ANDY WHITWORTH and Ian Powell share the distinction of being the Halifax, Huddersfield Union’s lowest handicapped players going into the new season.
Figures produced by the Yorkshire Union which detail players throughout the county who are on scratch and better show Bradley Hall veteran Whitworth having retained his plus-one status.
And Hebden Bridge’s Powell has joined him on that mark after improving from scratch during 2007.
A year ago Andy Shaw started on plus one, but the Bradley Hall player does not figure in the new county list, having gone above scratch.
Likewise West End’s Steve Martin, off scratch 12 months ago, has also dropped off the list.
Halifax, Huddersfield champion Richard Broadley, who beat Whitworth, record winner of the title, in last season’s final at Meltham, is back among the top 85 players named by Yorkshire, making the list with a scratch handicap after missing it last year.
So too is Fixby clubmate Neil Williams, along with Woodsome Hall’s Chris Dyson.
They give Halifax, Huddersfield five players in the top categories – one more than 2007 – but the figure pales in comparison with the 25 Sheffield can boast and the 18 of Leeds.
Superior numbers of top players has always been a yardstick to forecasting who wins what.
And the bigger Sheffield and Leeds unions have dominated the honours boards down the years.
Until last season, that it is.
Minnows York – this year they have just two players on scratch or better – astonished everyone by winning the Inter-Union League while Bradford claimed the six-man team strokeplay title.
And as Chris Mear, the Halifax, Huddersfield team captain pointed out: “Though at first glance, it does not bode well for us compared with the strength of some others, it’s always a question of whether players, and especially the top ones, make themselves available.
“And matchplay in the league is a different matter, anyway. Handicaps mean nothing.
“Look what happened last year with York. We have what we have, and maybe it’s our turn this year.”
While Whitworth retired from Union team duty a couple of years back, another experienced player Mear hopes to call on is Williams, especially as the six-man team event will be played at Fixby.
“I’d like to have Neil back in the fold. He would be a great asset, particularly in view of the championship being played at his home course,” added Mear.
“He hasn’t played regularly with us for a couple of years due to family matters.
“I will be having a talk with him and hope he will be available for the team.”
Mear, who has arranged a probables v possibles match at Fixby on April 20, added: “The fixtures are with us this year – four at home and three away.
“We have two of the bigger teams, Bradford and Sheffield, at home.
“Leeds away will be the big test while I expect good results from the rest.”