Two of the PGA’s longest-serving tutors hung up their workshop aprons for the last time this week – calling a halt on more than 70 years of combined teaching.
Having taught the likes of Ian Poulter and Sam Torrance during their careers, Lancashire based pair Bill Harling and Gwyllam Hardiman will finally retire after overseeing their final aspiring assistants aiming to carve out a career as golf professionals.
Harling, 71, and Hardiman, 73 on Wednesday, who both have the distinction of being PGA honorary members and Master Professionals, are the PGA’s foremost equipment technology tutors having taught hundreds of golf professionals the art of club making and club repairs over the past four decades.
Now the pair have decided enough’s enough and bowed out to spend more time on the golf course – and help out at their former clubs, Accrington for Harling and St Annes Old Links for Hardiman. But not returning to the PGA and passing on their half century of skills to the next collection of assistants isn’t going to be easy.
“We’re going to miss it a lot,” said Harling. “When we started we didn’t come and do this for the money. When we started we were just pleased to be asked. Not teaching will be a big hole in our lives. We’ve made so many friends.”
Their departure from the PGA also takes away a link with the past tradition of club making, something they learned from the very best.
“We got a lot of knowledge from the older pros and we hope we’ve passed that on,” said Hardiman. “We were taught by the likes of Eddie Musty, Eddie Whitcombe, Harold Beck and Keith Hockey. They were club makers and master craftsmen of the art.
“Today pros assemble clubs but back then we had a block of wood from which we’d shape the head, fit it, add the plate and make something perfect. It used to be all steel shafts and wooden heads, nothing like it is now with graphite shafts and metal heads.
“Graphite shafts didn’t come out with a bang and they gradually built up. A lot of the better players were a bit sceptical at first. They said the same with metal heads.
“They said they’d never take over from Persimmon (wood) but now you wouldn’t be above to give one away let alone sell them.
“But what we teach will be of great benefit to these assistants.”
Reflecting on their service to the PGA, with Harling having been elected in 1955 and Hardiman in 1953, PGA training manager Dave Robinson said, They are world-renowned experts in the art of club-making and they can feel rightly proud of what they’ve done and achieved. They are a credit to the Association.”