Malcolm Scott, Alresford Golf Club’s long-standing Head PGA Professional, has retired after 40 years at the Hampshire club.
Being a Southampton FC supporter hasn’t always been a bed of roses, but 40 years ago it proved to be the passport to a long and fulfilling career for one particular Saints fan.
Scott, then 22, and looking for a job, had heard that Alresford Golf Club needed a new professional — and fast. He got in touch and secured an interview, where the chairman of the panel was 1980 club captain, Brian Young. ‘I thought I’d done all right, but any doubts disappeared that evening when I went with my brother to The Dell to watch Southampton take on Millwall in the FA Cup and I immediately recognised the guy getting out of his car just across the road.
‘It was Brian, who clearly realised that, as a fellow fan, I must be the right man for the job. A couple of days later, they offered, I accepted and I was on my way. Five years later, I married his daughter, Jane, and became one of the family.’
Born in Owslebury, Scott was brought up in the Post Office and Stores in Colden Common, where his father was a grocer and sub-postmaster and his mother a draper. Schooled in the village and at Wyvern College in Eastleigh, he joined Hockley Golf Club when he was 10. On leaving school, he worked three days a week in George Matthews’s pro shop and three days on the course as a trainee under John Dodds, famed for his firm, fast greens, producing some of the best putting surfaces in the county.
Having passed his PGA exams, the newly-fledged assistant pro moved to Colnbrook Driving Range, a busy facility near Heathrow Airport, where one of his regulars was tournament professional Gary Cullen from Kenya, who persuaded Scott that a move to East Africa would be good experience and look impressive on his CV.
‘I had two great years at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi. I played a lot of golf and tennis and the social life was wonderful. But there was very little competition golf and I realised it was a dead-end careerwise. So I headed home and then Alresford came calling. I inherited a small brick shed and at first had to beg or borrow clubs, balls, gloves and other things to sell to members. But it soon took off and after five years the club built me a new shop, which was expanded again in 2004.’
His wife, Jane, who plays off seven and is current ladies’ champion at Alresford, quit her job at a local solicitor’s to help run the pro shop. ‘She’s been by my side for 35 years, working tirelessly behind the scenes. We’re a team and are retiring together.’
Their daughter, Becky, the 2011 Hampshire ladies’ champion, is a personal trainer and still plays off five. The family is completed by Tom, who is the secretary at Harpenden Golf Club in Hertfordshire.
Scott was at the heart of the club’s expansion to 18 holes and the golf boom of the 1990s, when new members were arriving every month. ‘I’ve always loved teaching and watching players improve their games and the joy they get out of striking the ball well. In fact, it’s what made me realise I was here to stay. In recent years, we’ve added a driving range and academy course and I really do think we provide some fantastic practice facilities.’
He went on to be a county coach for 20 years and has long been involved with the Hampshire PGA., serving as chairman for 12 years and committee member for 28. He is currently treasurer.
Famed among his members for his organisational skills, Malcom and Jane ran the Alresford Pro-Am for 28 years. By common consent it is the most popular in the county, with the deepest amateur prize table. Sadly, he was cruelly denied his swansong last month by Covid-19.
In 1993, to mark the new 18 holes, Scott put together a charity ‘skins’ match for nine of his fellow Hampshire pros. Played in glorious weather, it was a huge success for local charities, as was ‘Skins II’, a 2010 reprise featuring four teams of three professionals, among them a Ryder Cup ‘old boys’ side. Three more charities were delighted to share £12,800.
But his most venerable event is the annual ‘Clubhouse Knockout’, which arose from a hypothetical match in Kenya when a member, beaten in a stroke-play competition, reckoned he would have won if they’d played match-play. ‘He was right, which gave me the idea of getting my Alresford members to play nine holes, at any time on one day, record gross scores and come back the same evening. Jane and I give them all a number, which we then draw and they play each other, with strokes, in match-play, which is very entertaining.
‘Winners proceed to the knockout and the vanquished to the Losers’ Bowl. The last three rounds take place in the spotlight. I was so nervous the first time, in 1983. The clubhouse was packed, but it was great fun and a huge success. It does take a lot of organising, however, which is why I’m pretty sure we are the only club that does anything like it.’
In recognition of his contributions to Alresford and the Hampshire PGA, Scott has been made an Advanced Fellow of the National PGA, an honour he is particularly proud of. His retirement plans — he will call it a day on October 31, having completed exactly 40 years — now include playing a bit more golf than the once-a-month he now manages. ‘I’m going to be a playing member at last. They’ve given me a handicap of seven, so we’ll see what happens.’
Scott is being succeeded by Mark Wood, a PGA Advanced Teaching Professional, who joins Alresford by way of Chichester Golf Club and Dale Hill Hotel & Golf Club.