Professional at Corhampton 1932-1955
The following information was collected by Liz Borrow in an interview with Gill Wells, daughter of Bert Dedman on 26 February 2004.
In 1923 Bert Dedman left school. He was destined to become a carpenter but broke an arm which was put in plaster. He had caddied at Alresford golf club whilst at school, and bumped into Bill Boniface the golf professional at Alresford, in the street. Bill lived and worked from the Cricketers which is now the pub at Alresford, and invited Bert to be his assistant. Bert stayed at Alresford golf club for nine years during which time he worked in the pro’s shop, made and repaired clubs, did some teaching and worked on the course.
In 1932, he was appointed professional-cum-greenkeeper at Corhampton GC where he stayed for 23 years. Bert spent long hours mowing the fairways, at first, with a horse-drawn machine, and later with a green Massy Ferguson tractor. He would rake and sand the bunkers when they needed doing. He mowed the semi rough and greens, cut new holes for the pin positions, and raked the bunkers before competitions. He didn’t have any helpers on the course and would often be working from six in the morning in the summer to get the course ready for competitions, until eleven thirty at night behind the bar where he worked to earn extra money.
Bert also gave lessons somewhere near the old cricket pavilion. He worked from a small wooden shed attached to the clubhouse from where he made and repaired dubs, sold balls and tees, gave out the cards and took green fees. His daughter, Gill, remembers a little Bunsen burner holding a small pot of melted lead used to weight clubs. He made Gill her first clubs, a wood, an iron and a putter, and she started playing golf aged four. She was only allowed to play the first hole if no one was carrying on from the ninth, for the course was only nine holes then.
Bert had a son who died as a baby. His daughter, Gill, was diagnosed with polio at twelve weeks and spent the first two years of her life in Lord Mayor Treloars at Alton. In 1946 there was petrol rationing, and the members put their petrol coupons in a tin on the bar so that Gill’s parents could drive up to Alton to see her. Gill remembers vividly how the members encouraged her to walk, and also to play golf. They were really supportive of the family. Bert would make Gill a card to write down her score every time she played the first hole. She remembers taking 42 on it.
Bert told a newspaper reporter in 1976 that he remembered the membership at Corhampton in his day was about 250, though only about 40 people played. The annual subscription in 1932 was £3, with the day green fee being three shillings (15p) – one and sixpence if you played after 5 pm.
When Bert first went to Corhampton he lived in the thatched cottage which was by the fourth (now fifth) green. They then moved to the Hangers at Bishops Waltham on the B3035 to a semi-detached three bedroomed house up on the hill where the children were born.
Bert, and his family, were only permitted in the clubhouse if they were doing bar work or catering. His wife would go home, and put Gill to bed. If Bert was working behind the bar, Gill would be fetched out of bed to collect him in their black Ford Poplar. There used to be a gap in the hedge by the crossroads and they would drive in there down the semi rough and let out their Labrador dog to chase the rabbits spotted in the headlights. The members played dominoes in the clubhouse until 11.30 at night. His family had to sit and wait in the car to lock up the clubhouse. Gill would sit on a crate behind the bar and try and keep quiet because of course she shouldn’t have been there.
Bert’s wife, who was not a member, used to make the match tees at home, and take them up to the clubhouse. The sandwiches would have four different fillings. These were always put in a square on the plate so that the different fillings showed on the outside. She would make four sponge cakes – chocolate, coffee and plain with fillings of strawberry jam and lemon curd. She made the tea in a big urn.
Some of the army was billeted up at Corhampton during the war in the field opposite the clubhouse in tents. Bert watched the doodlebugs going over from there. A lot of Portsmouth members didn’t go home at all. They stayed up there in their cars because they were safer.
Bert went and worked on the farm during the war at Corhampton Farm for two or three days a week. Once he got shot at by a Messerschmitt when he was on a tractor haymaking.
Gill does not think her father ever had a day off until he became ill. He was rushed into Royal Hants County Hospital with perforated ulcers. She remembers going in to see him in an oxygen tent. She also remembers being got up at the crack of dawn so that her mum could get up on the tractor with the gang mowers, Gill sitting beside her, to try and keep the course in shape while Bert was in hospital. He was there for about a month – he was really ill. Before he came out of hospital they had advertised his job.
Bert loved Corhampton. He would never say a bad word about anyone. Their life was the golf club. It was a lovely really friendly family atmosphere.
They moved back to Alresford in 1955 where Bert became the professional. He loved it there too and would have stayed until retirement, but his wife died in 1962 and Bert was unsettled. He knew the secretary at Royal Winchester who told him that the pro’s job was coming up at the Royal and suggested he made the move there to help get over losing his wife. So he got the job in September 1962 and retired from there in 1976. He died in 1986 aged 76.
To celebrate his fifty years as golf professional, Bert was presented with a silver tray by the friends of Royal Winchester Golf Club. Gill has now presented it back to Royal Winchester to be played for in a competition. She feels it is a great honour that the trophy has been incorporated into the Club Championship to be won by the best score of a person over fifty years of age.
On 21 July 1976 the Southern Evening Echo published an item by David Kenny under the title ‘Bert thanks a broken arm’ announcing Bert’s retirement at the end of the year. In the article Bert stated that “When I first started at Alresford and later at Corhampton, people in trade had join the artisans’ section of clubs. Full membership was reserved for officers in the Forces and those who worked in banks”. The standing of the golf professional has also changed . When he started the professional was looked upon as a servant in most clubs and were not allowed into the clubhouse. Now the professional is a much-respected person. Bert attributes the way in which golf’s popularity has boomed in the last ten years or so to television and to municipal courses. “After seeing golf on television people try it for themselves on a public course. Once they find they can hit the ball, they’ve had it. They can’t give it up”. The popularity of the game now is such that most clubs have long waiting lists. Says Bert “I feel sorry for people who have to move as they find it difficult getting into another club. If I had my way, nobody would be allowed to belong to more than one club. Those who do are keeping others from getting a game and I don’t think that’s right. His advice to new golfers … “Don’t try to hit the ball to hard. When people are young and have brute force they want to use it. But you don’t hit the ball with force. You hit it with swing”.