It was an incentive trip to Puerto Banus, Spain and a round of golf on the beautiful Los Naranjos course back in 1985 that rekindled my love of golf.
I had had to sell my golf clubs as an eighteen year old to help to fund my university education but had now reached the point where I was not only financially able to buy some golf equipment but also able to join a golf club for the first time. I was introduced to a young member at Didsbury Golf Club, one of the Mersey Clubs in South Manchester and after a few games together he offered to help me gain the necessary support from other members in order to join.
Once ‘in’ my evenings and weekends were consumed either on the fairways or the practice ground that is Didsbury Golf Club tucked mostly within a loop of the river Mersey and the M60 motorway that surrounds Manchester. About the same time the long serving Pro left the club and was replaced by the well-respected professional Peter Barber who was establishing himself as one of the best coaches in the region.
Much of the talk, certainly amongst the longer serving members was about another ‘pro’ of Didsbury, then European Tour player Andrew Murray. Andrew had been taken along by his father, Frank, a three times club champion at Didsbury, for junior lessons back in 1966 as an enthusiastic 10 year old. Andrew progressed at Didsbury turning pro in 1972 and taking up an Assistants job at Bramhall Golf Club, eventually gaining his card to play on the European Tour in 1979. He played in his first of three Opens in 1982 at Troon and won the European Open in 1989 at Walton Heath. Andrew called time on the Tour in 1995. Andrew has since worked as a commentator and analyst for the BBC and after turning 50, he returned to tournament golf on the European Seniors Tour which he now mixes with running his golf events company.
I met up with Andrew recently and the conversation turned to the current state of play in golf and in particular about growing the game.
‘I can’t believe it’ he said frustratingly. ‘I drove into the car park of my local golf course one evening last week, the warmest and sunniest night of the year and there were just 4 other cars there and a virtually empty course. If we don’t do something about this and get more people into golf they won’t have a club in 10 years time!’ And in complete contrast Andrew continued; ‘Yet I was practicing at my home club Didsbury last Sunday, where the head pro and my best pal Peter Barber had a similar group of kids as when I first had lessons there, all those years back. Though what really struck me, was the mix of ages, gender and race. And it was so refreshing and brilliant to see young girls in the group - I swear one in particular was smaller than her pink golf bag!’
Andrew explained that whilst watching the youngsters he took a call from his youngest son, Matt, who was in California. Matt is in the US Collegiate system, playing fabulous golf and will be home soon for the summer.
The main topic of the brief chat was to talk about son No.2, Tom - who was going into the final round of the Nordea Masters in Malmo, Sweden, and in a good position to make a decent cheque on The European Tour. Tom got the golf bug from his dad and caddied for him at his last European Tour event when Tom was just fourteen. Tom turned Pro in 2009 and completed his 3 year PGA Degree in 2012 under the guidance of, by now County and National Coach, Peter Barber, something that he was keen to achieve before fully embarking on a playing career. After learning his trade on the Challenge Tour, Tom won a place on the main European Tour through ‘Q School’ and is now working hard to secure the results, and the money, to retain his card.
In doing so Andrew and Tom are the first British father and son golf pros to be playing on the Senior Tour and European Tour, respectively, at the same time ‘Whilst trying to practice for an upcoming European Seniors Tour event, my mobile - and mind - was on the European Tour scoring App, checking on Tom in round 4’ revealed Andrew, ‘Thank goodness when it was over. Tom made a birdie on the 18th and won a few bob for his first top ten finish!’
You could hear both the pleasure and the relief of the proud dad in Andrew’s voice.
‘The route Tom and Matt have taken in golf is so different to the one I took. Opportunities are countless for the two of them and who knows where golf will take them, but if they are as lucky as I, then that's all anyone can wish. My life in golf to date has seen me visit many of the world's best courses, play numerous Major Championships and meet so many people that are now lifelong friends’ Andrew continued ‘Golf really is a game for all. The other day I was privileged to do a clinic for the better disabled golfers in the UK. How great is that? Anyone can give it a crack!’
Reflecting on that interchange with Andrew and my own personal experience it seems to me that if we can get kids ‘in’ golf in the first place and then maintain golf as a key part of their lives through those often financially difficult post school years of 18 to 25 there’s every chance that we can grow the game and create a line of succession from dad to son, or better still from parent to child, to sustain a great future, maintain the ‘spirit of the game’ and pass on to future generations the life skills it has to offer.
Andrew and his family are a great example of what golf can give to our lives, and what can be given to golf. I’m delighted that he has joined our Affiliate scheme. I know the core values of ETIQUS strike a chord with him and in particular he cares greatly about the future of grass roots golf.
Enjoy the US Open and especially the final round this Sunday – Father’s Day! Yours in golf, Gary Butler Founder