Dr Philip Weaver OBE (1948 – 2022)
Tributes have been paid to Phil Weaver, a titan of the game at all its levels and former PGA Chairman, who has passed away at the age of 73 following a long and typically stoic battle with cancer.
Phil, who was awarded the OBE for services to golf in 2012, was PGA Chairman for an unprecedented 25 years, serving from 1989 to 2014. He was also the head PGA Professional at Coventry Golf Club for 35 years.
The back story to those statistics, however, is one of a stellar and influential career that saw him play key roles in such diverse facets of the game as Team Europe becoming competitive in the Ryder Cup and its transformation into a sporting contest of global interest, as well as his club becoming a haven for wildlife and synonymous with sustainability.
It all began at the age of 15 in 1963 with a humble assistant’s role at Beau Desert Golf Club, Staffordshire, and culminated in Phil’s final position as the Curator of PGA Heritage. In between times, his golfing journey exceeded his most fanciful dreams.
“Never in a million years would I have thought about something like this happening to me when I started in my first post at Beau Desert,” he reflected after Prince Charles had presented him with the OBE.
That stint at Beau Desert was followed by a move to nearby Great Barr Golf Club and then Coventry where, after 13 years as Senior Assistant Professional, he was appointed head PGA Professional in 1979. Later Phil was charged with combining that role with that of Course Manager and, given his passion for painting, walking, bird watching, and all matters environmental, one suspects it was the most fulfilling of all he performed.
Under his watch, the club became the first in England to achieve the prestigious, international Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) award in 2012 and, despite being located on the cusp of a busy city, more than 70 species of birds have been seen on the course, as have otters, badgers, muntjac and roe deer, stoats, shrews, and foxes.
“His work on the course and the help he gave the greens staff was invaluable and is key to it becoming so environmentally friendly,” said Martin Sutliff, Phil’s successor as Coventry Golf Club’s head professional.
“I worked with him for 10 years and I wasn’t aware of the roles he had beyond the club when I started. He was a very private person who didn’t given much away.
“Then when he told me shortly after I started that he’d be away for a fortnight on
Ryder Cup duty and I’d be on my own, I started to learn how high up he was in the golf world.
“Despite those roles he was always down to earth and supportive of me. He was brilliant in guiding me and I hope I can be here for as long as he was.”
Life in the pro shop was clearly a world away from the cut and thrust of administering the Ryder Cup and his chairmanship of The PGA, which began in 1989 a year after he was elected to the Association’s board of directors.
Those two roles were inextricably linked insomuch that the latter meant Phil was tasked with making a speech at the opening ceremony of the biennial contest, a duty he undertook 13 times during his time as PGA Chairman.
Furthermore, such was the increasing interest and popularity of the match that, millions were watching on TV when Phil delivered his last opening address at Gleneagles in 2014.
In addition to the ceremonial aspect of his involvement with the Ryder Cup, Phil was appointed joint-chairman of the European Ryder Cup Committee, a role that ended in 2005 when Ryder Cup Europe LLP was formed. Thereafter Phil sat on the Players and Stakeholders’ Board until he relinquished his position as PGA Chairman.
“Phil was a true gentleman, who cared deeply for both the Association and the Ryder Cup,” reflected Richard Hills, the former managing director, Ryder Cup Europe. “He oversaw many changes in both and did so with a fair and open mind. He will be sadly missed.”
Having retired as head pro and course manager at Coventry, Phil was appointed the Curator of PGA Heritage, a role that complemented his affection and insatiable interest in the Association’s history. Not least his diligent research into PGA Members who perished in World War I, which produced a sobering and extensive catalogue of human tragedy and loss.
“That was typical of Phil’s service for and love of the Association,” said Robert Maxfield, PGA chief executive.
“Moreover, his contribution to golf and The PGA was immeasurable. As PGA Chairman for 25 years he provided a steady hand and sharp mind as the Association negotiated a period of significant change.
“And despite occupying a seat at the game’s top table, he never forgot his calling as a PGA Professional.
“We have lost a valued colleague and loyal friend. It’s a massive loss and a very sad day.”
Alan White, the current PGA Chairman, added: “Phil’s longevity in the role and his success in executing it made him a hard if not impossible act to follow.
“However, that has created a template and legacy for me and his other successors to refer to and I, for one, am indebted to his contribution as Chairman and, on a personal level, having him as a friend and colleague.”
Phil was also a proud recipient of an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Dublin in 2006. However, such honours and the high esteem in which he was held as a driving force behind the Ryder Cup, PGA chairman, club professional and environmentalist, tends to obscure the fact that he was an accomplished player.
He played on the European Tour for five years and represented Great Britain and Ireland in the PGA Cup in 1982 and 83, winning five of his seven matches. Closer to home, Phil won the Warwickshire Open seven times, was the Warwickshire Professional champion on four occasions, Midland Assistants champion in 1972, Midland Matchplay champion in 1975, and Warwickshire Matchplay champion in 1981.
“Phil was a highly competent professional golfer representing the Association in the PGA Cup and many other events, too many to mention,” recalls Alan Walker, PGA Master Professional and Captain in 1999-2001.
“He was also a fabulous artist and each year I marvelled at his bespoke hand painted Christmas card. Phil was a talented man in so many respects and somebody you could rely on and trust implicitly as I found by the many years we spent together on the Board of the PGA.
“I will remember Phil for his dry humour, which was just below his sometimes stern and serious façade, mainly due to his desire to represent The PGA in the very best possible manner. He enjoyed the fun of life as much as the duty of life.
“I knew Phil for nearly 40 years, and he was the ultimate and consummate PGA Professional in every possible way.”
Phil is survived by his wife Lynette, son Miles and his partner Phillip, daughter Sally and son-in-law Clive and their children, Erin and Harry, brother Chris and sisters Joan and Sheila. The PGA extends heartfelt condolences to them, Phil’s other family members and his legion of friends.
Trego begins new innings as a PGA Trainee
As someone who played First-Class cricket for more than two decades, and did so very successfully, Peter Trego earned a reputation for never doing anything by halves. A 54-ball century as Somerset chased down 476 runs to defeat Yorkshire is testament to that.
As is the time when, having mothballed his cricket bat to keep goal at semi-pro level for Margate and Chippenham Town, he scored for both clubs.
So, it should come as no surprise that he marked his debut in a PGA tournament by winning it. Then having finished tied-fourth in his second event, he claimed another victory in his third.
“My goal in my first year was to win one regional tournament,” said the 40-year-old who played more than 500 games for Somerset before winding up his cricketing career with Nottinghamshire and becoming a PGA Trainee.
“The thinking was baby steps at first. To have two wins in three events is amazing, especially as there’s a lot of good players at that level.”
One of them, David Dixon, a former European Tour member, PGA Cup player and regular competitor on the PGA South West tournament circuit, played a part in Trego turning pro a year ago.
“I worked really hard on my golf during the pandemic,” Trego recalled, “and when Dave was getting ready to play in some Challenge Tour events, he wanted a sparring partner at the Players Club.
“I think I shot three-under one afternoon, and four-under a couple of days later. He planted the seed really. He said he played with guys on Tour who didn’t swing it as well as I did so why didn’t I give it a go.
“In fact, the pandemic was the best thing that happened to my golf because I had nothing to do but practise. When golf reopened in 2021, I had a brilliant summer – I was in and out of the team at Nottinghamshire and had plenty of time to play.
“I started shooting some excellent numbers – there were seven-unders and I had a nine-under. That gave me confidence to give a go. I don’t fear failure because I know how much of a challenge, I’ve set myself. What I do fear is not giving it a try.
“What’s more, I don’t think there will be many out there in my situation trying to become a golfer who will work harder than I do. We’ll see where that takes me.”
Initially that’s Mendip Spring, the club in north Somerset he is attached to while training to become a PGA Professional. And after spending 24 years as a professional cricketer, Trego accepts the academic side of the training programme may come as a culture shock.
“I was obsessed with sport at school and had to be forced into class,” he admitted. “But I think I’ve got a decent brain and I’ve done enough studying with cricket coaching and various courses. And I’ve got a lot of great people around me to give me advice and help.
“I’ve got a good relationship with Will Hobbs, the head pro, and Scott Thompson, the director of golf. In fact, there’s a picture of me and Scott at St Martin’s Primary School – I’m on Scott’s shoulders holding the trophy for winning a five-a-side competition. That was 31 years ago. I’ve known him for a long time and have always enjoyed playing here.”
Initially playing is Trego’s raison d’être for joining The PGA but, looking long term, he is mindful of the bigger picture.
“Being involved with The PGA gives me lots of playing opportunities which, first and foremost, is my priority – to try and play,” he explained.
“But for me, I’ve always found that whatever I engross myself in I try and get as much knowledge as I can and that always improves my performance.
“So, the coaching aspect The PGA degree brings is also massively important for me. The more knowledge I gain about the golf swing, the better my game becomes.
“Nevertheless, I’m aware of the challenge I’ve set myself – there’s a lot of very talented men and women trying to make it as professional golfers.
“And if I don’t succeed as a player, I accept there is a safety net at the end of three years and I can turn to coaching or club-fitting but that’s not in my thinking.
“I’ve been a sportsman since leaving school at 16 and want to remain in sport as I know nothing else.
“I am still involved in cricket with Somerset in hospitality and media work but the prospect of a job in golf in three years’ time is just as desirable.
“I know whenever you travel round Europe, PGA pros are highly thought of and respected.
“My priority is to be the best player I can be – but engrossing myself in the world of golf via The PGA is hugely important for me. So, I’m forever thankful for being accepted onto the PGA programme – hopefully I’ll be an asset to the Association.
“At the end of the day, we’ve all got to start somewhere – I’m just starting a bit later than most people.”
Trio seal Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup spots
Greig Hutcheon, Adam Keogh and Simon Thornton have been confirmed as the first three players to seal their place in the Great Britain and Ireland 2022 PGA Cup team.
All three PGA Professionals qualified after finishing in the top three at the PGA Play-Offs last week. They will be part of a 10-man team, captained by DJ Russell, that will take on their American counterparts at Foxhills Club & Resort, Surrey, in September 2022.
Hutcheon (Torphins Golf Club) is no stranger to playing in the PGA Cup having represented Great Britain & Ireland in their famous victory over America back in 2017. The Scotsman holed the winning putt that year at Foxhills Club & Resort and was also part of the team that drew with the Americans 13-13 at Slaley Hall in 2013.
Keogh (Woodhall Spa Golf Club), and Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) are both set to make their PGA Cup debuts. Both finished second and third respectively in the PGA Play-Offs in Ireland to book their place in DJ Russell’s team for the event, which is the Ryder Cup equivalent for PGA Professionals.
The trio’s presence in the team and the experience they have has delighted Captain DJ Russell. He commented: “It’s great to have the first three players – Greig, Adam and Simon – confirmed for the Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team.
“I am absolutely delighted with the standard of golf they have played during the PGA Play-Offs and they’re the start of a very strong team that we’re going to put forward against America.
“There is a real mixture of youth and experience within the three players. Adam’s a very promising youngster who hits the ball extremely well, while Greig and Simon are more seasoned campaigners. It’s nice to get that experience, but they’re all very keen and enthusiastic about playing at Foxhills Club & Resort in September in the 2022 PGA Cup matches.
“Through the team you need a bit of everything – youth and experience – so I’m delighted with the first three players, I couldn’t have picked three better players.”
Looking ahead to what will be his third PGA Cup experience, Hutcheon said: “I am absolutely delighted to be part of the Great B ritain & Ireland PGA Cup team again.
“The standard is high so to make a third appearance for Great Britain & Ireland will be fantastic. I’ve experienced playing in the event before and for us PGA Professionals, it’s the next best thing to playing in the Ryder Cup. It’s very competitive so I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s very special so I’m a lucky boy to get to be part of it again.”
Keogh admits his target heading into the 2022 tournament season was to secure his place in the Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team. He said: “That was my goal, to get into the 2022 team. The last two years at the PGA Professional Championship I’ve finished seventh and sixth, which would normally get you into the team.
“It’s tough to get in through the PGA Professional Championship, with the added complication of my friends getting married the week before in America so it is going to be a difficult time! I’m just pleased to have it in the pocket so to speak now.
“Whenever you can play as a team I think it’s a great thing to be able to do. You will make memories that will last a lifetime. I’m now looking forward to the event at Foxhills Club & Resort and all the preparation beforehand.”
Thornton is also relishing his first PGA Cup experience, adding: “We’d all like to win the PGA Play-Offs but to get a spot in the PGA Cup is what we’re here for. I’ve never played in it before. I’ve read, heard and watched all about it so I’m just delighted to be in the team.
“I haven’t played much team golf over my career. I didn’t play any amateur golf or anything like that, but it will be something new to me. I believe it’s a long week so I can’t wait to get stuck in. I’ll need to get the practice bag out now and start hitting some balls! I’m really looking forward to it!”
Great Britain & Ireland will be looking to win back the Llandudno Trophy at Foxhills Club & Resort in September following a narrow defeat at Barton Creek Resort, Austin in 2019.
DJ Russell’s 10-man team will be finalised at this year’s PGA Professional Championship where six players will automatically qualify leaving a captain’s pick to complete the 2022 line-up.