Order of Merit events scheduled

THERE are five Order of Merit events on the PGA East Region schedule this year with two new venues, Woolston Manor and Blakes, taking the place of East Herts and Braintree.

THERE are five Order of Merit events on the PGA East Region schedule this year with two new venues, Woolston Manor and Blakes, taking the place of East Herts and Braintree.

It is a pity to lose such excellent venues at East Herts, with all those marvellous trees, and Braintree whose course at Stisted Park is a delight.

I have never been to Woolston Manor or Blakes, both in south Essex, so I checked on the internet as to what they have to offer.

Woolston Manor, where the OOM event will be on May 9 and 10, was founded in 1994 and used to be called Epping Forest Golf and Country Club. The par 6435 yard 72 course is on either side of the River Roding.

Paul Barham, who won East Region OOM events at Nazeing in 2001 and Ufford Park in 2002, is the director of golf.

Blakes is the new home of the region's most prestigious event, the East Anglian Open, which has such famous past winners as Brian Huggett, Reg Knight, Laurie Ayton, Eddie Whitcombe, Lionel Platts, Harry Flatman and Ian Poulter.

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Blakes is an ambitious new club near North Weald. It was designed by Howard Swan and is described as “an inland links course which will develop into one of the top courses in Essex.” The general manager is PGA professional Dominic Eagle, perhaps the way forward for clubs in the present climate. The East Anglian Open is to be played June 26 and 27, the third OOM event of the year.

The PGA East Region Championship is, as usual, at Nazeing on May 23 and 24.

The Bush Hill Park order of merit will be on July 9 and 10. The season will be completed by the Motorclean Golf Classic at Stock Brook Golf and Country Club on August 15 and 16.

The qualifying school, open to the top 100 players otherwise not exempt from the 2006 Order of Merit, will be over 36 holes at Bishop's Stortford on March 26 and 27.

There will be a prize fund to 50th place and all those players will gain full exemption to 2007 Order of Merit events.

Others, together with new members and trainees, will have to compete in the five pre-qualifiers to be staged in April.

Benton Hall at Witham, home of the Essex Golf Union, hosts the East qualifier for the Powerade PGA Assistants event on June 18. This event has been at Panshanger in recent years.

The PGA East Region Trainees' Championship also has a new venue, North Weald, on August 8.

There are four two-day classics (an amateur and professional playing foursomes or greensomes one day and a better ball the second day) which have proved immensely popular.

It starts on the North Norfolk coast with foursomes at Hunstanton and better ball at King's Lynn. This Searles Spring Classic is a traditional pipe-opener for the season on April 12 and 13.

The PGA Golf Pages Summer Classic is at Royal Cromer and Sheringham on July 31 and August 1. Last year there was freak weather, especially on the second day when both my umbrellas blew inside out and were rendered useless. Let's hope for better luck this year.

There is a new event on September 17 and 18 at Felixstowe Ferry and Rushmere. It is to be called the PGS City Golf Classic and is sure to be well supported.

The final event is the Design Portfolio Marketing Services PGA Autumn Classic at Aldeburgh and Thorpeness on October 4 and 5.

The PGA East Region entry books are still at the printers but should be posted later this week.

Pro-ams of special interest are at Braintree (June 6), Haverhill (July 6), Colchester (July 27), Fynn Valley (August 20) and Links Newmarket (August 23).