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Steve Madeley's Albion tour diary

Sport | Published:

Northern Ireland's domination of golf is over – thanks to Albion's very own major championship.

Northern Ireland's domination of golf is over – thanks to Albion's very own major championship.

The Baggies players took to the golf course at their Ojai training base in California, for a competition organised superbly by hotel staff.

And the club's Northern Irish duo were paired together as they looked to repeat the recent major successes of Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.

But even the presence of the club's very own 'G-Mac' – summer signing Gareth McAuley – was not enough to see another prize heading across the Irish Sea.

McAuley, sporting a new 2011 Open Championship hat in celebration of Clarke's success, and countryman Chris Brunt had steady rounds.

But neither they nor regular golfers James Morrison, Jonas Olsson and Simon Cox could prevent the honours going to a coach, an agent and a 13-year-old boy.

Tour agent Mark Taylor – son of former Walsall director of football Paul – took first prize, although his victory might have come at a heavy cost, after he forgot his sun cream and ended his successful round with a face like a beetroot.

Taylor only sneaked ahead on 'countback' ahead of goalkeeping coach Dean Kiely and 13-year-old Davis Smith, a nine-handicapper and son of former Baggies goalkeeper and current Ventura County Fusion president Graham Smith.

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Young striker Chris Wood had a less successful afternoon – as I found out, almost at great cost to my health.

Things almost got painful when yours truly was standing under a tree alongside the 11th fairway to hear a clatter of branches and see a ball drop a couple of feet away. The ever-likable Wood was most apologetic.

But my brush with danger was nothing compared with first team coach Keith Downing, who thought it was his lucky day when he hit into a ravine and discovered dozens of golf balls as he searched for his own.

The former Wolves midfielder – an excellent golfer – emerged from the canyon with armfuls of balls to stock up his collection, amazed that so many other players had not bothered to look harder.

Only when he relayed his tale to a member of staff did things become clear.

The ravine is apparently a favourite spot for the local rattle snakes.

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