Golf professional Michael Skelton is taking advantage of a few practice rounds in preparationfor his return to competition in the Integral Collection Classic at Hunley Golf Club next week (Sept 14-16).
The 27-year-old, from Marske, East Cleveland, developed his love of the game on the greens at Hunley and still considers it his local course, so is thrilled to see the international Europro tournament hosted there from Wednesday. Hunley Golf Club, which sits on the cliffs overlooking the coast at Brotton, near Saltburn, is hosting the penultimate event in the annual Europro tour after being recommended as a high quality course to the PGA and tour organisers Matchroom Sport Limited.
About 156 professional competitors will take part in the three-day event on the championship Morgans Course, before the leading 50 competitors head to Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus for the final.
It will be the first time in two years that Michael has competed in a golf tournament and the fact that such a prestigious event is being held at his local club is making his return to competition even sweeter.
Michael, who represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup against the Americans in 2003, and won European titles as a junior, said: “I am very excited to be competing again after a break from tournaments, and the fact that the Europro is being held at Hunley – the club I am so fond of – is just incredible for me.
“Hunley holds so many great memories because it is where I first started playing when I was just ten, so I know the courses like the back of my hand.
“In a way, this is a comeback to competitions for me, but I am not trying to think about positions or how well I play, I am just going to go out and enjoy it. My dad is going to be caddying for me, so I know we will have a great time and will just relish every second.”
Michael said he had deliberately taken a break from competing, but has continued to play every week and now feels ready for a return.
“Who knows, it may lead to a fresh start in my golfing career,” he added.
“It depends on so many more things than just playing well in the tournament next week, but it certainly could spark a comeback.
“I am excited. Maybe I will get back into regular tournaments, or perhaps I will look at the possibility of coaching. We will just see what happens and how I feel.”
The prize fund for the Hunley event will be £40,000, with the winner scooping a £10,000 pay packet.
However, the greatest prize goes to those who finish in the top five of the order of merit at the end of the year – which is graduation to the Challenge Tour – which is only second to the main European tour.
Players will be battling for those top five places next week as the Europro tour nears an end.
Michael has come very close to that prize in the past. In 2006 he was leading the Europro Tour going into the final round, however a poor last round saw him finish down the field and out of the top five positions.
His confidence dented, the following 18-months was mixed with both success and disappointment, so in 2009 he decided to up sticks and move to London, where he has been working for an independent fashion label.
“Being a professional golfer at this level is difficult and very expensive, especially if you are not playing so well, so I know what hard work it is for all of these players on the tour,” added Michael.
“The views are amazing at Hunley, though, and the course has its challenges, so I am sure everyone competing next week will really enjoy it, and I know Hunley will put on a great event.”
Hunley Chief Executive Elliot Hamilton said he was thrilled that the Integral Collection Classic was being hosted by Hunley.
“We are delighted to have been invited to take part by the PGA, along with some of the most prestigious clubs in Britain and Ireland,” said Elliot.
“This competition is fast developing a reputation for producing some great young players and entertaining golf, so we hope the local community will take advantage of this golden opportunity to witness first hand this prestigious event being held on their doorstep.
“Entry is free for members of the public and we know they won’t be disappointed by the talent on show. Some big names have started out on the Europro tour and we are sure some of the stars of tomorrow will be at Hunley next week.”
The Integral Collection Classic all day events will begin on Wednesday of next week (Sept 14), with competitors teeing off between 7.30am and 2.14pm. The gripping conclusion is expected to reach its climax late on Friday afternoon, with the finalists being announced at around 5pm.
Entry to the tournament is free for spectators, but to guarantee your place register now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. or calling Hunley Hotel and Golf Club on 01287 676216.
To follow the latest on the Interal Collection Classic Tournament at Hunley Golf Club (Brotton) follow this link