Sandy Wilson (1942 – 2023)

Sandy Wilson (1942 – 2023)


Butten Boy, Highland Games competitor, champion of women’s golf, PGA North captain, and member of St Andrews Golf Club for 64 years – are a few snapshots of Sandy Wilson’s life following his passing at the age of 80 after a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer.

Born in 1942 in Fife, Sandy remained a proud Scotsman throughout his life despite spending all his career working in England. He was also a talented athlete who competed in the Highland Games and had set his sights on becoming a PE teacher until his talent as a golfer made turning pro inevitable.

His love of golf had been fuelled by his father giving him a set of hickory clubs jettisoned by the family doctor and then his grandfather equipping him with a full complement of modern ones.

Sandy used them to good effect, winning the respective Fife Boys and Ladybank Golf Club championships and finishing runner up in the Scottish Boys Championship in 1960.

Having turned pro in the following year and been elected to PGA Membership 12 months later, Sandy caught the eye of Ernest Butten, an innovator, entrepreneur, and keen golfer based at Sundridge Park in Kent.

Butten was frustrated by lack of British success in the Open Championship and, believing anything was possible given the right training, time, and facilities to practise, created an elite squad aimed at ending the American domination of the event.

The four-strong squad, initially comprising Tommy Horton, Tony Martin, Jim McAlister and Sandy, was coached by Max Faulkner, the 1951 Open champion.

It was later supplemented by Brian Barnes, Iain Clark, Mike Ingham and Alan Ibberson but a lack of success in terms of creating an Open champion brought it to a premature end after four years.

Sandy, however, did qualify for the Open on six occasions, his best performance coming at Carnoustie in 1968 when he finished tied 27th.

He had been appointed head professional at Selby Golf Club in the previous year and went on to hold the same position at Pleasington, Arrowe Park, Crookhill Park and Tytherington Golf Clubs before spending the last 13 years of his career at Trentham Golf Club, Staffordshire.

In addition, Sandy served on many PGA North region committees and was appointed captain in 1991.

Described as a pro’s pro and a true gentleman, Sandy’s forte was clearly coaching, motivating, mentoring, and inspiring future PGA Professionals, many of whom have contacted Fay Wilson, Sandy’s wife, following his passing.

“I have had almost 100 cards of condolence and emails from pros who were mentored by Sandy, many of whom have gone on to work all over the world,” she said.

“Dave Shaw and Paul Baker, who are working in Austria, have been in touch, so has Alan Saddington, who’s in the Netherlands, and Paul Smith in Germany.

“Brian Evans from Quinta do Lago is also an old friend and has written to say Sandy genuinely made a difference to his early years and was influential in his development as a tournament golfer and club pro.”

The esteem in which Sandy was held is typified by Ken Findlater, a former assistant who went on to become head pro at Garforth Golf Club, Leeds.

“Ken is delivering the eulogy at Sandy’s funeral,” added Fay Wilson, “and he has been so supportive throughout this sad time.

“The compliments paid to Sandy from fellow pros and people he coached have been amazing and a great comfort. That’s a tribute to how Sandy treated them.

“He loved mentoring them and coaching golfers of all abilities. In that respect, he was ahead of his time in seeing the player not the gender and was a huge supporter of women’s golf.

“I worked for the Ladies European Tour when it was based at Tytherington, and he was very supportive of me during my time there.”

Sandy also championed junior golf and that facet plus his love of coaching were exemplified by him working as a volunteer coach at the Lee Westwood Golf School following his retirement in 2008, the same year he was awarded Honorary PGA Membership.

Away from golf, Sandy derived joy from his family and is survived by Fay, their son Alex, Sally, a daughter from his first marriage, and grandchildren Lucy, Amy and Xander. The PGA extends heartfelt condolences to them, Sandy’s other family members, and friends on their loss.

*Sandy’s funeral service will begin at 1.15pm on Monday February 20 at Macclesfield Crematorium, Westfields Avenue, Macclesfield SK10 3BU.

It will be followed by a Service of Thanksgiving at St Mary’s Church, Astbury, Peel Lane, Congleton, CW12 4RQ and afterwards at Astbury Golf Club, Astbury, Peel Lane, Congleton, CW12 4RE.

PGA Members in attendance are requested to wear their Members’ tie.


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