For the European players competing at next week’s Ryder Cup at The Gleneagles Hotel, qualifying for Paul McGinley’s side was a long and challenging process.
That is something four middle-aged golfers from Yorkshire, who have swapped their clubs for saddles and shorts, as they embark on a gruelling 1,150 mile charity cycle challenge, to which they can relate.
Inspired by a mutual friend who died in 2012, the riders, who are all members of Northcliffe Golf Club near Bradford, have taken to their bikes for the nine-day ‘Tour de Ryder Cup’ challenge, which will take in all 13 Ryder Cup host venues in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
Rider Darren Tordoff, 53, said the Tour de Ryder Cup would be a fitting tribute to their close friend.
“Our good friend Simon lost his battle with skin cancer just two days before Christmas in 2012,” said Tordoff.
“He was a passionate golfer and a friend to all of us. His passing was the inspiration behind the Tour de Ryder Cup and will be what keeps us going on the longest stage of our journey – the 210 miles between Ganton in Scarborough and Muirfield.
“We’ll be thinking of Simon with every turn of the wheel.”
While Europe’s Ryder Cup side is made of stars such as Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, the bikers' team consists of Andy Crowther, Rick Gillgrass, Darren Tordoff and Andrew Walker, with fellow Northcliffe member Mark Heptonstall acting as the team’s tour manager and driver.
The plucky foursome, aged 45 to 53, who are raising funds for Prostate Cancer UK and Melanoma UK, have even incorporated The Ryder Cup playing format into their challenge, switching between riding in foursomes, fourballs and singles, according to the type of route they are facing.
Theyset off from West Yorkshire on Monday September 15 and are following a route which takes in Royal Lytham, Royal Birkdale and Southport and Ainsdale on the north-west coast, before crossing the water to The K Club, in County Kildare.
From there, the golfers proceeded to The Celtic Manor Resort near Newport, host venue for this week’s ISPS Handa Wales Open, where they were greeted by the likes of Ryder Cup legend Lee Westwood.
The hardest part of the route so far was getting to Celtic Manor – it was quite hilly,” said Tordoff. “I have to say, the golf clubs have all been fantastic with accommodating and greeting us.”
Leaving Wales, the team travelled east to Walton Heath and Wentworth, before heading north to The Belfry, Lindrick in Nottinghamshire and Moortown near Leeds.
On September 21, they will arrive at Ganton on the north Yorkshire coast before tackling the gruelling 220-mile stage to Scotland, taking in Muirfield before arriving at Gleneagles for the start of this year’s Ryder Cup.
En route, the quartet are collecting pin flags from all 13 UK and Ireland Ryder Cup host venues, which they hope to present to the Ryder Cup teams when they reach Gleneagles.The Tour de Ryder Cup is being entirely self-funded and has already raised around £12,000 for its twin charities. The challenge was inspired by the death of the riders’ mutual friend and fellow golfer Simon Ashdown who, aged 50, lost his battle with Melanoma in December 2012.