Club uses former soldier to recruit juniors
Test Valley Golf Club in Hampshire is using a former soldier who used to hit golf balls at burnt-out tanks in Iraq to recruit juniors to play at the club.
John ‘Sid’ Trench, 54, a former Royal Artillery major, has launched schemes in two Basingstoke colleges, set up two junior golf teams, enrolled in the National Skills Challenge, implemented the Golf Foundation’s Junior Passport scheme and organised golf days to the BMW PGA Championship. He has also spent afternoons trudging through the local village delivering leaflets to residents.
With an application for GolfMark status for the club pending and strong links with local schools established, Trench has overseen the junior academy rise from a handful of youngsters to a thriving affair with 80 regularly using the facilities. He has also taught groups whose members have various mental and physical impairments.
Trench, who became a fully qualified PGA professional last year, has served in Iraq twice as well as Bosnia and Kosovo. He retired from the military in 2008.
“You get some downtime and I remember a few of the lads saying let’s try this golf lark,” recalls Trench, who joined the army at 15.
“I think I was about 25 at the time. We went out with a seven-iron and I never looked back. I loved it.
“Obviously there were plenty of times when you couldn’t play golf but I did whenever and wherever I could.
“I would pack a tube of balls, a couple of clubs and a small piece of astro turf. In Basra the only time I could play was at 6pm because it was so hot but I could only play for 45 minutes before it went dark. I used to go down to the airport and hit balls at burnt out Russian tanks.
“I feel very privileged to be in this position having just done all the training. My golf window is short. I can’t waste a day.
“As a career soldier nearing 50 it was time to think about my family. I knew I wanted to be a PGA professional but there were a few raised eye brows when I told my family and friends,” he admitted.
“I did a lot of research before embarking on it. I’d heard about the European Golf Teachers Federation thing but thought how can you do something in a week?
“So I phoned up the PGA training department to do some research and that was it. I thought if I am going to do it, I am going to do it properly.
“To prepare for my playing ability test I went for coaching with John Jacobs at Cumberwell Park. He spent a lot of time with me giving me extra technical and mental skills to be equipped to deal with the test.
“He was instrumental in helping me and giving me the coaching outlook I wanted. His skills were so user friendly.”
Trench also credits Tidworth Garrison pro Terry Godsen for giving him his first opportunity by taking him on as an assistant for two years.
“I was a member at Tidworth and approached Terry,” Trench explains. “I think he was thinking ‘is this guy for real?’. But he was a constant source of advice and helped remove some of the sharp edges.”
Trench also had 10 months with Gavin Grenville-Wood at Oak Park and added:
“I learned a lot with Gavin. It was on the back of that that I was invited to become junior academy manager at Test Valley with head pro Alastair Briggs.
“You have to be able to take yourself down to the kids’ level, it has got to be fun and safe, and you have to communicate.
“If you can’t relate to a six-year-old you take the edge off the experience.”