Teenage Trophy winner heads bill in a vintage year on Fylde
IT'S been an eventful year on the Fylde coast scene, and pride of place in terms of personal achievement must go to Matthew Haines for his spot of history-making at Royal Lytham and St Annes in May.
At the same time Lancashire golf can look on 2008 with plenty of pride after success in a range of national and regional team competitions.
At 18, Haines became the youngest ever winner of the Lytham Trophy, England's premier amateur strokeplay competition.
Haines maintained a level head in tough conditions on the final day of the four round competition, as he saw off the challenge of his England team-mate Dale Whitnell, who was runner-up.
Both players fired closing rounds of 70 at Royal Lytham, but Haines kept his nose in front to win by a stroke with a four-round total of 284, four over par.
The victory was Haines's third significant title in little over a year and the teenager from Kent is obviously a name to note for the future.
At Royal Lytham, Haines opened with 68, including an eagle-two at the par four 10th, but found himself in a tie for fifth place, two shots behind fellow England boy cap Luke Goddard, from Middlesex.
A difficult second day was reflected in higher scoring, but Haines maintained his challenge with 72 only to slip three behind Goddard.
However, while Goddard fell back on the final day, Haines kept his composure to claim the trophy.
Meantime, Lancashire men's team completed an unbeaten season when they won the English County finals at Hollinwell, Nottinghamshire in September.
In the round robin event they defeated Hampshire, Wiltshire and Leicestershire to follow on their unbeaten run in winning the Northern divisional championship.
Earlier, the Red Rose county completed an unbeaten season when they defeated Northumberland 10-8 at Gosforth Golf Club in August to win the Daily Telegraph Northern Counties League by a clear-cut margin.
If the present-day crop of players are doing Lancashire proud, then the future looks set fair as well.
Lancashire Boys won the Northern title and then travelled down to a wild and windy Royal North Devon Golf Club to finish third in the national finals.
The James Brearley Lancashire Open was held once more at Blackpool North Shore and victory went to John Cheetham, of Marriott Worsley Park, who made light of the course to shoot superb scores of 66 and 67 for an emphatic win.
There was another milestone at Royal Lytham.
Barry Taylor, of Houghwood, won the Lancashire PGA Matchplay Championship there, making it a record four successes – he beat Craig Corrigan 4 and 2 in the decider.
Fleetwood Golf Club's Glyn Rees turned the Welsh Seniors Championship at Aberdovey into something that resembled a procession.
It's not many golfers who can lay claim to winning a title by a dozen shots, but that is just what Rees did in taking the Welsh event.
At the other end of the age scale, Jenna Birch, from Fleetwood and now a member at Royal Lytham and St Annes, was the Fylde Coast's best golfing export – by some way.
She travelled all the way to Brazil to take part in the final of the Nick Faldo Series and finished in runners-up spot in a global field.
Jenna may well have won it but for putting her ball out of bounds at a vital stage. For whatever reason, this area has been slow in producing up-and-coming young female talent – it is certainly not for the want of trying by some clubs and dedicated individuals.
Jenna will be looking to maintain her progress in 2009.
The Gazette/Easthams Championship made a return to the calendar, with Stuart Priestley, of St Annes Old Links, defeating Kit Harper-Allen, of Knott End, in the decider at Royal Birkdale, where earlier in the year Padraig Harrington had retained the Claret Jug.
Priestley's prize was a VIP golf trip to Loch Lomond.
The Fylde Scratch League was won by Blackpool North Shore, one of whose members Dean Moseley won the Fylde Amateur Championship.
The Scratch League Matchplay Championship went to Clark Windross, of St Annes Old Links, while youngsters from Old Links won the Fylde Junior Scratch Championship.
The sport as a whole can end the year on an upbeat note.
The number of adults in England who regularly play golf has risen significantly over the past two years, according to new research.
The results of Sport England's Active People Survey Two shows that 948,000 people aged 16 and over play golf at least once a week.
That's an increase of 59,000 since the first Active People Survey was commissioned two years ago.
It means that golf is the fourth-fastest growing sport in England behind athletics, cycling and football.
Maybe the 2009 Women's British Open at Royal Lytham in 2009 will inspire a good few more.