In a sport that at times comes close to being overwhelmed by branding, marketing and corporatisation, Eltham Warren pro Gary Brett is a refreshing change of pace.
Simply put – he is a wonderful one-off.
Like the club where he’s been the PGA Professional for 20 years, he’s unique.
And you realise it as soon as you step into the pro shop which is a treasure trove – a golfing museum.
Walls are adorned with cases of balls brought back by members from holidays across the globe.
Shelves are weighed down with vintage tour golf bags. Quirky golf mugs hang from the ceiling.
Display cabinets are packed to bursting with retro balls.
Inside there are even wrapped Dunlop 65s - the cherished reward for victory in Saturday morning fourballs going back three decades.
“Nothing felt better than winning a wrapped ’65,” Brett said with a smile.
“The juniors look at them now and think they are chocolates.”
There’s even a couple of records featuring Arnold Palmer. Album-size vinyl with the great man giving golf lessons.
Everywhere you look, memorabilia. A golfing life time there before your eyes.
“I want it to be a museum,” Brett said. “Much of it is donated – and that’s what a true museum is.”
The idiosyncratic space is an extension of who Brett is. Like the classic white Ford Capri in the car park – his 21st - it’s a head turner that puts a smile on your face.
Much like his recently retired assistant – Stan Till who finally called it a day….aged 89.
“He covered for me once when I went on holiday,” Brett explained.
Till liked it so much, he stayed – doing two days a week - for 16 years.
“He probably was the oldest assistant in the country,” Brett said with a smile. “But everyone loved Stan. He is irreplaceable.”
Brett wasn’t always destined to be a club pro. He came close to joining the tour
In his mid-teens he was already amassing a sparkling amateur career and earned more glory once he entered the professional ranks.
After advancing through the PGA system, teaching at Bob Torrance’s Selsdon Park centre, for a while he was covering 3,000 miles-a-week organising golf society events for the pub trade.
But Brett chose the club career rather than life on the road - and when the Eltham roll came up, it was a perfect fit.
Even the practice ground on the tight course is odd but endearing, members having to hit over the middle of the second fairway to a landing area.
Nothing’s what you expect – and all the better for it.
But it is the compact workshop behind a wall of second hand putters where Brett really lets his creative flair loose – reconditioning old putters.
They come in chipped and battered, they leave glistening, adorned with colours, names – even jewels.
“I love being creative,” Brett admitted. Though he’s paying the price with regular cortisone injections in his hands.
But two decades after landing the role as professional, Brett couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
“It is a lovely club. I had a chance to be a tour pro, but the reality is I am more of a people person,” he said.
“Also, I want to spend time with my family. I do my 70 hours a week in the shop. I put the hours in. But I get to go home to my family, which is what I love.
“This job was supposed to be a stepping stone. Twenty years later I am still here. It’s turned out to be a big stone.”
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