Tributes have been paid to John Reay, an innovative and pioneering golf equipment retailer, course owner and charity fundraiser, who passed away following a short illness at the end of August, and whose funeral was held at Coventry Cathedral on Monday, September 18.
John was elected to PGA Membership in 1971, six years after he left school at 14 to become an assistant at Atherstone Golf Club in Warwickshire. He followed that with a spell at Nuneaton Golf Club before, at the age of 21, opening the John Reay Golf Centre in Coventry in 1972.
The business proved hugely successful over the subsequent 50 years and grew to a sizeable operation that, at its height, included 11 shops. The original Coventry site expanded to comprise at 3,500 square feet retail shop, a driving range, bar and restaurant, employing a large team of PGA Professionals for coaching and fittings. He added to his portfolio of business interests in 1996 with the purchase of Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club, which is now run by his son, Johnny Jr, who is one of the UK’s leading golfers with a disability.
John Snr was also a founder member of Europro Golf Centres, a buying group which had 20 franchised shops at its peak.
Alan Walker, a PGA Master Professional and former PGA captain, was a member of the group and recalls the high esteem in which John was held. He said: “I can remember many a time when I went to a buying group meeting and would be only too pleased to listen to the few words he spoke. There weren’t many, but what he said was pure common sense. He was small in stature but powerful in his approach to the golfing world. He had a strong business acumen and was highly respected.”
John was hugely supportive of a range of local and national charities throughout his life, and through various golf days and sponsored events succeeded in raising over £3m for worthy causes and organisations, including Helen Ley, Warwick Museum, TNT/Wooden Spoon,, Coventry Rugby Club Foundation and Leamington Spa Rotary and Fight for Sight and Great Ormond Street Hospital. The support for GOSH was inspired was by the treatment that, spanning 15 years, the couple’s son, Johnny, received after he was born with Apert’s Syndrome, a genetic defect leading to anomalies in the hands, feet and cranium.
PGA chief executive Robert Maxfield said: “Despite his success in business, John never lost sight of the need to help the less fortunate, hence the remarkable amount he helped raise for good causes. He was clearly ahead of his time as a golfing retailer and his success in that field coupled with owning and running a thriving golf club made for a fulfilling and very full career. His passing is a huge loss to the Association, his businesses, those he helped and, above all, his family.”
John is survived by Cherry, his wife, son Johnny, daughter Pippa, and Berry, his granddaughter.
The John Reay Golf Centre was closed on Monday to allow staff to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II and attend Reay’s funeral, which was attended by over 400 family and friends.