Tributes have been paid to one of the architects of the modern day PGA training programme – Geoff Cotton – who has died at the age of 90.
The former PGA captain from Beckenham, Kent, was a highly successful club pro in the south of England as well as an accomplished administrator who as PGA chairman in the late 1960s was a driving force for improved changes in the education and training of PGA Members.
His retail and business skills later saw him become the first business tutor on the new-look PGA programme while he was also a key figure in The PGA during a difficult time in its history when the club pros and tournament divisions split in the early 1970s.
Close friend Colin Clingan, a PGA Master Professional, and former PGA tutor, said: “Geoff pushed very hard to get the modern training programme started, somebody had to get it through committee and he was very much the driving force to give it the green light.”
Past PGA captain Alan Walker described him as the linchpin of the PGA training programme in the 60s and 70s and the John Jacobs of the golf business world.
“I was fortunate to have Geoff as a tutor and when I first heard him speak it dawned on me that retailing was a very specialist subject and that he was so advanced, and had so many great ideas, that much as what John Jacobs was to the coaching world, so was Geoff to the business world.”
Born in 1925, Geoff was the son of PGA Professional Tom Cotton, a traditional club pro at Beckenham Place Park – a south London municipal course that enjoyed the reputation as the busiest in the UK.
Geoff started out under his father at Beckenham before becoming an assistant to Dick Burton at Coombe Hill alongside the likes of Ken Bousfield.
Head pro roles followed at Berkhamsted and Rochester and Cobham in Kent where he stayed until the death of his father in the early 1960s when he returned to Beckenham Place Park.
He also ran Addington Court and then bought West Chiltington in Sussex off Max Faulkner and Brian Barnes – all of which benefited from his knowledge and expertise.
During his time at Coombe Hill, Geoff organised a winter league which used to get 50 and 60 pros competing in – including leading lights of the day.
“The players would all put a bit of money in and Geoff would get somebody to sponsor it, and if he couldn’t find a sponsor, he would sponsor it himself and they were hugely popular,” added Clingan.
“And you would get some great players turning out – the likes of Neil Coles, George Will, Bernard Hunt and other Ryder Cup players. My great pal is Alasdair Barr and I can remember once, while he was just a young assistant at Ashridge, him being bowled because he had just played with the great George Will. It was a fantastic experience for the players.
“Geoff was hugely popular, a fantastic character and he was one of those people who you knew was there because he had an aura about him. He will be hugely missed. To me he was the elder brother I never had, he was somebody who over the years, if I had any problems he was the first person I would ring because I knew I would get a sympathetic ear and a solution.”
Roger Mace, another close friend, added: “It was through Geoff that the PGA training programme started. When I became a pro, it was a case of I’m a pro and that was it. That all changed with Geoff. He was a good all round pro – he played nicely, he taught extremely well, was a great merchandiser and had a great personality.”
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones, added: “Geoff was definitely a legend among our membership. He did so much for the Association in the 60s and 70s and it was not just around training. He provided leadership to the Association and was a great influence to many young pros who also went on to become great leaders in subsequent years.
“I knew Geoff in the early days and I was very sad to hear of his passing. He made a great contribution, which like himself, will never be forgotten.”
Geoff was chairman of The PGA in 1968-69, captained the association in 1971 and was captain of the PGA South Region. He served on the Ryder Cup committee and was also one of a select group to be elected a PGA Life Member.
He is survived by his daughters Jean and Patricia and sons Phillip and Tom.
The funeral will take place in Beckenham on December 23rd and there will be drinks afterwards at Langley Park Golf Club in Beckenham.
The Bernard Gallacher Defibrillator Campaign is the chosen charity should anyone wish to make donations.