Cyril Whiting - inspiration for golf pro in James Bond novel passes away

Cyril Whiting - inspiration for golf pro in James Bond novel passes away

11/11/2020

The PGA is saddened to report that Cyril Whiting, a member of the dynasty of professionals that served Open Championship venue Royal St George’s for an unbroken spell of 77 years and a regular golfing partner of James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, has passed away at the age of 96.

Cyril, who was born in 1924 and made a PGA Honorary Member in 1989, was preceded in the role at the club in Sandwich, Kent, by Fred, his grandfather, and Albert, his father.

The family connections with the Association extended beyond them, however.

Fred Whiting was one of seven brothers who, hailing from Worcestershire, all became PGA Professionals. Furthermore, three of the septet – Fred, Walter and Samuel – were founding members of the Association in 1901.

Like his father and grandfather before him, Cyril became an accomplished club-maker and repairer, a skill he began to learn on joining his father in the pro shop at Royal St George’s in 1939.

His training was interrupted when he served in the North Staffordshire and Worcestershire Regiments during the Second World War and resumed after hostilities ended in 1945.

In addition to becoming a skilled club-maker and coach, Cyril was regarded as the most complete golfer in the family. He won the Kent Professional Championship in 1959 and the Kent Open Championship six years later.

His prowess as a player was alluded to in Goldfinger, Fleming’s book that features a golf match between the villain of the piece, Auric Goldfinger, and Bond.

The fictional venue, Royal St Mark’s, was based on Royal St George’s, where Fleming was a member, and Albert and Cyril Whiting became Alfred and Cecil Blacking.

Moreover, Cyril Whiting confirmed that much of the golfing trivia in the book was based on fact, not least a conversation in the pro shop in which Alfred told Bond that his son was ‘runner up in the Kent Championship last year’ and that he ‘should win it this year if he can only get out of the shop and on to the course a bit more’.

Given the date the book was published, Fleming proved as adept at predictions as he was with a pen.

"I had been runner-up before, as the book says, but then I did go on to win it in 1959, a few months after Goldfinger was published," Cyril Whiting recalled.

As well as providing the author with background material and colour for his book, father and son played regularly with him.

"My father or I would join up with him, depending on who was available," Cyril Whiting continued.

"Even though the bets were never much more than a fiver, as I remember, there was always great pride at stake. He would play his heart out. He was very competitive and always liked to get the edge.”

Cyril succeeded his father in 1971, seven years after Fleming, who was the club’s captain-elect at the time, passed away.

He was supported in the shop by his wife Joan, who knitted head covers for members in club or school colours, and retired in 1988.

He continued to live in Sandwich in a house named after the famous 6thhole (pictured above) at Royal St George’s, The Maiden, until he moved into a nursing home due to failing health.

Joan passed away four years ago and Cyril is survived by his daughters, Susan and Diana, a son-in-law, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The PGA expresses heartfelt condolences to them on their loss.

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