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Delaney mines the fairways to unearth hidden gems
When Peter Delaney was presented with the Yorkshire Junior Team Championship trophy at the annual Bradford Union dinner, it’s fair say to he was given the warmest reception of the night.
Having clocked up more than 35 years’ service as a junior organiser, ‘PD’ has become one of the most popular officials in the district.
Earlier this year, he became a member of select group when he was made a life vice-president of the union, along with treasurer Paul Crosby. Only two others have received the honour, those being former union secretary Mike Lynn (1996) and top amateur Rodney Foster (1984).
Last year saw Delaney lead Bradford to an emphatic 13-shot triumph in the six-man team event at Keighley as sides from across Yorkshire were put to the sword.
It was the second time the city’s youngsters had triumphed in the competition under his stewardship, the first time coming in his opening season in charge back in 1997.
That year saw him take over from Ivor Bellas, having previously been junior organiser at Baildon for 22 years.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Delaney.
“It’s been brilliant to see some really good youngsters come through and go on to play first-team golf. I love looking after young golfers and it gives me a great thrill to see them develop into top players.”
A key priority for Delaney is to help find the union’s most promising young prospects and help them get used to playing competitive inter-district golf.
He said: “Each year we contact all clubs in the union asking them to put forward their most promising juniors. They are usually aged around 13 or 14 with single-figure handicaps and we fine-tune them with the hope they will go on to play for the first team.”
Delaney believes the union’s links with clubs in regard to unearthing young talent have improved markedly. Evidence the system is working saw several juniors make the step up to senior level last year as skipper Tim Wade – who has always been quick to credit Delaney for bringing youngsters through – blooded the likes of Ben Mountain and Calum Hey with success.
Both were part of Bradford’s six-man junior triumph at Keighley along with Matthew Atter, who is now well-established among the seniors and came third in the Yorkshire Order of Merit last season.
Central to the union’s development of its juniors is the coaching sessions, which have become a much bigger operation under Delaney’s tenure.
His son David, a professional at Halifax Golf Club, carries out the teaching. Having first started the sessions at Shay Grange, he now uses Hollins Hall as his base, where up to 150 juniors from across the district receive his tuition.
The 75-year-old led Bradford to the Yorkshire Inter-District Junior League title in 2009 but more important for him is teaching youngsters the right attitude and behaviour for the game.
“Etiquette is essential,” he said. “I stress to them right from the beginning how they need to act on and off the course. Anyone who strays from that doesn’t get picked.
“They all know the standards I look for and 95 per cent of them are magnificent.”
That’s not to say PD is an old-fashioned golf club fuddy-duddy, as one of his former juniors will testify.
Baildon scratch team member and former Bradford Union player Ian Martin came through the ranks under Delaney.
He said: “As a kid you just want to go out and play but if anyone stepped out of line he reminded them of what it meant to be a member.
“But Pete was a good laugh. As a junior you can be a bit wary of officials but Pete made us feel part of the club and made us want to play for them.”
Martin was part of the Baildon team that became one of the most formidable sides in the union.
His junior club-mates – the likes of Matt Roche, Dan Teece and Chris Hargreaves – became regulars in the first team just like Martin, who said: “It’s easy for lads to fall away in their teenage years but it’s thanks to Pete putting the hours in that made sure that wasn’t the case for us.”
In addition to his junior duties, Delaney has worked as a starter at senior union tournaments.
Martin said: “He is on the same wavelength of the players. You would have some banter with him on the first tee and he’d tell you things like what wine he’d been drinking the night before!”
After getting married in 1961, Delaney joined Baildon as a 24-year-old and became a handy club golfer, reaching a handicap as low as eight. But, having had a leg amputation due to a diabetes-related problem six years ago, he is now just a social member at the club that is virtually on his doorstep.
After a decade and a half’s service for Bradford, Delaney is still overseeing the Bradford junior team this season with his customary enthusiasm.
As Martin summed up: “Pete puts his heart and soul into junior golf.”