When I first entered the former brewery in Burton-on-Trent to start preparation for taking up my new role as head of the business, I wondered what sort of reception I could expect from those key people in the company who already worked there. The first induction meeting that had been arranged for me was with a man who was to be my No 2. He'd worked for the large mobile operator that had acquired the business for over 10 years and had been dispatched from the leafy south up to the town that once was the main heart of the UK brewing business to put the parent company hand on the tiller of this acquisition.
I didn't know much about him but had been given one key snippet of information - he played golf. When a non-golfer says someone 'plays golf' I find I'm never quite sure if they mean they're a demon on the local pitch and putt, or occasionally give a few balls a whack at the driving range in preparation for their once a year corporate golf day outing, or if they're actually a golfer - a member of a golf club with a registered handicap who not only plays golf but enjoys a lifestyle where golf is a significant contributor to it.
Our meeting was scheduled for a couple of hours to allow us to go through a good overview of the structure of the business, the business performance and review the strategic goals and expected outcomes of the new parent company.
Within a few minutes it was confirmed that Mr Nick Bragg was indeed a golfer, a proper golfer, with a golfing background at the finer edge of the sport. Unlike myself who had started my golfing journey at the age of 12 with some borrowed clubs at a municipal in Sheffield, Nick learnt his golf on the golfing gold coast of Kent, at courses such as Princes and Royal Cinque Ports. He has been a member of Open venue Royal St Georges since 1978.
As a junior golfer Nick quickly got down to a handicap of 2, is a past Club Champion at RSG and 35 years later is still playing to it. It wasn't long before we were exchanging golfing anecdotes and stories. The topper from Nick was the tale that in 1986 he played Augusta National in the company of Charlie Yates, the 1938 British Amateur Champion and the Gatlin brothers, country singers who would host that years post Masters event in the Butler Cabin. He noted with a broad smile that he was the only one in the four-ball not to arrive by private jet! He would watch Jack Nicklaus walk away with the Green Jacket that year after his hot putting streak with that huge oversized putter.
Nick has got a lot from golf but like many has also given much back to the sport. He joined The Berkshire in 1995, served on the committee for 13 years, on greens for three, as treasurer for eight, then as Vice Captain before becoming Golf Captain in 2015. As he puts it, he has now retired to the back benches although has since commenced a role as a trustee of The Golf Foundation (the Charity that ETIQUS supports as our Charitable Beneficiary).
Like many Golf Captains Nick has given much back to the game not only in the effective administration of the club but also through Charitable fund raising activities and his commitment to junior golf.
That meeting back in 2009 was not only the start of a good business partnership but it just goes to show that, whatever your social background, golf is a great game for bringing people together and building strong social connections and lifelong friendships.
We've discovered we have a lot in common - obviously a love of golf, a love of links golf especially. We both married the love of our lives in the same church (St Peters in Prestbury). We enjoy a good competitive game with a pint of fine ale and good food to follow. Remarkably we both underwent serious spinal surgery within six months of each other too. And one other thing is that we both want to play golf at a good pace. Nick once played six rounds in one day, every round completed in under two hours posting scores of 76, 76, 74, 79, 72 and 79!
So when I launched ETIQUS I thought it might be nice to present Nick with one of my watches, engraved on the case back to celebrate his year as Captain of the Berkshire. He is delighted with it and it was that response and through him, my greater understanding of what many Captains give back to the game that I decided to offer free engraving on any of my watches for Golf Captains, both Men and Ladies. You can see more on our Offers page.
So as we are both just about to return to the golf course after our forced withdrawals through injury I look forward to our friendly battles on the course once again to claim the golf bragging rights in our friendship - but please don't tell him I've just got three shots back! I want to save that news 'til just before he tees off :)