A trio who have given virtually a lifetime of service to their sport have received the Sunderland of Scotland 5-star Professional Awards. They were selected by a panel of judges from a list of deserving nominations and join a lengthy list of distinguished figures from the world of professional golf including Bernard Gallacher, Alex Hay, Dave Thomas, Mickey Walker, John Jacobs, Severiano Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer.
This year Warren and Hazel Sunderland presented the awards to Keith Hockey, Brian Reilly and Willy Vanbegin after PGA of Europe general secretary, Lawrie Thornton, had read out the following citations:
Keith Hockey’s service to professional golf in general and the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland in particular is interwoven in the development of the fundamentals of the sport throughout a substantial part of the post-war period.
Even now, as a septuagenarian, he is playing his part in the game he loves as an Equipment Technology tutor in the Association’s training programme having being deeply involved as a club professional until very recently.
As long ago as 1976 he began a fourteen-year marathon chairmanship of the Teaching and Training Committee of the PGA of GB&I and from 1978 for five years he was also chairman of the general committee.
Almost inevitably this led to his becoming Captain in 1983 and then, as his devotion to the cause of professional golf continued, he was honoured by his election as a Life Member of the Association in 1991.
Keith Hockey’s role in driving education initiatives led to the foundation of the Trainee Diploma programme which is in place today, thus indelibly leaving his mark on in the integrity of his profession.
When Brian Reilly first took up his job as Professional at Golf und Landclub Haghof in southern Germany in 1983 there was no clubhouse, no golf course and no golfers, merely a few fields, a basic driving range and a family of ducks..
Eighteen years on the site now boasts an 18-hole golf course, a handsome clubhouse and a membership of some 700, all attracted from a local community which would once have regarded golf as a rather eccentric activity suitable only for the rich minority.
During this period of remarkable expansion Brian has been deeply involved in every initiative and, admirable though the creation of facilities has been, his greatest pride has been created by the development of a junior section and the progress of its members.
Between 1993 and 1996 two of his junior girls reached the German national team. More could follow. Each week a group of school children are put through the basics of golf, among them a girl of about ten years of age with only one hand. Brian illustrated to her how far a golf ball could be struck by a person with one hand missing. Now she is one of his keenest pupils.
He spends up to ten hours a day on the practice ground teaching all ages and handicap levels and never spares the chance to learn more and more from the leading experts. Brian Reilly is just the kind of deserving case for whom these awards were introduced.
It is not stating the case too strongly to describe Willy Vanbegin as a ‘father figure’ of golf in Belgium.
As one of the founder members of the country’s Professional Golfers’ Association he has never faltered in serving the cause in the most significant of ways, originally as treasurer for many years and then, very appropriately, as Chairman, a position he still holds.
The Professional at Keerbergen Golf Club, he has been a pro for some thirty years, unfailingly furthering the cause of his sport at every opportunity. It is perhaps no coincidence that Belgium now produces more of its own young professionals than in his own earliest days.
Indeed, the aptness of the ‘father figure’ status, is exemplified by the fact that he has two sons, Danny and Raphael, who are following in his footsteps. Danny is a Class A club pro while Raphael plays on the Challenge Tour.
Golf in Belgium has not always been as popular is it is today with its increasing number of enthusiasts. Willy Vanbegin has played a valuable role in its development and he thus joins the distinguished roll call of quality professionals who have gone before him in adding their names to the Sunderland Roll of Honour.
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