Ryder Cup legend Lee Westwood opens new facilities in Jesmond
The opening of the Northumberland Club’s new £100,000 badminton facility on Monday night was given a dash of celebrity by the presence of former world number one golfer Lee Westwood.
Westwood, 43, who recently moved to Jesmond, unveiled a plaque in the newly refurbished centre, taking the time to pose for photos and sign autographs for many fans.
He was joined by England badminton player and Commonwealth games medallist Peter Mills in a packed launch party attended by club members and staff.
Westwood said: “It’s quite amazing really, what a transformation they’ve done”, adding that he intends to make use of the club when he isn’t “consumed” by golf.
He also had some advice for some of those starting out at the club. “To get to the top in any sport you have got to have a love for it; a desire to practice and compete – just do that bit extra that others do not want to do.”
Westwood’s recent return to form saw him finish eighth at the Nordea Masters in Sweden last weekend, which will help his chances of selection for the Ryder Cup later this year.
“Obviously I’d like to make the team”, he said. “It’s something that all professional golfers, once they’ve played in it, love to just keep playing. It’s such a great atmosphere”.
Marilyn McLuskie, who oversaw the refurbishment, described the results as “absolutely tremendous”. The new complex is a far cry from the previous facilities, where she says buckets were often required to catch water from the leaky roof.
McLuskie, who has been involved in badminton at the Northumberland Club for 42 years, hopes that the new facilities will encourage more people to pick up a racquet and try the sport she loves.
Already, the new facility has enabled more locals to get involved with sport, and some at unlikely hours. The courts now stay open until 4am five nights a week, allowing restaurant workers and taxi drivers the opportunity to unwind with a game of badminton after work finishes.