Where are they now? Neil Coles

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The Independent Online
NEIL COLES was once described as having the appearance of a benign archdeacon. But he had the manner of a bulldog on the golf course, as Arnold Palmer discovered during the final of the first World Matchplay Championship in October 1964. Coles, two down after nine holes, was three up after 21 before Palmer, who had beaten Gary Player 8 and 6 in the semi-final, decisively fought back to win. 'It was hot stuff,' Coles recalls.

The presence of Coles in such exalted company was an unlikely story. He became a professional at 16 with a handicap matching his age and hacked around for 11 years before he won a tournament. 'My father ran a big leather business and I had the opportunity to do something for a period of time when I left school and I enjoyed golf. I turned pro and then learnt to play.' Clearly well taught, Coles eventually scored 28 European tour wins, a total bettered only by Seve Ballesteros - and did so without once travelling by air, which he loathes.

Now 59 'and still going everywhere by land and sea', he has had seven wins on the seniors circuit. He has been chairman of the PGA European tour since 1975 and now heads the tour's properties division, charged with designing the courses of the future. His sons, Keith and Gary, are also engaged in course building, and he runs a company in the same field.

He lives in Walton-on-Thames and has been married for 38 years to Ann, with whom he grew up in Letchworth.

(Photograph omitted)

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