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England (Midlands) Region

End of an era at Walsall

14 Dec 18

Richard Lambert Web

Richard Lambert, the pro at Walsall Golf Club for 36 years and PGA Midland chairman in 1981/82, has retired after a career that began more than half a century ago when he worked for Peter Alliss.

That was in 1961 at Parkstone Golf Club, Dorset, where the future ‘Voice of Golf’ was the head professional. Not that the 15-year-old Lambert saw much of him.

“He was always playing tournaments in those days,” Lambert recalled. “He’d sometimes drop by on a Sunday but that was about it.”

Lambert describes his role as a ‘minor shop boy’ as opposed to an assistant golf pro and remained at Parkstone for four years before taking on his first position in the Midlands as an assistant at Worcester Golf and Country Club.

Roles at Burhill Golf Club in Surrey and Whitfield Golf Club near Manchester followed before he returned to the region in 1970 as head pro at Chevin Golf Club, Derbyshire.

The highlight of his playing career came three years later when he crossed paths with Alliss once again. Both were playing in The Open at Troon and Lambert posted rounds of 78, 74, 72 and 77 to finish tied 56th, five places behind his old boss.

He was on the move again in 1976 when, after playing a major part in the design of one of the courses at neighbouring Breadsall Priory, he was appointed director of golf.

Six years later, however, he was done roaming. Having stated in his application for the job as head pro at Walsall Golf Club that he hoped it would be his final role, he was as good as his word.

The subsequent 36 years at the club saw him attain the status of Advanced PGA Fellow Professional. In addition, he served as PGA Midlands captain and chairman and is an Honorary PGA Member.

Moreover, he found career contentment at Walsall. So much so that he worked well past the accepted retirement age of 65.

“I decided to keep going,” added Lambert, now 73. “The members were nice, I enjoyed the job and it’s a nice area.

“The grass often seems greener elsewhere but that’s not always the case. I was very happy there.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the club and its members in the form of not one but two sell-out farewell events for their long-serving pro.

Inevitably he has witnessed many changes in the lot and role of a PGA Professional, both as player and a club pro.

“Playing-wise, if you wanted to take part in a national tournament you turned up on a Monday and played in a qualifier to try and get in,” he explained. “That doesn’t happen any more. The days of club pros playing in national tournaments have gone.

“As for becoming a pro – it’s totally different. When I started I began as a caddy and I never had a handicap. In fact, I was never an amateur – I became a pro straight away and learned on the job.”

That included the art of retailing, a skill he developed at Chevin and honed at Walsall where his shop was regarded as an ‘Aladin’s cave’ of golf gear, especially clothing.

Therein, however, lurks the biggest threat to the role of a traditional all-round club pro he has witnessed.

“The internet has completely changed the retailing side of things for pros. It’s difficult to compete with the online retailers and pros and have to specialise now.

“That could be as coaches, custom-fitters, or opening up a swing studio, as the two pros at Walsall – Ian Proverbs and Daniel Higgs – are doing. It’s a very different world.”

 

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