“A DREAM come true”: That is what playing a round of golf with Europe’s Ryder Cup winning captain José María Olazábal meant to Dewsbury amateur Rick Towler, writes Mark Berry.
Towler, from Thornhill Edge and a greens chairman at Dewsbury Golf Club, met the triumphant Olazábal as a reward for winning the Nespresso Trophy UK Challenge in September.
In partnership with his brother-in-law John Norrey, Towler, 56, won both the regional and national rounds of the four-ball betterball amateur pairs tournament and as a result, travelled to Spain to play a round of golf with the man who inspired Europe to their sensational fight-back victory at Medinah Country Club in September.
The superb Real Golf Club de San Sebastian, in Fuenterrabia, was a fitting venue for the finalé to the tournament, being the course where Olazábal learned to play as a child.
And Towler’s sensational journey to Spain ended with him receiving a signed JMO putter from the Ryder Cup hero after posting the lowest gross score of the competition.
The Dewsbury man was also able to pick-up valuable tips from Olazábal and share the Spaniard’s memories of a glittering career and the drama of Medinah.
Towler and Norrey’s started their journey to the tournament finals with victory in a regional selection round at Woburn Golf Club, in Bedfordshire, last June, but booked their flights to Spain with a nail-biting win in the national finals at the prestigious Archerfield Links course, near Edinburgh, in September.
The achievement is still sinking in for Towler, who said: “Entry to the competition was by ballot so we were very lucky to even get in.
“We went into both rounds just hoping to play well so we were stunned to find out we had won.
“In Scotland we realised we had a chance going into the final six holes and that’s when nerves started to kick in.
“We were struggling at the end but we held on and only later found out that we had won on count-back.”
Towler and Norrey received their national winners’ trophy from another Ryder Cup hero, Europe’s 1995 winning skipper Bernard Gallagher.
However, it was the meeting with Olazábal that excited Towler who, before flying out to Spain, said: “I watched the Ryder Cup at Medinah and there must be so many stories for him to tell.”
Hanging Heaton Golf Club results
Fourball stableford competition
Div 1: Winners: S Minto and S Shuttleworth 44pts. Runners-up: D Ormsby and G Lockwood 42pts.
Div 2: Winners: A Bland and A Marshall 44pts. Runners-up: Carl Whiteley and R Broadent 41pts.
66 couples competed.