WHEN close to 70,000 sports fans filed into a Northumberland golf resort over a weekend in 2017, the roar of the crowd was deafening at times.

The crowds at Close House, in Heddon-on-the-Wall over those four days was a record for the illustrious British Masters tournament since it was revived in 2015.

On the strength of the support of local golf fans, the European Tour competition will return to Close House in 2020.

Close House owner Graham Wylie explained how he was approached by the European Tour asking him to host the Masters again after the success of 2017.

Mr Wylie said: “Close House is a great showcase because we have turned it into one of the top golf courses in the country.

“We had the tournament here two years ago and it’s testament to the quality of the fans, but also the golf course, that the European Tour wants to bring it back so early.

“Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the tour, actually approached me and said they really enjoyed being in the North-East, loved the atmosphere, loved working with us and really wanted to bring the tournament back.”

The tournament will again be hosted by former world number one golfer Lee Westwood, who has been Close House’s attached touring professional since 2011.

And, with the former Ryder Cup star’s extensive list of contacts in the golfing world, another pedigree line-up of the world’s best golfers is expected when the Masters return in a year’s time.

Last time, household names including Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer joined Westwood on the course, but it was rookie Paul Dunne, of Ireland, who made a name for himself by edging out McIlroy in dramatic fashion.

More of the same can be expected in 2020.

Mr Wylie said: “The players loved playing the course here and the Masters is still a big deal for them.

“The golfers loved the welcome from the Northumberland crowd and a lot of players personally wrote letters to me thanking me for the hospitality, and I’m told that is pretty rare for players to do that.”

It is a similar story with world-class cyclists as the prestigious Tour of Britain returns to Northumberland this year.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Northumberland to see Bradley Wiggins race in the 2015 instalment of the race, while the household names of Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas drew crowds to the county in 2017. Northumberland crowds will again turn out in force to shout on the elite cyclists when stage three of this year’s race starts at Berwick on Monday, September 9, before heading through Seahouses, Warkworth and Seaton Delaval, and will be televised to a global audience.

Coun. Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be welcoming back the Tour of Britain, and what better way to showcase all of our iconic landmarks and amazing landscapes to thousands of spectators and cycling enthusiasts expected to line the streets?

“We are expecting enthusiastic local support right through Northumberland for this nationally significant event.”