Chapter 9 - The Amateurs

In the long list of top quality players to emerge from the ranks of youngsters at Coxmoor, starting with Bill White and running through to today's touring professional Greg Owen, one man probably stands above all others when it comes to records and achievements.

Ex-Coxmoor professional Bill White has no doubts. 'He was the best player I ever taught,' he said.

Jack Nicklaus described him as one of the greatest iron players he had ever faced.

And the records show he remains the most successful amateur golfer to be produced in Nottinghamshire.

Alec Shepperson

Alec Shepperson

From the moment he picked up a club for the first time, inspired by his father Lewis, it was clear young Alec Shepperson was destined for great things.

`My father suffered from asthma and he was advised to take up golf during the Second World War.

`He joined Coxmoor, and eventually, the whole family followed in his footsteps,' said Alec.

Lewis Shepperson would become club captain in l950 and again in 1953 and Alec's mother Nance also captained the ladies in 1953.

But it was young Alec who had the special talent.

`It is easy to look back and say I had natural ability, but what transpired was that I played often and practised whenever I could.'

Alec was guided by Bill White with such good effect that within the space of five months in 1950, his handicap dropped from 18 to 10 and within a year he was playing off 5.

Alec says fondly: 'Bill was a tower of strength.

`He was always ready to help, advise and play.

`His favourite phrase was 'Just pop it down the middle'.'

Alec remembers Coxmoor having a wonderful attitude towards its juniors. While Alec was the leading light, there were other wonderful young players around him including his brother John, Barry Wardman and keen rival Alan Crafts.

`Members like Len Townsend, George Rymell, Arthur Lineker and dozens more, all gave us terrific encouragement.

`I am sure that without them, and the committee's willingness to let me play in all the senior club competitions, I would not have achieved all that I did.

'Those members would always give the juniors a game -and it was always a tough game.'

If that was responsible for giving Alec a competitive instinct, it certainly stood him in good stead.

His achievements over the following 15 years include:

England Boys international 195153; British Boys runner-up (to Michael Bonallack), 1952; British Boys champion 1953; Notts county amateur and open champion, French junior champion 1955; England international 1956-62; Oxford and Cambridge Golf Society President's Putter 1957; Walker Cup (with fellow Coxmoor member Alan Bussell) 1957; Brabazon Trophy (English Amateur Open Stroke Play championship) runner-up, two more county titles, home internationals and GB v Rest of Europe 1958; Walker Cup team member 1959; Turnberry Trophy (including course record 65) 1960; county champion 1961; Brabazon Trophy runner-up, home internationals 1962; Notts Amateur champion 1965.

Looking back, Alec understandably regards his two appearances for the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team as the pinnacle of his career.

Along with fellow Coxmoor member, Scotsman Alan Bussell (now a member of the Chevin GC), Alec was called up for the biennial match against the best American amateurs, in 1957, when the match was played in Minneapolis.

The Americans won, as usual, but Alec, teamed with Guy Wolstenholme, scored a notable hal in the foursomes with American duo Mason Rudolph and Hillman Robins Jnr.

Derek McJannet

Derek McJannet

Alec did not play in the singles, but Bussell scored a wonderful 2&1 victory over J. Campbell. However he lost his foursomes match.

Even better was to follow in 1959, when the American team arrived at Muirfield, Alec's favourite golf course.

The Americans included their new amateur champion, young, muscular blond haired sensation by the name of Jack Nicklaus.

Alec, partnered by Michael Lunt, was drawn to play the young prodigy and his partner, the splendidly named Ward Wettlaufer III.

With an east wind blowing across the exposed Scottish links, Alec and Michael Lunt looked on for a famous win until the closing holes of the 36-hole match when the Americans' charge took them to a 2&1 victory.

It was while looking back on this match that Nicklaus was to remark on the quality of Alec's iron play.

Alec was still waiting to chalk up his first Walker Cup win and, after taking 43 to cover the first nine holes of his singles match against future American tour pro Tommy Aaron, he was four down and odds on for another defeat.

But Alec then put together a remarkable sequence of scoring which, he recalls, went 4-3-4- 3 4 3 4 3 4. He won the match by 2&1 and had that precious point to add to his illustrious record.

As the Sixties dawned, Alec could reflect on a career in which he had achieved just about everything that he could in the amateur game, and as the responsibilities of adult life began to emerge, changes were inevitable.

Academically, he had a bright future as he graduated from Christ College, Oxford, to enter the legal profession.

Martin Scothern

Martin Scothern

Marriage and a family was another significant influence on his personal development: gradually golf began to take a back seat as more important considerations entered his life.

Looking back, he says: 'Those ten years or more when I was playing at almost every opportunity were, in sporting terms, among the most wonderful of my life.'

But gradually, he came to accept that his days at the highest level of competition were over and golf became little more than a weekend hobby.

In fact, for two years in the early 1970s, he ceased playing altogether.

Nowadays, playing off four, he confines himself to friendly games.

To acknowledge his achievements, and especially those Walker Cup appearances, he was made an honorary member, along with Alan Bussell, and is currently the club president.

`I cherish the honour,' he says. I regard it as an honour for my family. I am glad that my father was alive to see the day I became president.'

And then he added: 'Coxmoor is a wonderful club - with a capital C.

`There are some that have better terrain, Hollinwell for instance, which I believe is the toughest test of golf within 50 miles, and that is why I played there.

`But in terms of friendliness and camaraderie, Coxmoor is the best.'

"Although Alec heads the club's roll of honour, it is by no means a short list.

At international level, several players have carried the club's name forward including Alec's friend and rival Alan Crafts, who was an England player in 1950-51, and also won the Notts Amateur Matchplay championship in 1963 and 1965.

Bill White's son Peter represented England boys in 1968, also winning the Notts Amateur Championship, Joanne Berry won international honours in 1988-90 and Oliver Wilson, the 1999 Notts Open champion has become the latest junior from the Coxmoor ranks to achieve international recognition.

Oliver also took the 1999 Midland Order of Merit with a record points score and is now on a golfing scholarship in the United States.

To add to Coxmoor's recent glory, Martin Scothern finished third in that same order of merit, another unprecedented achievement for the club in a single season.

Oliver Wilson

Oliver Wilson

The club has racked up numerous other honours of significance, both individually and in team competitions.

Among the highlights have been Alan Crafts' Midlands Boys Amateur Championship success in 1951 - a title later claimed by Simon Prescote, in 1987; Mark Betteridge winning the Notts Junior Matchplay title in 1984; Mark Scothern's triumph in the Notts Amateur championship of 1985 and, in 1997, becoming Great Britain Club Champion of Champions.

He qualified by winning the 1997 Coxmoor club championship and then had to play seven rounds of singles matchplay against other club champions, at neutral courses around the country.

He came through to reach the final at the Forest of Arden where he faced five other players over 36 holes of stroke play. Martin won by five shots.

Tim Clark has claimed several open titles including the coveted Hollinwell Trophy and, with Martin Scothern, took the Midlands team strokeplay title in 1988. This formidable pairing were also Notts Foursomes champions in 1988, 1990 and 1995.

Springwater professional Phil Edwards, son of the former Notts County, Mansfield Town and Aston Villa footballer Dick Edwards, won the Notts Amateur title in 1990 while a member of Coxmoor.

Among the many outstanding lady players produced at Coxmoor, Eileen Lowe won the 1948 county ladies championship. In 1970-71, as Eileen Anderson, she was county captain and from 1983-85, county president.

She was followed into that prestigious position three years later by Pam Meadows.

Kathryn Horberry, another former county ladies captain, made her mark at the age of 14 when she matched her age to her handicap by shooting an 87 gross in the finals of the RNLI competition to take the title.

Kathyrn also remembers the day she played at Coxmoor in the consolation event of the English Ladies Matchplay - the main event was held at Hollinwell. It was a notable day for Kathryn as she recorded her first hole in one at the tenth.

In 1974, Kathryn took the NCLGA title at Coxmoor. Kathryn recalls: "I first played in the championship at Wollaton Park in 1967 and Dorothy Alberry caddied for me when she learned my family was not allowed to as I was still a junior. I beat Wendy McLuckie (Nichol) on the 23rd hole."

The Coxmoor team

The Coxmoor  team 1998

During her illustrious career, Kathryn has been county ladies champion on no less than eight occasions, including a run of consecutive victories from 1974-77, and runner-up a further five times.

She also won the Central England Mixed Foursomes with Charles Banks of Stantonon-the-Wolds in 1974.

Paula Wooding was the Notts Girls champion in 1983 and 1985 and also the Four Counties girls champion in 1985.

Other fine ladies who have battled for Coxmoor include Jill Dudley, Jane Fowler and many more. Now there is a new crop of talented young ladies carrying Coxmoor forward.

In recent years, it has been the men's fourball team in The Mail On Sunday Golf Club Classic which has captured the headlines. In 1997 the four man team reached the semi final of the Grand Final held in France.

Incredibly, the following year, a completely different fourball entered the competition - and got a step nearer the crown.

Consider this: in 1998 a record 2,902 men and women teams - a total of 17,500 players - entered what is the world's biggest golf club tournament. For the same club to provide a grand finalists' team two years in a row is a remarkable achievement.

Coxmoor's 1998 team consisted of Trevor Ryan (4) Roy Hudson (5), Robert Oakden (2) and captain Jim Wright (3), with reserves Steve Matthews and David Bell.

The Coxmoor team battled through eight preliminary rounds to reach the UK final, at The Belfry, where they knocked out Irish champions Nuremore 3-1 to reach Grand Final at the San Roque club in southern Spain.

The Coxmoor four then beat North Wales GC in the semi-final, but lost 3-1 to Creigau GC (Cardiff) in the Grand Final.

Many other Coxmoor members had the potential, over the years, to add to the club's achievements but, for one reason or another, were not able to fulfill their ambitions.

Alan Crafts says: "I am sure that had their jobs permitted more playing time to them and had golf been given more media coverage at that time, great success would have come their way."

Walter Woods

Walter Woods

He mentions Len Butler, who still plays great golf despite breaking both wnists in the past; Mac Eley, a miner who played off two; Chic Hickling, mentioned by Bill White as one of the club's eanly 'big hitters', who also worked in the mines and played scratch golf; Arthur Lineker, scratch golfer with a wonderful touch; Slamming Sam Taylor, another miner who only started to play at the age of 35-plus and achieved a handicap of two; Alf Carter, an Army sergeant major and a one handicap player; Ken Shaw, a terrific player who had the distinction of beating three Yorkshire county players in two days, a feat which the Yorkshire- men found understandably hard to swallow.

Alan Bussell, although not a local man, was the most tremendous golfer who represented Scotland and Britain in the Walker Cup, at the same time as Alec Shepperson. He won the British Youths title, Notts championship and many other competitions during his sparkling amateur career.

One other Coxmoor member who should not be omitted from the scroll of honour is Walter Woods, now a resident of St Andrew's in Scotland.

Walter came to Coxmoor as a member from Stanton-on-the-Wolds where he was greenkeeper.

From Coxmoor he went to the world's oldest and most famous golf course to become head greenkeeper at St Andrew's from where he retired in 1998.

Finally, Coxmoor saw out the old Millennium in grand style with the following additions to its roll of honour: Oliver Wilson, Midland Onder of Merit winner, took the Beau Desert Stag, Notts Open, Northants County Cup and Trentham Punch Bowl along the way.

Martin Scothern: third in the Midland Order of Merit, winner of the Sherwood Forester, Wollaton Stag, Leicestershire Fox, City Classic and Shepperson Trophy.

Derek McJannet, Joint 11th Midland Order of Merit, winner of the Kedleston Goose.

Coxmoor also took the Inter Club Scratch League and were Midland County League champions.

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