John Harris – Professional, 1975 to 1991

This is the transcription of a conversation John had with Graham Lawrence on 26 October 2006.

I took golf up at 21 at Beckenham Place Park.  I had been on the staff at Arsenal from the age of 16 to 19 when I sustained an injury which prevented my playing further football. During my time with Arsenal I played in the South East league, Metropolitan league and Arsenal reserves. I’d tried three come backs but the injury persisted. I was advised to take up golf. At the age of 21 Arsenal released me. I turned pro at Shirley Park in Croydon in 1965 with help from Sid Parker, who was a famous old pro. In 1970 I went and played on the Safari tour in Nigeria, Zambia and Kenya.  When I returned in 1971 I joined Morden Park in Surrey.

In 1975 I was hired by George Davis, the captain of Corhampton Golf club, as the first full time professional of the club. It was still a nine-hole golf course when I was interviewed.  My predecessor, Ron Crockford was both pro and greenkeeper.  To start with I lived in the bungalow, because there was no steward, for about three months until we bought a house in Swanmore.  Whilst the new clubhouse was being built the bungalow was used as a temporary club house and the club built a wooden shed for me. There was an alarm but it kept going off.  I had a number of breaks-in the shed .  I  used to sleep with a window open to listen out for intruders.  I couldn’t get insurance for my stock in the shed.  During my stay in the new clubhouse I was cleaned out of stock four times.

In 1977 I got my European tour card.  I played a number of limited tournaments in England because I couldn’t be away from the club for too long.

I was captain of the Hampshire PGA in 1978 and in that year Bob Harvey and I organised the first pro-am at Corhampton.  George Davis organised the Meon Valley Metals pro-ams which took place at Alresford one year and Corhampton the next. In the 1983 we held the Nick Holmes benefit and I arranged for Jimmy Tarbuck to play in it.  There were many footballers from Southhampton and Tottenham who participated.  Laurie McNemeny smashed a car window with his tee shot off the first tee.  The first tee was right outside the club house, where the putting green now is.  Those pro-ams really put Corhampton on the golfing map.

I taught many of the juniors who later turned into professional golfers, such as Greg Hughes (who became pro at Petersfield), Mathew Gatrall (who became a pro at Meon Valley), Russell Tate( played for the county), Kevin Guy (one of my many assistants), Trevor Pearce(also one of my assistants), Jason and Stephen O’Malley. I also taught Nick Holmes and Laurie McNemeny.

In 1985 we created the first yardage chart with Gordon Jackson of Polygraphic.

The social life at the club was very good. We had a lot of good fun.  We, my wife Sue and I, used to attend many of the functions.  There were quite a few gamblers then.  We used to play golf starting at 1pm on Saturdays and then retire to the club house afterwards to play cards.  There were about sixteen of us.  We played a lot of  brag and pontoon as well as other games. Abi Moore, Laurie Abrahams, Frank Smithers, Peter Reeves, John Manson, John Travers were regulars.  Tony Solis, the steward, often joined us in the card sessions.

In 1990 I wanted to concentrate on teaching golf so I sold my stock to Trevor Pearce and he ran the shop whilst I taught golf.  This went well for a while but then we had disagreements so we both left the club in 1991 just before the centenary celebrations started.  I’d put in a lot of effort to help organise the celebrations.  I’d organised the main sponsors, the Niche Group, for the celebrations. When I left the club I ran a couple of antique shops in Droxford and Bishops Waltham and gave occasional golf lessons.  I used to teach Richard and Jane Lewis and they asked if I would teach one day a week at their educational institution at Riversdown House, between Preshaw and Warnford, where they have a nine-hole golf course.  I have been there ever since and teach every day during Spring, Summer and Autumn.  The course is now PGA-approved.

John Harris and Sheba outside the pro shop

John Harris in his pro shop

Kevin Guy, John Harris, Mike Dunn and Bill Clark

The new clubhouse

The pro shop and John Harris next to the bungalow