NIGEL HIRST has retired after spending almost 45 years as professional at Dewsbury District Golf Club.
He may still live down the road in Lower Hopton, but has come a long way since he arrived as a 21-year-old when he moved into a prefab concrete building that was also the members’ trolley shed.
First introduced to the game by his father Ralph, a 3-handicap player at Hanging Heaton, Hirst’s long professional career began aged 15 years and 11 months as assistant to Charles Hughes at Woodsome Hall.
Next year will mark his 50th anniversary as a member of the PGA and he was the longest continuously serving head professional in Yorkshire.
His gregarious nature led to him becoming a key influencer in developing the Pro-Am scene in Yorkshire and the Dewsbury District Pro-Am is the longest running in the county having been played 39 times in the last 44 years. Supporters will be pleased to hear that it will continue, under the guidance of Nigel’s successor James Ward.
When he was captain of the Yorkshire PGA, he encouraged Dewsbury member and DIY store magnate John Madeley to support the organisation and one of his proudest moments was bringing the Yorkshire PGA Championship to his home club in 1991.
Hirst, who has served as captain and president of the Yorkshire PGA is not one to miss a trick. When Nigel found out that turf supplier Alan Chappelow had just dug up Elland Road and had thousands of tons of topsoil, he persuaded the club to build a new short game area.
His final project was the construction of a new practice ground, which is almost ready for action save for a covered area and a ball dispensing machine.
He is also one of the best independent golf retailers in the county and took his inspiration from Filey professional Doug Currie. “He was surrounded by bigger clubs like Ganton, but had the best professional’s shop I had ever seen,” says Hirst.
“We started out in the trolley shed and now we have a thriving retail business despite some of the big boys trying to step on our toes.”
Another to have a major influence on his career was former Worksop professional David Snell. “I went to one of his pro-ams. It was superbly organized, and he just commanded the room. I came away thinking ‘he’s the man I want to be’.”
Hirst has always had an eye for an opportunity and was instrumental in pushing for a new clubhouse, which was built at a cost of £750,000 back in 2002.
He was made an honorary life member in 2000 and the Mirfield native intends to continue playing at the club he first joined as a 13-year-old. His biggest win came in the Wilson Northern Club Professionals’ Championship in 1986, and in 2015 edged out his then assistant and protégé James to win the Halifax Golf Alliance Page Trophy – 43 years after winning it for the first time.
His retirement was marked by a sold-out Nigel Hirst Celebration Medal and an evening function with over 200 guests present to recognise his achievements and listen to his favourite entertainer, the soul and Motown vocalist Ritchie Penrose.