.

That’s a whole load of history, the latest instalment of which featured almost 100 players from Bolton’s 14 clubs, who played on the Saturday to try to qualify for the Tuesday-to-Thursday knockout stages.

There was drama all the way with the eight qualifiers competing on Tuesday, the last four on Wednesday and the two finalists on Thursday.

Golf sometimes gets criticised for being elitist, but that’s not my experience. I’m working class and don’t play golf, just the sort of person many people say golf looks down its nose at. Again, not in my experience.

The people I deal with at the BGA are some of the most friendly, helpful and committed I come across in my line of work. And the people who play seem no different.

The winner of this year’s tournament was Liam Ball, and talking to him at the end again suggested this is no elitist sport.

The 24-year-old is a labourer who works for a builder Monday to Friday and grabs the chance to play his sport on a Saturday morning with his mates at Turton Golf Club.

It was his second Bolton Golf Championship triumph, two behind the number of titles held by the man he beat in Thursday’s final, Gareth Hastie.

The thing about golf is they do things the traditional way. The speeches invariably acknowledge the presence of the captain, lady captain, Mr President, fellow players, club members, ladies and gentlemen etc. But what’s wrong with that? Tradition and politeness are good things.

So is the Bolton Golf Championship, which next year takes place at Turton Golf Club, 102 years after the town’s first tournament to find Bolton’s best golfer.

I’ll be there, hopefully so will many of you because, like so much of our sport in Bolton, it’s well worth supporting.

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