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Chapter 4. Gadding About

In 1927, the year of that first official Ryder Cup match, Charles Lindbergh won the $25,000 Orteig Prize, first offered in 1919 by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig to the first aviator to fly across the Atlantic - and I took up my first job as professional at Amport, near Andover in Hampshire.  It was a hotchpotch of a job, not much like that of the modern club professional. I started, as most did in those days, as pro/greenkeeper, with the emphasis on the greenkeeping aspect! Amport was a private course on a country estate, at one time owned by the Marquis of Winchester but now in the possession of Colonel Sofer-Whitburn. To entertain their houseguests, his wife decided to revive the golf course on which young noblemen had played as guests of the Marquis. My brother George was brought in to lay out the new course and he recommended me for the job of professional. I was employed at a wage of £3 per week, not too bad in those days and my main duty as pro was to be available to play with, or teach, any member of the family or their guests. In the event, only the Lady of the House played and hardly any guests wanted to avail themselves of my services. On the greenkeeping side, I could call on an estate worker to cut the fairways with a gang mower and the rough was kept down by sheep – a bit smelly, but effective. I had only the greens and tees to attend to; we had no bunkers, so I had plenty of time to play, mostly with members of the staff. Some, like the butler and greyhound trainer, were keen to learn and came regularly. Mrs. Sofer-Whitburn was not so keen. A strong character, who enjoyed country pursuits, she was a fearless rider and a crack shot – one of the best in the country. She owned a string of racehorses and was part owner of a large kennel of coursing greyhounds. She also had a taste for fast cars and once took over the wheel of the Rolls-Royce when the chauffeur was driving too slowly for her liking. She frightened the life out of him. “A Rolls was never meant to be driven like that”, he said. Golf was just too tame for that ‘fast Lady’.

Amport House

For much of the year the family were at their London house, often for weeks at a stretch, which left me to my own devices. I assisted the greyhound trainer, helping to exercise his 48 coursing dogs and had a go at ‘slipping’, not very successfully for that is a real expert’s job. I was ‘in digs’ with the Head Gardener and spent quite a lot of time with him, sometimes lending a hand. On one occasion he was preparing blooms for the London Horticultural show and I offered to help in ‘dressing’ his giant chrysanthemums. I was handed a jar of water and a small paintbrush with which to dress a truly enormous bloom – a good ten inches across and twelve inches deep. Each petal had to be separated and looped over your finger then smoothed out with the damp brush so that they all lay in the