My Journey through the wonderful game of golf
I suppose it starts when, my mother used to take me to Groveland’s Park, Southgate, North London, which was quite near to where we lived in Wood Green. I would have been in my early teens then and was getting interested in sports.
She was a very fine player herself with a family background of excellent golfers, namely her father who was at one time a Lancashire County Player, as were his sons by another marriage later on.
They had a very beautiful nine hole pitch and putt which was always in a very nice condition, probably due to the very fine turf that was prevalent throughout the park. I don’t remember much about my scores other than the fact that I was always disappointed if I did not make a par. Perhaps the competitive spirit showing itself early without me realising it.
I started to play a couple of municipal courses as I progressed but only sporadically so, as at the time, football was my main passion.
Like everyone else of my age at the time, I was called up for National Service and after one week in the Army I realised that I would not be able to survive on a National Serviceman’s pay of 24 shillings a week, so made the decision to sign on as a regular for another extra year bring my liability up to three years service with the colours and 4 years on the reserve. Now earning 4 guineas a week I had the breathing room necessary to take things forward.
Golf in the Army was very limited I’m afraid but did play a bit with a 2nd Lt from my unit when we were stationed in Gillingham. He was very solid player and had no trouble dispatching me. I played at “Wayne’s Keep” in Nicosia, Cyprus, on browns with a .38 round my waist and a ‘Sten’ gun in the golf bag. I also played in the Southern Command Championship. I was the only other rank playing that day and my playing partners were both Lt.Colonels. I don’t remember much about it other than the Old course at Sunningdale was very nice to play.
Suffice to say that the army years were lean in respect of golf, but then, as always, demob day loomed and on Sept 20th 1958 I left the Army.
Mistake number one was on the day I came out of the army I got myself married and only three weeks later I came home from work a bit early to find our landlord giving my wife a seeing to. End of marriage as far as I was concerned and I did the only sane thing I have ever done in my life and that was to sell all the wedding presents, buying a lovely set of golf clubs from the proceeds and then embarked on an adventure that has never waned to this day. In fact I can never ever imagine my life without ever having played this wonderful game.
Serious golf started for me on Jan 1st 1959 when I played a full round at Chingford Golf Club in Essex. I was quite pleased to go round in 104, but I then went on to get worse shooting, 109, 111, and 124 and then on my fifth round a pleasing 99 which was my highest ever score until last year when the long courses of Donnington Grove and Belton Woods proved too difficult for me.
Bearing in mind that I was a full time player, playing twice a day every day at this point and by May I was shooting scores in the mid seventies. I was then persuaded to join the club and my handicap was given to me by the Club Secretary(Ron Swinney)by taking me for a round at the local private club of Royal West Essex, afterwards saying that I was a 6 handicap player, not bad I suppose for a first handicap.
I won the May Medal and the June Medal and was now 4 handicap and who would blame me for thinking that I felt the game was pretty easy.
Reality soon reared its head, when with this nice new shiny four handicap the world of really competitive golf was now opening, and being 4 handicap, it qualified me under the rules to enter the Essex Amateur Championships which was held at Romford Golf Club. My father, for the one and only time, caddied for me on the Saturday and for those of you who have not played this course the first tee was quite a walk back with the clubhouse now on the right and all out of bounds. I arrived at the tee five minutes beforehand, as stipulated, and when it was my turn to play, the Starter, announced,”Quiet please, John Pettitt, Chingford, on the tee” My legs went immediately to jelly and I appeared rooted to the spot as I had no idea how to start the backswing, and when I finally did, it was so quick that I caught the ball rather thin and hit it very low down the fairway. Knocked the second onto the green and then proceeded to take four putts, as the greens were like lightning in comparison to the Public course I played on.
I ended up with an 84 and when I checked the main scoreboard I was propping up the field, yes, stone last. With the pressure now off I shot a 69 in the afternoon, which just scraped me into the last qualifying spot for the Sunday and two further 75’s finally gave me a 15th place overall.
I played in this event the following year at “Chigwell Golf club”, the winner being Henry Weber.