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By PAUL MUNDY 20/20 magazine


In the steps of Harry Vardon


Perhaps it was fate that being brought up within 250 yards of where the great golfer Harry Vardon was born, that a young Tommy Horton should have taken up the golf clubs at the tender age of five. He even made his own course on land he subsequently found had been used by Harry Vardon. His original house was situated on the piece of land to the right of the present 12th hole of The Royal Jersey Golf Club; this site in Grouville could have a chapter all to itself in the history of golf.


There is certainly a big entry in that history for Tommy Horton, who has not only been a keen ambassador for golf in Jersey, but has made a significant contribution to the game as club professional at the Royal Jersey for 25 years, course designer, coach, broadcaster, author and tournament champion.


Harry Vardon, born in Grouville in 1870, was, of course, a one-off. He perfected the Vardon Grip, which is still used today and which helped him to win the Open Championship a record number of times in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911 and 1914, as well as the US Open in 1900. During his 47 year playing career he won 62 tournaments, including one run of 14 in a row.


Playing golf has also been central to Tommy Horton’s career, but he has


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also put a lot back into the game that has been so good to him. During nearly 50 years of professional golfing, he went through the £1m earnings barrier in 2000 by winning a tournament in Barbados, but he had already been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s honours list of that year for services to the game.


Looking back today, he believes the honour came about because he not only played golf, he took a keen interest in others who wanted to play and to make a career out of it.


‘Probably the best thing I ever did was to start the young professional’s golfing school in 1977/8,’ Tommy said. ‘I think that’s why I got the MBE because I started the school and it went on for 23 years training young professionals in the business of playing golf. Prior to turning professional, many of these lads had been sponsored and had been looked after and taken care of by their mums and dads, but then they turned professional and they hadn’t a clue about things like nutrition, or how to organise flights and all sorts of things that I was very aware of. So the school was a great help, but unfortunately it didn’t carry on because the calendar is now so full that there are no spare weeks for it on the European tour. Instead they now attend lectures in the subjects I


used to teach them during a coaching week.’


Helping young players has become something of a speciality for 70- year old Tommy, who still plays golf regularly although mainly for charity or simply because he still loves the game. He understands the attractions and ethos of golf, which is still a gentleman’s game, with none of the discipline problems of so many other sports.


He is particularly proud of his efforts not only to put Jersey on the golfing map, but also to help Jersey youngsters through the trust set up in Harry Vardon’s name. Tommy’s former employee Wayne Osmand, for example, runs the Junior Golf Development Group, and who now teaches in 28 different schools.


‘It’s very heart-warming because something like 3,500 kids have been introduced to golf in the past three or four years in this way,’ Tommy said.


His only regret is that it’s sometimes difficult for young players to move up from just being interested in golf to taking it seriously as a profession. This is not just a question of teaching golfing techniques, Tommy says. They have to have the motivation and understand the commitment they must make if they want to progress.


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