I owe a great debt to Yorkshire, says Marsh

Huddersfield GC's Nick Marsh with the English Men's Amateur championship trophy (Picture: Leaderboard Photography).
Huddersfield GC's Nick Marsh with the English Men's Amateur championship trophy (Picture: Leaderboard Photography).

IT IS pure serendipity that Huddersfield Golf Club’s Nick Marsh will get to defend his English Men’s Amateur championship in his home county, starting on Monday.

Alwoodley GC and Pannal GC will jointly host the stroke play phase of the competition, with all 288 competitors playing a round on each of the courses.

Huddersfield GC member and Yorkshire county player Nick Marsh pictured during last year's English Men's Amateur championship final at Saunton (Picture: Leaderbaord Photography).

Huddersfield GC member and Yorkshire county player Nick Marsh pictured during last year's English Men's Amateur championship final at Saunton (Picture: Leaderbaord Photography).

The top 64 and ties will then progress to the match play stage, which will be held solely at Alwoodley and culminate a week today in a 36-hole final.

Venues are chosen years in advance, and 20-year-old Marsh is grateful and proud that the title of English champion, which he won all the way down at Saunton GC, in Devon, will accompany him on to the tee at Alwoodley little more than a 30-minute drive from home.

Marsh’s gratitude stems from not facing a gruelling drive and a stay away from home, his pride in being able to fly the flag for Yorkshire as champion on home soil.

As an England champion, international and Walker Cup candidate – Tuesday and Wednesday this week he was with Great Britain & Ireland’s provisional squad for training days at Royal Lytham ahead of the team’s selection – his chances to wear the White Rose team badge are limited.

But when we meet at his home club of Huddersfield, he is quick both to acknowledge the role the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs has played in his progress to a place among the country’s elite amateur players, and heap praise on all the officials for their understanding that other events assume priority over the county competitions which helped forge the match play skills which served him so well in Devon.

“I owe a great deal to Yorkshire and all the people involved,” he says. “They have been fantastic to me and to my progression in golf at both Yorkshire and national level and I could never thank them enough for all that they have done.

“I love playing for Yorkshire – there is great banter between the guys and I love going away as there is such a tremendous team spirit and great team morale – but when dates clash, unfortunately we have to decide what and where we play.”

The ‘we’ referred to are himself and father David, who will – as he did last year – caddy for Marsh during this year’s English Amateur championship.

A professional golfer, his duties also extend to chauffeur and diary organiser.

As England Golf’s champion, Marsh has been an able and amiable standard bearer, playing in events not just in the United Kingdom but also in Europe.

Only recently, he was unable to play for Yorkshire in their Northern Counties Union League match at Ilkley because he was on England duty in Sweden in the European Team Championships.

“Yorkshire pump a lot of money into academies to help young players like myself progress and get better, but when they do obviously get bigger and better they want to play in bigger and better national events,” he explains.

“When dates clash I am always stuck between a rock and a hard place as to who to go and play for.

“I would love to always go and play for Yorkshire because they’ve been so good to players like me, but the alternative is often to go and play abroad in big events that we want – and need – to play for ourselves. I think you just have to try to find a balance because eventually when you turn professional (which is his aim) I will just be playing for myself.

“Amateur golf involves a lot of team events and it is lovely to play team events, but when you turn pro it’s just about yourself.

“I think those involved in Yorkshire amateur golf understand that.”

At Saunton he finished second in the stroke play qualifying having shot a four-under-par aggregate for the two rounds.

He was one of only four England internationals to have reached the match play stage, and his team-mates quickly fell by the wayside.

This elevated him to the position of favourite, the man expected to deliver overall success, but he was not fazed, not even when facing Jake Burnage, from the host club, in the quarter-finals.

“We had a very good game,” he recalls. “I think I had two people supporting me and there were 25 or 30 supporting him.

“There was that element I had to think about, but I just tried to let my golf do the talking

“In those situations you have to control the controllables, which is what I tried to do.

“You never wish bad luck or a bad shot on anyone; you like to think you’re man enough to beat them with your own play.

“I remember that match in particular as it was one of the best of the week.

“He eagled the 15th to get himself back to two down with three to play and we both hit it in the semi-rough on the 16th.

“He got a flier and airmailed the green by about 30 yards into really thick rough.

“I knew what I had to do then and got on the green about 20 to 25ft away at the front of the green. He chipped on and I rolled it up to a couple of inches and then, when he missed his putt, we were shaking hands.”

Marsh’s memories of the 36-hole final against Hampshire’s Scott Gregory get hazier towards its conclusion.

“I was one up through 18 and then started birdie-eagle-birdie-par and got to four up,” he says.

“Then Scott threw a couple of birdies at me and I made a bogey as well and he got it back to two and then I birdied eight and got it back to three...”

At this point, his voice trails off as he tries to bring the match’s conclusion to mind, admitting that the excitement of it has obscured the details, other than the elation he felt when the players shook hands with the Huddersfield member a 2&1 winner – and a national champion.

The English Amateur championship is one of three individual events bringing a close to Marsh’s packed 2015 schedule.

It will be followed by the European championship, at Penati Golf Resort, Slovakia, from August 5-8 and then the 
US Amateur at Olympia Fields, August 17-23, a US Open venue near Chicago which is celebrating its centenary year.

Much though he is looking forward to flying to Illinois for the latter, he hopes it does not draw down the curtain on his season as a whole.

The Great Britain & Ireland team to face the USA at Royal Lytham in September is due to be announced next month.

Playing in what is the amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup is the pinnacle of achievement for an amateur in this country and Marsh would love to be selected.

However, having his name placed on a trophy which includes that of six-time major winner Nick Faldo, among others, means he has already made an indelible mark on the world of amateur golf.