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McEvoy back on home turf; Copt Heath are hosting this year's Birmingham Mail Champion of Champions Tournament and here Peter McEvoy, who cut his golfing teeth at the club before going on to become Britain's best amateur of modern times, takes PETER RICKETTS on a whistle-stop tour of the course and the old days...

Byline: PETER RICKETTS

THERE'S a secluded area right in the middle of Copt Heath golf course that Peter McEvoy is still inclined to regard as his own. It was here that, as a lad, he would practise wedge shots for hours and it honed a skill that helped to take him to the very pinnacle of amateur golf.

"This was my own little world," he said. "This is where I would play 500 wedge shots - as a start to the day's practice. If anybody else came to use the patch I would feel almost affronted."

Even now, half a century later, McEvoy still covets this patch of land and as we toured it he recalled the hours and hours of shot making that became almost an obsession with him.

One other golfer would sometimes join him in his endeavours. Chris Thompson was then an assistant pro at the club and later became pro at Droitwich and is now their manager.

"To liven things up, we would give each other impossible lies in bushes and so on," said McEvoy.

In his book, For Love or Money, McEvoy recalls those days and states: "We chipped for money the whole time. In fact, I was probably a professional chipper and should really hand back all my amateur titles!" His skill with a wedge was demonstrated many years later when he was partnering Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in the 2000 Open Championship.

Faced with what for most was a difficult chip, he knocked the ball close to save his par.

"Great shot," said Nicklaus. But McEvoy says: "It was the sort of shot Chris Thompson and I used to set each other during all those hours of mucking about at Copt Heath. I could do it in my sleep."

He joined Copt Heath when he was 12 and has stayed a loyal member all through his illustrious career. In fact, he is now an honorary member and his portrait in oils hangs in the imposing clubhouse.

The club also stage the Peter McEvoy Trophy every year to commemorate his victories in the 1977 and '78 Amateur Championship.

Since it started in 1981 this 72-hole challenge for boys under 18 has attracted the very best players and past winners include Peter Baker, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Steve Webster.

Now Copt Heath's magnificent acres are to host the Birmingham Mail Champion of Champions Tournament. On Sunday, September 13, the reigning champions from clubs in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire will battle for the coveted title and the pounds 1,200 worth of prize vouchers provided by sponsors Bromsgrove Winding Services. "Copt Heath was a marvellous course to be brought up on," said McEvoy. "I joined it in 1965 and moved to the Cotswolds in 1981 but never in all that time have I thought of switching my allegiance to another club."

Nowadays he hardly plays during the summer. He is too busy with his Power Play "round in an hour" project, his course design company, his sporting PR work, and a leading administrator of the amateur ga me.

"But I can still play a bit," he said.

"The other day I played 18 holes with one of my sons and had nine birdies. I intend to play more when I'm less involved with administration.

"I'm very competitive and still care what I score."

To get a good score at Copt Heath, he says, you need to start well. Two tough par 4's (440 yards and 454 yards) are followed by a challenging par 3, a tricky short par 4, then another tough par 3. "If you are level par on the sixth tee you are all set for a good result," he said.

Overall, the course is on the short side by modern standards at 6,528 yards, but it demands great finesse.

As a quality venue it is unsurpassed in the Midlands, helped by the sandy subsoil which drains freely and stands up very well to wet weather in winter and presents a firm links-like surface in summer.

Nowadays Copt Heath belies its name.

It has been transformed from treeless heathland to superb parkland by virtue of thousands of trees planted over the years.

It is the club with everything - a great course, high quality clubhouse, a large practice area 300 yards long (quite apart from "McEvoy's Meadow"), and a healthy membership.

It will be as fine a setting for the Mail tournament as it has had in all the 34 years of its history.

In full swing: Peter McEvoy back at his home Copt Heath course, above with captain Don Smith.

CAPTION(S):

in his heyday, partnering Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at the 1977 Open.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 3, 2009
Words:783
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