St Andrews-born Ian Bolt is celebrating a 50-year association with The PGA after spending most of his career in Wiltshire as opposed to the Home of Golf, writes Adrian Milledge.
His love affair with the game began when he was 13 and learned to play it using his sister’s clubs at Anstruther Fife Golf Club in Scotland.
He was club champion within three years and moved to Ogbourne Golf Club in Wiltshire 12 months later to begin his PGA training. Once qualified, he spent four years at Manchester Golf Club before returning to Wiltshire where he has remained.
His first job as a fully-qualified pro was at North Wilts Golf Club and he followed up by returning to Ogbourne for a decade before spending 19 years coaching at Cricklade Hotel and Country Club and then moving to Basset Down Golf Complex.
He has been at the club for the past 10 years and his half-century as a pro was recognised by its members who held a whip round to pay for a surprise present.
Bolt, a lover of fast cars, was treated to the ultimate driving experience at Thruxton Motorsport Centre with racing driver and television presenter Tiff Needell.
Bassett Down owner Juliette Nutland said: “Ian has been such a valuable member of our team over the last 10 years. He has significantly helped us to grow our ladies’ section as well as advising on the development of the golf course.
“We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed towards Ian’s present, and helped us surprise him on his special day – his face was a picture.”
In addition to his liking for speed on four wheels, the 67-year-old is an avid Manchester United fan.
“It started as a result of me being in a very privileged position,” he explained.
“Hugh Gaffney, a member of Manchester Golf Club, who caddied for me when I qualified and made the cut in the 1974 Open at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s, became a life-long friend.
“His wife Alma just happened to be Sir Matt Busby’s secretary, so my love of Manchester United started from there.”
In addition to competing in The Open, Bolt played on the European Tour and was the first winner of the Cornish Festival – the 54-hole tournament played on three courses in Cornwall that marks the start of the season in the PGA West region.
He has also been named the region’s golfer of the year on two occasions, won more than 30 pro-ams, holds four course records and is an honorary member at St Andrews.
His biggest love golf-wise, however, remains coaching.
“I still enjoy teaching now as much as I did when I was 20 years old, even after 50 years,” said Bolt, who still spends 40 hours a week coaching.
“I’ve taught players of all standards including some who are now golf professionals themselves.
“I also co-hosted ten four-minute golf tips with my friend Henry Kelly on ITV on Saturday mornings. One other highlight was giving Sir Bobby Robson a lesson at La Manga in Spain, where I was the organising professional for the Henry Cooper Variety Club Classic; what a lovely man Sir Bobby Robson was.
“I also helped my best friend Ken Knox organise two charity events at his club Ogbourne Downs where we raised more than £30,000.
“Ken partnered me on many of my pro-am wins and sponsored me on the European Tour. I would not have achieved the success I did without his help.
“Above all, I love seeing the improvement in players, regardless of whether they’re starting out as a beginner, or are a well-established golfer in need of a few tips to fine tune elements of their game.
“Basset Down is such a friendly club, with an active membership and has one of the best driving ranges in Wiltshire.
“It’s great to be part of such a forward-thinking club, and I’m looking forward to continue coaching until my retirement – who knows when that will be though.”