Harry Willis and Elliot Proctor have recently been appointed as Presidents of the Durham County Golf Union and Northumberland Union of Golf Clubs respectively. Both these highly respected gents have many years of experience in golfing circles and they are very much looking forward to their terms in office.
Harry, a member at Ryton Golf Club for 42 years, has served on the Durham Executive since 1997. He was Captain of Ryton in 1984, Chairman of the club between 1985 and 1991 and President from 1991 until his new appointment this year.
On joining the Executive, Harry has served on the coaching, finance and disciplinary committees and for the past four years, he has been the Chairman of the standard scratch committee.
Harry said: "I will be the President for two years and basically I will continue to do what I have done in the past, attending all the county matches that are arranged, the difference being that I will be attending as President and not one of the workers."
Elliot has served on his Executive Committee since 1983 and has been the Secretary of his County since 1984. He has been a member at Northumberland Golf Club since 1959 and was Club Captain in 1985.
With reference to his new role, Elliot remarked: "I will try and emulate the previous president who was very good. He attended everything and had his own very good ideas - I would like to think I can carry on from where he left off."
As for the future of golf in the current climate, both new Presidents remained philosophical. Harry stated: "All the clubs are struggling at the moment; I think Durham County lost nearly 800 members last year which is a lot of members. All the counties are the same; it's like this throughout England. Here at Ryton, we have tried always to entice golfers to join the club but I think the main problem area has been caused by the dropping of the joining fee. I personally believe that clubs have shot themselves in the foot and now golfers are just moving around whereas before, when they had to pay a joining fee you got a commitment.
"And another problem here at Ryton is the lack of juniors; we are not getting the juniors joining. We have been to local schools to try and entice the youngsters into the game without much success - I really don't know what the answer is. There are only two clubs in Durham with a waiting list and that's Castle Eden and Eaglescliffe and that is a good indication of what has been happening within the clubs."
Elliot said: "I think all golf clubs or most clubs will be struggling to retain their membership figures for last year. I believe we are down about 5% down on last year and that is from clubs that have already paid their affiliation fees. In the long term, I hope it will improve but I think one of the problems is that clubs have been offering cut price golf in order to try and raise cash and because of that other clubs follow suit. At the end of the day, golfers who maybe only play twenty times a year are not going to join a golf club because they can play more cheaply paying a green fee whereas golf club memberships can cost around £500 a year.
"We are endeavouring to start an English Golf Union County Card which will give affiliated members of golf clubs, the chance to play at golf clubs in other counties at a half price green fee - we are hoping that this might cut out the twos for one. Also the English Golf Union are considering bringing in what could be called a license so that when a nomad golfer or non club member golfer goes to a club, on top of a green fee he or she will pay a license fee in order to play the course. Part of that fee will go to the golf club; part will go to the EGU and part to the Northumberland Union."
With the 2009 golfing season fast approaching, we wish both Harry and Elliot the very best in performing their duties as the leading ambassadors of golf in Northumberland and Durham.