Bill Ferguson (1940 - 2024)

Bill Ferguson (1940 - 2024)

04/06/2024

Bill Ferguson, who has passed away at the age of 83, was a PGA Master Professional who gave Colin Montgomerie his first golf lesson and was acknowledged as one of the game’s most influential coaches.

Born in Yorkshire, and aside from a couple of spells across the Pennines in Lancashire and Cheshire, Bill spent his entire career associated with clubs in the county following his election to PGA Membership in 1960.

Bill was an assistant at Ilkley Golf Club at the time and spent the next four years there before landing his first head pro’s job at Bolton Golf Club. He remained there for five years before returning to Ilkley, which is where he encountered the youthful Montgomerie.

The future eight-time DP World Tour Order of Merit winner’s parents were members at the club and their son recalled: “It was at Ilkley that I had my first lesson from Bill Ferguson, a magnificent club professional of the old school.

“His first observation – and I can remember him saying it to this day – was that my grip was ‘very strong’. Like every other child of my age, I had discovered that a strong grip was the key to hitting it further.”

Bill left Ilkley in 1979 and members at Silsden, Old Hall, Phoenix, Oakdale, and Harrogate Golf Clubs plus Leeds Golf Centre benefitted from his coaching over the next 45 years.

So, too, did a who’s who of elite players including major champions Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke and Ian Woosnam as well as DP World Tour winners Paul Broadhurst, Peter Baker, Barry Lane, and Howard Clark, plus Ladies European Tour founder and Solheim Cup captain Mickey Walker and, of course, Montgomerie.

Having given him his first lesson, Bill continued to coach Monty in his pomp, not least during the seven successive years the future victorious Ryder Cup captain won what then was the European Tour Order of Merit. A parting of the ways after victory number seven saw the sequence end and number eight followed in 2005 after the pair had rekindled their association.

Bill was also a European Golf Union and English Ladies Golf Association coach and, on a local level, coached the Yorkshire Union and Yorkshire Ladies.

That Bill became such an accomplished and go-to coach, however, is at odds with how he took up golf and learned the game’s rudiments.

“He never had a golf lesson in his life and was totally self-taught,” recalled Gary Ferguson, Bill’s son.

As a champion of encouraging youngsters to play golf and develop their skills, Bill valued the work of the Golf Foundation, the national charity that helps young people from all backgrounds get into the game.

To that end, a Just Giving page has been set up for Bill's friends and colleagues to make a donation in his memory to help the Golf Foundation continue its valuable work. You can see further details by clicking here.

Indeed, Bill’s sporting passion as a teenager was Rugby League. Furthermore, handling and kicking an oval ball as opposed to dispatching a small round dimpled white one with a golf club looked his more likely career path.

“He joined Hull RFC when he was 15,” continued Gary Ferguson. “Which is how he became involved with golf. He used to caddy for the senior players when they played in their spare time. But they weren’t very good at golf, so Dad thought he’d give it a try, joined Beverley Golf Club and got his handicap down to six within a yea,r.”

While Bill unwittingly sowed the seeds for a working life in golf, his chances of forging a career in Rugby League were undone by what the game’s most celebrated commentator, Eddie Waring, would describe as his penchant for taking an ‘early bath’.

“He was very quick-tempered and even got sent off in his final trial,” Bill’s son explained.

Thus, Rugby League’s loss proved golf’s gain and, giving up his apprenticeship with Blackburn Aviation (now BAE), Bill began working as an assistant at Brough Golf Club. He then moved on to West Bradford Golf Club before finishing his training under Jock Henderson at Ilkley.

In addition to his forte for coaching, Bill could practise what he preached. In short, he was an accomplished player. So much so that he won on the forerunner of the European Tour, the PGA Professional Championship at Moortown in 1976 and in the same year represented Great Britain and Ireland's PGA Cup team for the second time.

He had made his PGA Cup debut three years previously in what was the first meeting between PGA pros from Great Britain and Ireland and their American counterparts.

Former PGA Captain and fellow Yorkshireman Bryon Hutchinson was also a member of that team and played alongside Bill in the foursomes.

“The match was at Pinehurst and Tom Haliburton was captain,” Hutchinson recalled. “Bill was a very steady player and I played with him in the opening foursomes. We managed to scrape a point but we lost the match unfortunately. Nevertheless, it was a great occasion.”

Closer to home Bill won both the Yorkshire and Northern PGA Championships and, showing neither his competitive spirit nor his ability to play the game at a high level had deserted him, he and amateur partner Ian MacDougall were victorious in the PGA Super 60s Championship at Rudding Park, Harrogate, in 2002.

Similarly, his love of coaching and Rugby League remained constant throughout his life.

“He continued to follow Rugby League and I was the beneficiary of the last golf lesson he gave, which was a fortnight before he passed away,” added his son.

Bill is survived by Jean, his wife, son Gary and his partner, Christine. The PGA extends sincere condolences to them and Bill’s other family members and friends on their loss.

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