Tribute to Enville and their late pro

Added on November 25th, 2018 by Lorne Smith
Posted in General, Greenkeeping

I was reminded recently of the late Nick Park, one of the wisest and most observant commentators on golf administration, a member of The R&A golf course committee for 25 years and it was an honour that he accepted the invitation to join FineGolf’s Advisory Panel just before his sudden, tragic death at the too young age of 62.

Nick was a careful fellow and I respected him for taking a couple of years before he fully trusted the FineGolf ethos and in his last 18 months he told FineGolf about how he was working on bringing two new greenkeeping measurement tools to fruition.

Now that sounds incredibly boring but stay with me on this, it gets more interesting and as so often one should follow the money to understand the truth.

The first of these was the Greenstester, which allows individual course managers to obtain objective performance measurements of their putting greens without having to pay high service fees to an outside consultant.

The second tool, which he hoped The R&A would deliver via a software package, was a mechanism for golf clubs to be able to swap information to enable comparison of their own course management budgets with other similar clubs. He knew there are a lot of complications in such comparisons but his strategic reason for advocating this approach is well worth remembering. He wanted to reveal with objective facts how “conservationist fine grass greenkeeping” is better value than “chemical weed grass greenkeeping“.

If he was with us today, he might have argued that an example of the different size of budgets when there is a change in the type of greenkeeping regime, could be found in recent events at Enville GC.

About two years ago the club course policy changed from a conservationist fine grasses approach (that had helped attract a record level of green fee income in 2016) to a regime that gives softer, lush receptive greens with a consequent significant increase in budget, which excludes also an extra some £0.5 million for new sheds and an irrigation upgrade on one of their courses.

It would be inappropriate to conclude this was the reason for the recent dip in green fee income as there may have been lots of other reasons. But what FineGolf can be certain of from its communications over recent years with Sean Power, the much loved and late pro at Enville, was that while he would never ever have said anything against Enville, he inevitably was not pleased with the recent new direction of course policy. He having done so much in helping raise the Club’s profile to become the finest running heathland anywhere in the West Midlands, alongside the Herbert Fowler designed course of Beau Desert, he was hoping the club would get through its Augusta Syndrome Disease (ASD) cycle as soon as possible, and follow Pennard out the other end.

It was uplifting to join the Black Country community at Sean’s funeral recently and see how the members turned out in their hundreds to give tribute to a nationally well-respected man and pro, who over the last two years had courageously fought the cancer that finally claimed him.

FineGolf  thanks one of his closest golfing buddies for letting us have a copy of his tribute to Sean at the funeral service, so we can share it with others who also love Enville. See below:

sean power,

Sean’s golf bag and shoes with him at rest at Stourbridge crematorium.

“One of Sean’s favourite tales was of his interview for the role of assistant at Enville.  The pro Ron Hinton took Sean for a walk over the course and asked the aspiring professional “what makes this place so special Sean?” Sean wasn’t sure of the right response. Ron made it clear. It was the wonderful turf.
Sean became an advocate of tight, fine turf, fast running fairways and firm greens – that are so rewarding to well struck golf shots.
This was the start of his love affair with fine turf and especially Enville Golf Club, that endured for the next 30 years and for the rest of his life.

Recently he told me his inspiration for starting to play golf was Vicente Fernandez the stylish Argentinian, who he had seen winning a tournament on television. He liked the look of the game and so began to play at a local municipal and quickly caught the bug. He became an assistant pro as soon as he left school.
Sean had one or two assistant jobs, meeting some colourful characters and indeed made some friendships that lasted a lifetime.
He even showed the naivety and impudence of youth by entering the Tour school before his 18th birthday.

Sean was driven even in those early days looking for the right environment to hone his skills on the path to becoming a professional.
This is what ultimately brought him to Enville in his early twenties.

Under the tutelage of Mr Hinton, Sean learned his trade and developed his own game, becoming more competitive, enabling him to play in local, national and international events, with a fair degree of success.
He enjoyed playing in the Open qualifying, navigating his way through the regional stage on numerous occasions for the chance to tee it up with the ‘ big boys’ at final qualifying. Final qualifying used to be full of named players trying to gain one of the fifteen or so spots at each venue into the Open proper.

Sean could compete at this level. A disappointment was missing a great chance to qualify for Muirfield in 1992 – playing at North Berwick, he was ideally placed in the second round, on the edge of the notorious 16th green (Biarritz) needing just 3 pars to qualify. Sadly his first putt didn’t make it to the top of the slope and came back to his feet, eventually 4 putting and ultimately failing to make a play-off by one shot. Sean was in good company, Mickelson and Crenshaw were amongst notables to fall at North Berwick that year.

Sean although still young, was given the Head pros’s job at Enville when Mr Hinton retired. Sean had great plans for ‘His’ golf shop. He wanted to give a premium service to golfers that included offering leading brand golf equipment and first class teaching. He redeveloped the golf shop by increasing the floor space. Overtime with significant personal investment he created what is undeniably the best golf shop in the region.

He travelled far and wide playing golf across the UK, Europe and the US opening Sean’s eyes to the potential of Enville and his desire for the club to be the best it could.

Sean’s dreams started to come together in the early 2000’s, when he took an active part in the transformation to a heathland fast running course with the new course manager and new Chair of Green.
The 11th and 12th Lodge were completely re-routed. Both were very much Sean’s vision.

Sean should be most proud of the practice area, a cornerstone of the Club’s development.
Prior to it being built there was a small space where 2 or 3 people could hit 7or 8 irons before getting in each other’s way.
Sean looked at the farmland adjacent to the car park and cajoled support amongst the committee to acquire the land from the farmer. Sean was VERY persuasive. The masterstroke was designing and ultimately building the wonderful practice area we have today – the finest practice area in the West Midlands for both long hitting and to practice the Bump-and-Run.

Sean bought the necessary equipment and supplied the golf balls. Today it’s UNIVERSALLY RECOGNISED and constantly busy. It’s a facility all golfers appreciate.

The work elevated Enville to be recognised by The R&A and the EGU. Many tournaments including the Open Championship Qualifiers came to Enville. The status of the club grew, GOLFERS CAME TO PLAY and enjoy the fast running heathland courses that he had helped to develop with their firm, tight turf.

Sean’s vision of ‘build it and the people will come’ played a huge part in ensuring Enville managed to successfully come through the difficult economic climate following the bank crisis of 2008.

Sean was a great student of the golf swing. His own theories and methodologies for the swing were grounded in solid fundamentals that reflected his own personality. He considered new trends and unpicked them to see if they stood up to reason.
Lessons with Sean were a delight- he could make seemingly complicated ideas seem straightforward – pupils always ended a lesson feeling confident and upbeat, be that after a half hour or 2hrs (Sean never wore a watch, or had much of a sense of time).

He continued to play a little golf and had aspirations to play competitive Seniors golf.
His last tournament was the Qualifier for the 2016 Seniors Open at Carnoustie. (Ed: won by Paul Broadhurst, the touring pro at another Midlands heathland club, Northamptonshire County).
Sean was drawn at Downfield GC near Dundee. Typical of Sean he decided to stay at the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews – an hours drive to Downfield and was keen for his travelling companions to stay there and share the luxury.
Reluctantly they declined preferring to be based nearer to the courses in Angus, though they did join him for Sunday Lunch at the St Andrews Jigger Inn.

Sean was diagnosed with cancer in October 2016. Although unfamiliar with hospital life, he took on this last challenge using all of the skills and tenacity he had learnt through his life – never feeling sorry for himself. We can only admire his bravery and humility fighting the disease. He marvelled at the skills and dedication of all of the staff treating him over the two years.

Sean was always very matter of fact about his prognosis- but he never stopped being the Sean we loved. The treatment was intense throughout. Sean’s health went through peaks and troughs.

He was to play golf on 2 more occasions both in the autumn of 2017.
Once at his beloved Enville on the day of the Velo (Charity Cycle Race). The golf doesn’t deserve further mention however watching Sean’s joy at being back playing and cheering on the cyclists was one of my happiest memories on a golf course.

For the record, his last round was at the historic English heathland club of Woking. Suffice to say Sean was on the winning side that day. Despite being frail and having to use ‘cashmere inserts’, he did strike one at the 17th past all of his fellow golfers.

Tragically the Leukaemia took hold again last Winter. Sean said he couldn’t have continued to fight the disease without the love and support of his Mom, his sister – Mandy and his wider family.

Simon and Richard his long time trusted assistants have made an incredible effort, keeping the business going on the right track. They also deserve all of our support and recognition in these difficult times. They have lost a leader, a friend and a brother.

A stream of his friends would beat a path to his office whenever he was at the golf club, clinging to his wisdom and humour, all hoping that a miracle could be found. We all cherish his memory and are grateful, for knowing him, what he taught us about golf and life.

A footnote: At the Seniors Open this Summer,Vicente Fernandez was reminded of the influence he’d had on the ailing Sean’s chosen career – The teary eyed Argentine passed on his regards and promised that Sean would be in his prayers. Everyone loved Sean”.

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