Leslie Bakin

Leslie Bakin

The days of the old-time golf club professional have all but faded into the mists of time and it is now some 21 years since the then Newark Club pro­fessional from this era retired.

Leslie Bakin, or just plain Les to the members, was the type of professional who didn't learn his trade from colleges or night school, but from that commodity known as just plain experience. In today's high-tec world we have carbon shafted clubs, big-headed drivers, irons with different weights, electric buggies and so on. In Les's day it was probably half a dozen sets of clubs to choose from, a few different headed woods and wrapped balls (Dunlops and Warwicks mainly), costing 2/6d each (12.50p).

It was way back in December 1924, that Bakin was given the position of junior grounds­man at the old course in Hawton Road for the magnificent wage of £1 per week, and so began his long association with the Club. In March 1926, the directors agreed at a board meeting to increase his wages. Their Minutes record 'the youth Bakin (is) to have an increase in wages making 27/6d per week, plus 2/6d for Sunday work.'

Bakin must have been good at the job he was doing as he had several increases in wages. Records show that in 1927, his wages were made up to 307- per week (£1.50p) and in the May of the following year they were increased again by 2/6d per week, with a further 2/6d per week as from the 1st January 1929.

By now, his golf had improved and indeed he had reached a good standard. According to club records he applied for the vacant position of groundsman/professional, but was not given the post at that particular time. Frow, the club's former professional, obviously thought well of Les because he actually submitted the job application on his behalf. The board took the trouble to write to Frow and explain that the only reason they had not given the job to Les was because of lack of experience.

In December 1931, the board, probably for financial reasons, decided to dispense with the services of a Professional and Allamby, the Pro/Groundsman, was given a month's notice from 1 January 1932. At the same meeting the board resolved that 'L Bakin should continue his duties as Groundsman and be given charge of the course with no increase in wages but that he be allowed to give lessons after 4 o'clock, the sales of clubs, balls etc. and club clean­ing.'

However, although he may not have been given the title or financial recognition, he was clearly thereafter regarded by the members as the Club Professional. He moved with the club from the Hawton links to Kelwick in 1935 and lived in part of the converted farmhouse on the left of the 10th.

And this ideal situation would no doubt have continued for very many years but for the Second World War. Within two months of the outbreak of war, Les wrote to the board asking them to release him so that he could find some work of national importance. The board agreed to his request but allowed him to continue living in the farmhouse. It seems to have been some time before he was called up to HM Forces because he was still running the shop in May 1940 (and paying a token 5/- a year rent for it). In March 1942, he was given permission by the board to keep a pig in the farm building!

After the war ended he did not come straight back to Newark and it was not until the 21 June 1960 that he finally returned but this time as the club's Professional and Head Groundsman. His wife was employed as Stewardess but sadly she died within a few months. He remarried in 1969.

Although he had help, it was still his responsibility to see that the course was in shape and to look after the greens and fairways. How many members can still remember him cutting the greens with a small hand mower - waiting while you took your shot to the green and touch­ing his cap in greeting? One of nature's gentlemen!

Of course, there was not the foot traffic on those greens as there is today and golf was played at a slightly slower pace, but they were always in good playing condition. His shop was the small building which is now used as a buggy shed - the building at the side of the driveway near the practice ground. The present practice ground was, of course, the first hole until 1979. From his shop Les could keep an eye on who was playing from the first tee.

Almost gone now are the distant memories of his shop with its wrapped balls on display and various clubs, and the smell of the gluepot that wafted from his workshop situated in the other half of the small building.

In 1966, the board sent him their congratulations and good wishes on his election as a mem­ber of the PGA and agreed to pay his annual PGA subscription. In 1974 he was elected an honorary member of the club. When he finally retired on 31 March 1980 he was given a gra­tuity of £2,000. He finally left his house on the course in October 1980.