By Paul Gallagher

There was a magical day on the links of Newcastle recently when not one but two 59s were crafted by a DP World Tour winner and a former Irish international on the Annesley Links at Royal County Down (RCD).

The Annesley Links at RCD on a Friday during winter is often a hive of activity with every level of golfer putting themselves forward to tackle the shorter, but equally treacherous, championship links at Newcastle in strokeplay format.

What started out several years ago when a group of like-minded Newcastle individuals wanted to keep their game sharp through winter has evolved. These days the Friday Winter Series at Newcastle enjoys the occasional presence of DP World Tour winners, Walker Cup players, LET players and Irish internationals, who all slot in to compete alongside members of the three golf clubs at Newcastle.

The last Friday in January saw Jonny Caldwell free himself up to shoot the lights out in what could only be described as a birdie-fest on the par 67 Annesley Links. In a bogey-free round, Caldwell raced to the turn in 29 with a birdie at the opening hole, a further trio from the fourth before adding another at the eighth to turn in 29.

More birdies came at 11, 12 and 15 for an inward half of 30 to complete the magical 59. Caldwell has been something of a regular in Newcastle in recent years, using the favourable links conditions as part of pre-season work before heading back on tour.

Caldwell, who won the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed event on the DP World Tour in 2021, gets a plus five handicap for the Winter Series, which means despite his fine 59, he was still some way short of the winner.

Former Irish International Hugh B Smyth – now playing off three – decided to roll back the years and was simply too good for the field after his five-under gross 62 left him signing for a nett 59 to win at a canter on eight-under. Special mention must also go to plus two golfer Ross Dutton who sandwiched himself between Smyth and Caldwell on four-under after his gross 61.

Smyth, a former East of Ireland champion, picked up a birdie at the first and made three on the spin from the seventh for an outward half of 31. Further birdies came at 11, 13, 16 and 18 with just three dropped shots. It was another sensational round on a wonderful day of scoring.

The previous day Smyth said: “I need to start concentrating more and cut out the silly mistakes on the golf course.” Some 24 hours later he did that and then some.

Conditions this particular Friday were favourable, and it was undoubtedly a green light day for scoring. However, the Annesley Links is still a stern test with a propensity to catch players out, particularly when negotiating the duneland part of the course and in a format where every shot counts.

To record not one but two 59s on the same day was special. The only other time such a feat has been achieved in the Winter Series was when another former DP World Tour winner Simon Thornton matched Caldwell’s gross 59 in the 2021/22 campaign.

As the two 59s were being crafted on the Annesley Links, Ireland and Ulster players, Colm Campbell and Ryan McKinstry, plus Thornton were also in the field. Cormac Sharvin, Garth McGimpsey, Olivia Mehaffey to name but a few have all teed it up on a winter Friday on the Annesley Links.

It may be winter golf and the evenings have still to stretch, but any time one 59 – never mind two – is returned, it’s always worth marking the occasion. That Friday afternoon on the Annesley Links was one such time.