Golf often runs in the family, but there have been very few in which more than one brother has been good enough to compete at the highest level and cases of three having such talent are rare indeed. The Whitcombe brothers are the most famous three-some, all having played in the Ryder Cup, but there were three other talented brothers from their era who came to the brink of fame. The Gadd brothers: George, Charles and Bert were three of six brothers, five of whom became professionals, born in Malvern, Worcestershire – a breeding ground for professional golfers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the years between the wars, the name Gadd constantly appeared in the record books as George, Charles and Bert won several important events of the day, but never the Open title or Ryder Cup appearance that would have made theirs a ‘household name’. In the twenties and thirties, the eldest of the brothers, George and Charles, played with amazing skill and courage. Both lost their prime years to the First World War and Charles’ war wound was so severe that it prevented him from putting weight on his left leg, but he adapted his game very successfully and, between the wars, he won twenty-five regional tournaments in his adopted North East and the prestigious Northern Professional Championship. The local newspaper said: “His victory was extremely popular amongst his brother professionals, by whom he is held in high esteem, as he is indeed by all golfers in the North of England. The new Northern champion provides a fine example of courage and determination, for he has never allowed a physical infirmity to keep him from his chosen game”. George overcame injuries on more than one occasion, notably when he won the Northern Professional Championship in 1926 and previously in the 1922 News of the World Tournament when he was afflicted with a knee injury that meant that he also could put practically no weight on his left leg; He played ‘off the back foot’, fashioning a soft high slice to keep the ball in play and, giving the ball his characteristic ‘snappy blow’, as the famous golf writer, Bernard Darwin called it, he putted brilliantly to take the title. Darwin wrote of George: “He remains quite the most cheerful and good-natured sufferer of ‘the card and pencil fiend’ imaginable”. They may not be in the books of ‘Greatest Golfers’, but there were no greater examples of guts and determination than the Gadds.
This is their story told in the memoirs of Bert, the youngest of the three, born at the end of the Edwardian era into a world of austerity and hard work. It is set in the context of the historical and sporting events of the turbulent period in which he was brought up and pursued his career. In the year of his birth, 1909, Blériot made his pioneering flight across the English Channel; when he passed away in 2003 the supersonic airliner Concorde had just been retired from service. His golfing life spanned over three-quarters of the last century from the period when the British Empire occupied some 25 % of the earth’s land surface until it had all but disappeared. The Great Triumvirate were dominating the golfing scene when he first took to the game in his early childhood before the Great War; when he finally laid down his clubs over eighty years later he was nearly ninety and still had a single figure handicap. The PGA celebrated its centenary year in 2001 and was just eight years old when Bert was born. He joined the Association when it was in its third decade and fifty years ago he was instrumental in the foundation of the Northumberland and Durham Professional Society - now the North East PGA.
When this book was written Bert was a very young in spirit nonagenarian; his demeanour was always cheerful and courteous whatever his state of health and his mind was sharp until the end of his days. He was, in the words of people who knew him throughout his career – “A lovely man” - and a very talented one, but one who fame had eluded. So why record the memoirs of Bert Gadd, who was known only to a relative few who remember him as a tournament player and those who know of his exploits as an amateur in his latter years?
It was his friend Keith Burrows who suggested the idea and introduced me to Bert. I had heard of his remarkable longevity in the game and had wanted to meet him and, like others who you will hear from in these pages, I was impressed with the man and his fascinating story. It begins in the infancy of professional golf and gives us an insight into the life of a pro in the second quarter of the last century - when steel replaced hickory. In those days the professional was often the greenkeeper – and sometimes the steward as well. Even the top professionals had club jobs and, even though their sport was patronised by Royalty, they were treated as second class citizens in Britain - a sharp contrast with the status and lifestyle enjoyed by players with his talent today.
For most good golfers who reach pensionable age the game becomes a sociable weekly recreation and very few will be able to maintain their game into old age as Bert did; In his