PGA stalwarts of 50 years membership or more took centre stage during the first of two celebration lunches to mark five decades of the PGA’s world-renowned training programme.
Among the guests at Birmingham University’s Great Hall was 97-year-old Bernard Preston, the former King’s Norton head professional who up until two years ago was still regularly hitting balls on the range.
Preston was joined by around 90 fellow members of long standing membership invited to the 50th anniversary luncheon where they all received a commemorative tie and scroll similar to the graduation certificates the modern day PGA professionals receive.
“This is a very special day and it is nice that there are so many of the old pros gathered here,” said Preston who was demobbed after the war on a Friday in 1945 and installed as King’s Norton head pro on the Monday.
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones added: “There is around 6,000 years of PGA membership represented here. KPMG recently recognised the PGA’s training programme as the best and everyone here should all feel very proud because it is the skill and expertise passed down the generations that has led to where it stands today.”
Among those marking the occasion was Australia-based David Howard, 68, who travelled all the way from Perth especially for the event.
“I qualified in 1961 and my PGA membership means a lot to me so I wasn’t going to miss this for the world,” said Howard who coaches at Carramar Golf Club.
He was among the first PGA assistants to enrol on the then voluntary week-long intensive PGA training course at Llandudno Golf Club back in 1961 under the expert eyes of early tutors such as Tom Jones and Sid Collins. Howard was reunited at the lunch with two other old friends who attended training at the same time – Ivor Jones and Malcolm Gregson.
Also making the trip to the Midlands were Essex-based duo Eddie Frost, 84 and Dennis Bailey, 77, who met up for the first time in 30 years.
“We always used to play in the Essex Open and Alliance pro-ams and always had a pound bet which we regularly swapped,” said Frost who succeeded his father Albert as head pro at Hainult Forest where the two clocked up 70 years of service from 1922-92.
Among the speakers was former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher representing John Jacobs – widely credited as a driving force in helping raise coaching standards in golf.
“Of all John’s achievements he has never lost sight of the fact that he is a proud member of the PGA,” said Gallacher. “He was particularly pleased at last year’s Ryder Cup when the president of the PGA of America said that every player, on either team, had started golf by having a lesson with a PGA professional.
“John, like everyone here, has made a huge contribution to the success to the PGA and I pay tribute to you all.”
PGA director of education and career development, Kyle Phillpots, added: “The modern PGA training programme is recognised worldwide as the best of its kind but even before the training programme, members had always taken pride in their education and the training of apprentices and it is they who have laid the foundations for where we are today.”
The PGA will host a second lunch for members of 50 years membership or more at its Belfry headquarters in the autumn.
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