CASTLEROCK Golf Club will host the 10th Mark Ryder Cup this week.
The bi-annual tournament between Castlerock and Tyneside Golf Club’s junior golfers celebrates the memory of a talented young golfer who was a member at both clubs.
Little more than 18 months after the death of 20-year old Mark Ryder (pictured above), the special youth tournament was organised and 20 years on it remains a unique golfing event.
Mark died in August 1991 following a brave battle with cancer.
He was the 1990 Tyneside club champion and had just got his handicap down to scratch in his last competitive outing before his illness.
In 1988, Mark scored a record breaking 65 at Tyneside but sadly the score was not officially recognised for record purposes as work was being carried out on the 7th tee.
His father George said: “Mark began playing golf at the age of nine to ten and like most kids he was pretty good at ball games and the one game he had some talent in was golf.
“He progressed pretty quickly and as far as the background to the Mark Ryder Cup is concerned, whilst on holiday in Spain when Mark was about 12, he played in a competition over three courses and two of the days he played with a gentleman called Jack Wilton.
“On the final night, Jack told me he had really enjoyed playing with Mark and would I allow him to come to Ireland the following year to play golf.
“The following April, Mark received a junior membership for Castlerock Golf Club. That year Mark went to Ireland during his summer holidays and after that spent every summer there until he died.
“Jack and June Wilton virtually became second parents and consequently our two families got to know each other very well.
“The year he won the club championship here at Tyneside he immediately went over to Ireland and played in the Northern Ireland Amateur, initially a stroke play competition with a cut followed by a match play knockout.
“Mark got through eventually to the last 16 and I can vividly remember ringing him up and asking how he got on to which he replied ‘I lost 3&2 against a big fat kid who hit the ball out of sight’ and that was Darren Clarke!
“Following his death, Jack told me he wanted to start a youth competition in memory of Mark at Castlerock - The Mark Ryder Trophy became one of the most important youth tournaments in Northern Ireland.
“Following its success it was then decided to have a home and away fixture between the juniors of Tyneside and Castlerock - called the Mark Ryder Cup.”
Allen Kelly of Castlerock’s Junior section has fond memories of Mark.
“Mark was a fantastic lad and a great golfer,” he told Times Sport.
“Every time he came back you would notice an improvement in his game.
“We all work very hard to keep his memory alive through this fantastic tournament.
“It is a fantastic social event for the young lads and it’s always played in a great spirit.
“It has a similiar feel to the actual Ryder Cup, and the young lads just love taking part in it.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped make the event grow stronger year-on-year.”
The host team has won the tournament in every year since its inception, so Tyneside arrive on the North Coast as holders.
In the last tournament in 2009 Tyneside got off to a great start on the first day winning four out of the six fourball matches to take a 4-2 lead. The afternoon session saw a reversal of fortunes with the Castlerock team hitting back and taking four points to level the score at 6-6.
Miserable weather greeted the players for the start of the second day and both teams shared the honours in the morning foursomes.
With the score standing at nine points each, it was all down to the singles and as the weather improved, spectators were treated to some quality golf from both teams.
The Tyneside players pulled out all the stops and with their home advantage, six wins and three halved matches resulted in a Tyneside victory by 16-13 points.
The Mark Ryder Cup will be played at Castlerock Golf Club this Friday and Saturday.