Sheringham professional Nick sees his work recognised by PGA
- Credit: Archant
A north Norfolk sportsman has been made an honorary life member of the Professional Golfers' Association, in recognition of a 41-year career that has seen him coach hundreds of juniors and fellow professionals, and play alongside legends like Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson and Gary Player.
Former Gresham's School student Nick Catchpole, 59, caught the golfing bug as a youngster and, in 1970, at the age of 14, made his county debut as the youngest golfer ever to play for Norfolk.
'I also played junior cricket for the county, so I had a choice to make, but I became good at golf, very quickly,' he said.
He went on to become one of the top half a dozen under 16s in the country and followed his boyhood dream of becoming a professional went he left school to train at Sheringham Golf Club and the Royal Norwich Golf Club.
Catchpole, whose lists among his golfing claims to fame being babysat by Tony Jacklin as a toddler decided to focus on working as a club professional after fracturing an ankle.
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For the following thirty years, he divided his time between clubs at Great Yarmouth, Ross-on-Wye, in Herefordshire, and West Runton, where, in 1978, he helped redesign and relaunch the Links Country Park Golf Club.
An accident in 1986 saw him undergo a series of operations on his hand to repair damaged tendons but, despite their best efforts, doctors were forced to amputate his right thumb, seriously hampering his game.
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'It was devastating,' Catchpole said. 'But it made me determined more to focus on coaching.'
He gained a degree in sports psychology 15 years ago which, he says, opened up a 'new dimension' in his work.
'My philosophy is not to teach a technique, but to teach a person to enjoy their golf better by playing better,' he explained.
A Norfolk Professional Golfers Association committee member for many years, Catchpole, whose 29-year-old twins are both keen golfers, was twice branch captain, also taking on the East of England PGA captaincy in 1989.
He has coached the Gloucestershire and South West Region county squads, was head coach of Norfolk for three years and, in his spare time, has been a volunteer helper at the Ryder Cup a number of times.
For the past eight years, he has worked full-time as coach at Gresham's School and Fakenham driving range.
With his competition days behind him, his PGA honorary membership was a 'complete surprise' that left him feeling 'absolutely over the moon'.
'It was wonderful, golf has been my life and I felt very grateful, humbled and proud, not many people can say they have lived a dream.
'My only regret is that I didn't get to the top of my playing aims,' he said.