“Lee’s never beat me… but he’s got to give me 28 shots!” Westwood, Europe’s oldest player, loves Tyneside life, brother-in-law Sir Graham Wylie reveals
- Lee Westwood equals Sir Nick Faldo’s record of 11 European appearances
- He met his wife Helen through Close House and is the touring pro of the club
- Close House owner Sir Graham Wylie says Westwood is in a confident mood
- Westwood could become Europe’s highest ever Ryder Cup points scorer
On Sunday mornings, a short iron from the River Tyne in rural Northumberland, Lee Westwood’s friends and fellow Close House members will enjoy their very own ‘Ryder Cup’.
Sir Graham Wylie, Alan Shearer and John Carver will retire to the 19th hole on the final day in Whistling Straits to cheer on the history chasing Westwood.
At 48, he is the oldest player on both teams and equals Sir Nick Faldo’s record of 11 European appearances. He could also become the continent’s all-time highest points scorer. But on Friday, he’ll be back here to play with Wylie in a charity event. And he won’t even be a favorite.
Lee Westwood equals Sir Nick Faldo’s record of 11 European appearances at the Ryder Cup
Sir Graham Wylie (right), owner of Close House, with Westwood (L) and Renato Paratore of Italy after the final round of the British Masters in July 2020
“Because of the handicap system, he doesn’t win these things very often,” said Wylie, Westwood’s brother-in-law and owner of Close House. Sports post. “I don’t think he ever beat me – he gives me 28 shots every time. He also plays for fun more than anything, he’s just one of the guys here.
“However, he played in one club event and he was two left after nine. I said, “Come on, Lee, start showing a little.” He made four birdies of the next five. He said, “What, something like that?”.
“It’s funny when he plays on charity days and you can see how nervous the others in the fourball are. You can see they vibrate. But after a few holes, Lee relaxes them. It’s like playing with your mate, only he’s a lot better than you!’
Westwood has been the touring professional off the track for the past ten years, landing in a helicopter for the first time to play a round with Shearer in 2011. Born in Nottinghamshire, he has made his home in the North East and met his wife Helen via Close House in 2015. She caddies for him on tour, although his son, Sam, will be carrying the bag this weekend.
Westwood (R) met his wife Helen (center), who made caddies for him, through Close House in 2015
It all contributed to the career revival of the former world No. 1 who may have thought his Ryder Cup days were over when he missed the 2018 event in France for the first time since his rookie outing in 1997.
“Being here, and the area, he loves it, it just relaxes him,” Wylie says. “Helen is great for him. She cools him down. It’s like having your very own sports psychologist keeping you motivated and upbeat.
“On the course they don’t talk about golf. They talk about what they are going to eat or drink that evening, where they are going on vacation. It’s about mindset and being at ease.
“He does his own yardage and club selection, he knows these jobs so well by now. Mentally he is in a very good place.
“He’s 48 and still doing it at the highest level. If you had said 10 years ago that he would still do this, he might have questioned it. But it’s his passion, desire and energy that get him there. He certainly doesn’t feel old.’
Wylie spoke to Westwood, who is confident at the start of Friday
Wylie has spoken to Westwood, and the message reaching Tyneside from Wisconsin is one of confidence.
“The Americans look very strong on paper, but they play on grass,” Wylie says. “Lee tells me that Whistling Straits is more suited to Europeans than previous US courses, because of the narrow fairways and heavy rough. They also hope that the wind will blow. They want it to be a challenge that suits the Europeans.’
Better yet for Westwood, strong storms are forecast in the northeast next week. Maybe this golf icon will finally win an event closer to home.