Norman Drew (1932 – 2023)

Norman Drew (1932 – 2023)


Norman Drew, a PGA Honorary Member who became a golfing colossus in Northern Ireland and the first from either side of the Atlantic to play in each of the Walker, Ryder and Canada Cups, has passed away at the age of 91.

Born in Belfast, Norman first played at Balmoral Golf Club in the city before the family moved to Bangor, County Down, when he was 16. He continued his golfing education at Bangor Golf Club and 35 years later would become its head professional.

He went on to serve the club for 14 years and maintained his association with it following his retirement in 1997.

“Norman was a massive part of Bangor Golf Club and will be sorely missed,” said a club spokesman. “Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

He had joined Bangor in 1993 after a 20-year stint as head professional at Malone Golf Club, by which time he had long established a reputation as one of the most celebrated and accomplished golfers to hail from the province.

He had served notice of the successful career to follow at the age of 18 by winning the North of Ireland Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush. A year later, and while still serving his apprenticeship as a coach builder, he returned to the venue to compete in the Open Championship.

Norman was the youngest player in the field and another 14 appearances in the Championship followed, his best performance coming at St Andrews in 1957 when he finished tied 15th.

There were no more Open Championship appearances in his homeland, however, as 68 years would elapse before it returned to Northern Ireland. Yet despite the lengthy hiatus, the passing of time failed to dim Norman’s memories of his debut.

"I wouldn't say I was cocky, but my game was pretty good,” he recalled in an interview for the BBC on the eve of the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.

 “I wasn't frightened of any course whether it was Portrush or Newcastle or Portstewart, it made no difference."

Given his status as a homegrown competitor and reigning amateur champion, the teenager proved a popular draw, especially as he was on course to end day one in the top 10 when he arrived at the 18th tee.

Those hopes were dashed when his drive found a bunker and he recorded a double-bogey six.

"I played pretty good I must admit,” he continued. “But after I drove it in the bunker on the 18th, I tried to make the green from there and it was a silly shot really when you think about it."

Similarly, his dreams of winning the Silver Medal as the best placed amateur ended in the second round at the 14th hole, the appositely named Calamity Corner.

"At Calamity Corner, I hit this shot, which wasn't a bad shot, with a three wood and it hit the very edge of the green and dropped down the bank 50 or 60 feet,” he explained. "The green staff were a bit unkind. They had left the grass about a foot long and the bottom of the bank and after two or three shots, I still hadn't got back up again. "I lost an awful lot of interest after I took seven. I'll never forget being disappointed as much."

Norman put the disappointment behind him by making a successful defence of the North of Ireland Amateur Championship in the following year and enhance an amateur career that has been compared to that of three-time major winner, Padraig Harrington’s.

It culminated with selection for the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team in 1953, after which he turned professional.

He was elected to PGA Membership in 1958 and a year later was a member of the Great Britain and Ireland team that contested the Ryder Cup at the Eldorado Club in California.

Great Britain and Ireland lost the match but Norman, who halved his encounter with 1957 Masters champion Doug Ford, plus Peter Alliss and Eric Brown were the only visitors to avoid defeat in the singles.

Earlier that year Norman had finished four shots clear of Alliss, Peter Thomson and Harold Henning to win the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament and claim the most lucrative cheque of his career, £500.

He was also runner-up to Christy O’Connor in the Dunlop Masters at Portmarnock that season and, teamed with his conqueror 12 months later, Norman made history by completing the treble of ‘cup’ appearances when he represented Ireland in the Canada Cup. The Irish pair finished fourth, as they did in the following year in Puerto Rico.

Norman’s other tournament victories as a professional included the Irish Dunlop Tournament and Ulster Professional Championship while, at the age of 61, he finished ninth in the 1993 Senior British Open.

He was granted PGA Honorary Membership four years later after a stellar career that, in addition to his successes as a player, included positions at Knock Golf Club, Bradshaws Brae Golf Club, Ralston in Scotland, and lengthy periods of service at Malone and Bangor.

Norman, is survived by his wife Valerie, daughter Heather and son Gordon, a PGA Professional at Donaghadee Golf Club, County Down. The PGA extends heartfelt condolences to them, Norman’s other family members and many friends.

*A service of thanksgiving for Norman’s life will take place at noon on Monday August 21st in the Heyn Hall, St Mark's Church, Dundela, BT4 2DR.


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