Neil Sjoberg

Club Champion, 1973

This is a transcription of a couple of emails Neil sent to Graham Lawrence at the end of November 2021.

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your history of the club! Very well done! I have just read it end to end and cannot believe two hours has flown past.

My wife Gaye and I were members from 1972 -1979. We worked at the YMCA, Fairthorne Manor, Botley where (as an extra to my job as programme coordinator) I made a simple golf course that cost 54 pence (9 bamboo flag sticks at 6p each) and lasted until 2017.It was very popular and raised a fortune for YMCA. More on that later. I was also competitions secretary and took over from Jim Fletcher.

We also had problems with Crockford’s Alsatian. He attacked our soppy Labrador quite unprovoked one Sunday afternoon. We were playing with Vic Reeves (Peter’s brother) as we came up the 9th hole (9 hole course then) the Alsatian rushed out of the bungalow and grabbed our Jasper. Vic Reeves very bravely dived in and grabbed the Alsatian and pulled him off. Vic got bitten for his trouble.

When we first joined (as newly weds – this year is our 50th anniversary!) the clubhouse was the old wooden pavilion and there was a rota for doing weekend refreshments. On Sunday late afternoon after tea and cakes (made by whoever was on the rota that week), we all set off to play a few holes together. If there were 15 of us (as there often were) we would all 15 play down the first on so on until the light died. Typical other players were John and Iris Heathcote, George Smith, Vic Reeves, Jim, Muriel and Jill and Linda Fletcher, Mollie, Alan Haig. There was always a French lady whose name slips me at the moment.

I was in charge of the first PGA comp at Corhampton late May 1974. The winner and runner up were only one shot apart and both playing in the same game. Before signing the card the runner up said “I cannot sign this card because I’m not sure of a rule: you have 14 clubs in your bag but on the (?) hole you chipped out from under a bush using the back of your putter. I think that may count as an extra club.” As you will see in a moment I have now a very long experience of running golf clubs and comps (age 73) but then age 24 I didn’t know what to do, everyone waiting for me to announce the winners and a sizeable cash sum for one of these two professionals. I phoned R&A and (bless them) they were on duty on a Sunday evening (they are there 24/7, I now know). They asked for details and said they would call me back. 10 minutes later they did call back. “If the loft of the back of the putter is less than 11 degrees that’s OK. If more than 11 degrees it constitutes a 15th club so penalties occur ”. How the hell do you measure 11 degrees on a Sunday afternoon?@!. Fortunately our new professional John Harris (there with Sue and his new puppy Labrador) was a bright young thing and loft and lie were all the rage and he had all the tools. Everyone gathered round the pro shop. John got out his lie measuring gauge and announced the back of the putter was vertical. Phew sigh of relief all around.

Your history mentions Commander Pogson. I played against him in the singles (he beat me). I think he was surprised at my resistance to being beaten because I remember overhearing him talking to himself after losing one hole. He muttered “get a grip of yourself Pogson!”. I told Gaye when I returned home and for ever after (for fun) when things get awkward Gaye or I say “Get a hold of yourself Pogson!”.

We left Corhampton to go and work in the Gaza Strip for the YMCA refugee council. Secretary Bob Abercromby wrote to us every month to keep us up to club news. (We laid out a simple course on sand there too!) then returned home to West Essex Golf Club so had to leave Corhampton. We were so lucky to have had such a good grounding in friendly and happy Corhampton. I am sure it’s still the same now.

Anyway cut to the chase and the point of my writing. Strangely I ended up building and running our own golf course/club ( The Epping Golf Course ). We did it (like Fairthorne) on a shoestring with no money. It was very hard work and now, 25 years on, extremely successful. We have a full membership with 100 + on the waiting list. We are the cheapest by far in this area and we are in the best condition. We have almost no rules, certainly no dress code, yet our golfers respond and we have reputation of having the highest standards of behaviour and the friendliest. We have produced many top golfers and have a real Corhampton atmosphere.

So right now I am writing Epping Golf Course history so I found your Corhampton History very useful. I have, by coincidence, found my Corhampton tie (came from the very first batch in 1974 ). I am sending this tie to the club for anyone who might be able to use it. Perhaps someone who is as hard up as we were when we first joined: Everyone was so kind to us. In the open mixed foursomes, first big comp in the new clubhouse at Corhampton, Gaye and I had a hole in one at the 9th right in front of the packed clubhouse. I’m sure someone like like George Smith or the Wilsons must have tipped everyone the wink that we were broke cos when I went round to everyone and asked if I could buy them a hole in one drink most said “Thank you so much but I’ve just got a drink” Two people or so asked for a cup of tea – I could manage that! Typical Corhampton looking after people.

Please send my regards to anyone there who might just remember us – George Smith, Jim Firth, Linda Fletcher, Reeves brothers etc..

Kindest regards to you and all Corhampton members.

Neil and Gaye Sjoberg

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