Geoff Horley, proprietor of The Oaks Golf Club, Carshalton, Surrey, died on 4th February 2007 at his home in Somerset after a short illness. He was 67 years old.
Geoff joined The Oaks as a teaching professional at the end of 1972, when the 18- hole course was still being built (it opened for play on 2nd July 1973 with the clubhouse completed later that year). For a time Geoff also taught at Edenbridge, Cray Valley and Trent Park Golf Courses, before taking over the professional’s shop at The Oaks in 1976. Shortly afterwards, he became a director of Oaks Sports Centre and eventually bought out the other directors to become sole proprietor.
Squash courts were built, then the 9-hole par-3 golf course replaced the previous pitch and putt course. The clubhouse and shop were enlarged, and Geoff joined forces with Ron Butcher to build the driving range in 1982. He continued to improve both the course and facilities until a fire in February 2005 devastated the clubhouse, adjoining shop and staff accommodation.
A keen fisherman and a qualified pilot, who flew from Biggin Hill airfield, Geoff was also an avid student of the piano, always preferring classical music to pop. His father’s skill as a French polisher was reflected in his love of fine furniture and painting – and his springer spaniels, Connie and Grace, were a constant source of joy.
But Geoff’s first love was always the countryside – the trees, flowers and plants – and he always tried to make The Oaks as good as it could be. It’s probably the second busiest golf course in the south of England – claiming to be open for play 364 days a year – and he always wanted the course to be as good as possible. He would go out, plant trees, and take a real pride in preserving the open spaces of the golf course for the future.
Mike Pilkington, long time friend and senior golf professional at The Oaks said, “I knew Geoff for some time before I moved to The Oaks 14 years ago. I was the teaching professional at Addington Palace Golf Club, where he came for lessons, and where we would have a coffee and chat afterwards. We became good friends and eventually I decided to move over to The Oaks to teach full time.
“Geoff was very good to many of his fellow professionals, giving them the opportunity to earn a good living at The Oaks, and there will be much sadness at his sudden and early death.”
“Geoff also had a thoughtful and considerate side to his nature,” Mike added. “Since moving down to the West Country a few years ago, he had made the weekly journey back to The Oaks for his ‘weekend shift‘. A colleague at The Oaks had mentioned that he was looking for a particular wallpaper in a DIY outlet and, when driving through Taunton, Geoff noted a store in the chain and phoned to see if my colleague would like him to call in and see if the wallpaper was in stock.
“The Oaks was a major part of Geoff’s life and there are many people indebted to him for his generosity. He was a good friend to me and we will all miss him.”
Lifelong friend Tony Kirwin added, “Geoff was a quiet, even a shy man, who shunned publicity. He was always destined to get on and to succeed. I can‘t say enough for him – he was such a kind person and never forgot his friends.”
Geoff is survived by his wife Donna and eight-year-old son Edward.
The Oaks Golf Club www.oakssportscentre.co.uk