By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Rockliffe Hall
North east native John Harrison was afforded the honour of being shown round his cherished Middlesbrough Football Club’s Rockliffe Hall training complex on the eve of the English Senior Open.
The Championship club and this week’s host venue are both owned by entrepreneur Steve Gibson, with the football team’s £7million training facility located alongside the links which will this week host the Senior Tour’s finest.
Lifelong Middlesbrough supporter Harrison was taken on a tour of the complex, from practice pitches to the boot room, watched the first team go through its rigorous training schedule and even had chance to put a few balls – of a different size to what he is used to on the golf course – in the net himself.
“I’ve followed Middlesbrough for many, many years now,” said Harrison, who won the 2009 Qualifying School to claim his Senior Tour playing privileges.
“I came over to the north east from Cumbria as a young assistant in 1978 and on those cold Saturday afternoons started going to watch the Boro.
“Ever since then I’ve been a big fan. I had my season ticket for many years and my sons are Middlesbrough supporters too so this is great.”
Harrison is one of three local players to be contesting this week’s English Senior Open in County Durham as Roger Roper, who is attached to Rockliffe Hall, and Graeme Bell also vie for supremacy in the £200,000 event.
Home comforts and the support of friends and family could provide extra stimulation, as Harrison attests.
“It’s always brilliant to stay at home,” Harrison continued. “We always had it with Slaley Hall when we played the (ISPS Handa) PGA Seniors Championship there and that was great and this is the same.
“It’s a great golf course, a great venue and it’s good to have a few of us local guys playing too.
“You are always going to get at least a dozen, fifteen people that are going to come and watch you and even the local people from this golf club are going to be there, wanting the likes of me, Roger or Graeme to play well.
“They are going to want to support the local pros and that does help; it just makes it a little bit more exciting playing on your doorstep.”
Harrison, however, will be hoping to fare better on the course this week than his beloved Boro have on the pitch in recent times, having won once, drawn six and lost three times in the ten matches so far this campaign.