I have the utmost admiration for golf professionals. I don't mean those who compete for massive money at exotic places every week, but the club pros who attend to the day-to-day requirements of hundreds of members, many of them grumpy.
Few jobs require more patience, especially when it comes to giving lessons. Introducing most of us to the rudiments of the golf swing is like teaching King Kong how to use a knife and fork.
There was a time when the pro had to know his place. Rarely, if ever, was he allowed in the clubhouse.
Those days, happily, are gone, and only a few clubs still consider themselves remnants of the British Raj.
Indeed, there's one club where the pro is going to become captain. Enmore Park is a lovely course at the foot of the Quantock Hills in Somerset and a member, Duncan Peaster, emailed to say that Nigel Wixon, the club pro for 37 years, is to take office in March, "a move that has been welcomed wholeheartedly throughout the club".
Our pro hasn't made it that far yet but he has just celebrated 30 years at The Glamorganshire. Andrew Kerr Smith joined the club just as I took up the game, and gave me my first lesson.
He has pleaded with me not to tell anyone he is in any way responsible for my golf, but under the 30-year rule I am required by law to reveal it.
As a 16-year-old scratch golfer with high aspirations, Andrew became an assistant pro at one of the biggest public courses, Temple Newsam in Leeds. He soon found there was more to a pro's life than hitting golf balls – such as reporting at 4amon Saturday and Sunday mornings to deal with those queuing for tee-times.
In 1971 he had an offer to be a teaching pro in Scandinavia, where the golf boom was under way. In one week he gave 153 lessons, and his weekly average over the seven years he spent there was between 100 and 120.
It didn't leave much playing time – he went almost two years without a game – and although he could play more when he joined us, it hasn't amounted to a great deal. But he has played in our winter league, invariably partnering one of our less gifted players, and suffered the inevitable ribbing with good grace.
After a 10-year absence Andrew has reappeared this winter despite the fact that they still insist on him playing off scratch. Last Sunday he suffered a defeat that brought mockery ringing in his ears.
He was partnering Alf, who is off 26, and one of their opponents was another 26-handicapper, Glen, who is a well-known gentleman's hairdresser in the locality.
Glen, whose nickname "Scissorhands" is more a reference to his golf than his hairdressing, has never had a lesson in his life but he has this monotonous ability to hit the ball 150 yards straight down the fairway almost every time.
It was too much for Andrew to cope with, and Scissorhands and his partner, another Andy, won 6 & 5. There's talk now that Andrew and Alf are favourites to win the wooden spoon. I hesitate to suggest he should have a lesson.Reuse content