Denis Scanlan (1937 – 2023)

Denis Scanlan (1937 – 2023)


The PGA is saddened to report that Denis Scanlan, a Member for almost seven decades who played in the Open Championship on five occasions, has passed away at the age of 85.

Born in Liverpool in 1937 and raised in nearby Southport, Denis went on to become the archetypal one-club man insomuch that he served Long Ashton Golf Club, Bristol, for almost 35 years until his retirement in September 2001 shortly after being made an Honorary PGA Member.

Masked by that statement of longevity and loyalty, however, is a colourful and varied life story of a golf pro and devoted family man who, possessing a sharp sense of humour and fun plus a zest for living, worked for Sir Henry Cotton and coached Arthur Milton, the final survivor of the dozen who represented England at both football and cricket. 

Denis had fallen in love with golf in his teens and regularly caddied for his headmaster at Hillside Golf Club, Southport, before starting work for John Burton in the pro shop there.

Denis later moved to Temple Golf Club, Maidenhead, Berkshire, where he was assistant to Sir Henry Cotton, the three-time Open Championship winner. 

Sir Henry was also a co-founder of the Golf Foundation and his enthusiasm for encouraging youngsters to play the game clearly rubbed off on his youthful protégé.

So much so that Denis was renowned for promoting golf to the young players at Long Ashton and the club’s junior championship trophy is named after him. Fittingly, Denis’s passion for golf was inherited by his son, Robert, who was also a PGA Professional until his untimely passing in 2020

Working for Sir Henry was the pride of Denis’s life but his love of travel and desire to experience living in different countries saw him spend several years in the 1960s working and competing overseas.

Denis won the Scandinavian Championship in 1961 and had brief spells working in Norway and Ethiopia before emigrating to the USA in the following year. He remained there for three years, working at clubs in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Miami, Florida. 

However, the receipt of draft papers calling him up to fight in the Vietnam War prompted him to head back across the Atlantic and become the head pro at Golf Club Schloss Myllendonk, near Moenchengladbach in Germany.

He was there for two years before returning to England in 1967 to begin his lengthy spell at Long Ashton. His early years in the role saw him excel as a player and make four of his five appearances in the Open Championship.

The first had been in 1963 and the second followed 11 years later. He qualified again in 1975, the same year in which he represented Great Britain and Ireland in the PGA Cup, and 1976. His final quest for the Claret Jug came at Royal Troon in 1982, the year after he won the British Par-Three Championship, by which time he was well-established at Long Ashton and in-demand as a coach.

In addition to Milton, who became a close friend, he tutored several European Tour players including Andrew Sherborne, Chris Wood and David Ray. He also organised golf tours overseas for the club’s members and Sun City, South Africa, Portugal, Spain and Greece were popular destinations.

Such trips resulted in absences from the pro shop, but Denis was always ably supported by his assistants.

One such was Adrian Clifford who went on to become a PGA Professional.

Paying tribute on Facebook, he posted: “I worked for Denis for the first three years of my career. He was a quality tournament player first and club PGA Professional second.

“Learning through his experience helped shape my career in golf over the next 45 years. Every one of my students would have benefitted from knowledge gained from Denis Scanlan. 

“He not only taught me how to be a professional golfer but how to talk to people and treat them with respect.”

Steve Lee, a former Long Ashton member, added: “Denis Scanlan was a true professional and gentleman and he in no small part made Long Ashton the club it is today. 

“Long Ashton was Denis Scanlan and Denis was Long Ashton through and through. He taught me so much and will be missed by us all.”

Denis, who was predeceased by Robert, is survived by Annette, his wife, daughter Claire, grandchildren Ben and Emily, and daughter-in-law Debbie. The PGA extends heartfelt condolences to them and Denis’s other family members and friends.

*Denis’s funeral will be held on Tuesday February 28 at 12.45pm on Tuesday 28th February at South Bristol Crematorium, Bridgwater Road, Bristol BS13 7AS. It will be followed by a reception at Long Ashton Golf Club.


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