Two icons of Australian golf have been recognised for their contribution to the game in this country by receiving the Order of Australia Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list announced on Monday.
Revolutionary golf coach Gary Edwin and the late David Mercer were both recipients of OAMs for Services to Golf, due recognition for more than 120 years combined as PGA Professionals helping elite and amateur players to get the most out of their golf.
A PGA Professional since 1961, Edwin developed a methodology that became known as the Right Sided Swing and guided players to more than $100 million in career earnings… and counting.
Christened Gary Edwin Player, constant confusion and derision caused by the emergence of the South African great during the early days of his own playing career convinced the Australian to make his own name.
Taking inspiration from the swings of Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle and Ben Hogan, Edwin’s swing theory found success quickly, guiding the likes of Peter Lonard, Paul Gow, Rod Pampling, Nathan Green and Gavin Coles to the heights of the PGA TOUR and breathed new life into Peter Senior’s game when he considered quitting in the wake of his 1997 Canon Challenge win.
World Golf Hall of Famer Jan Stephenson is another Edwin disciple and the Gold Coast coach synonymous for his all-black attire has also worked with Major champions Ian Baker-Finch and Michael Campbell.
Pleasantly surprised by the nod – “They’ve been sending me e-mails for a couple of years but we never answered them because we thought they were hoaxes” – the 2006 Australian Teaching Professional of the Year said he has endeavoured to make not only players better but also fellow coaches.
“I got into teaching to make coaching better,” said Edwin, conceding that he was initially motivated to improve his own “horrendous” swing.
“I’ve had a little bit of influence on a lot of guys that now teach the game so that’s probably the biggest thrill that I get out of it.
“My two boys are good golfers and are in the industry with me so I’m very proud of that, too.
“Just generally trying to make coaching better and to help other coaches, because coaching golf isn’t easy.
“The game is so great for all of us. Socially, exercise-wise, the people we meet and seeing people get better.
“Coaches all feel better when they make people better and improve their golf. Improving people’s golf makes their life better, particularly if they play golf a lot.
“I’ve had a great life because of golf.”
Measuring the impact of David Mercer in his 68 years as a PGA of Australia Professional is next to impossible.
One of eight children – including brother Alex, another iconic figure in Australian golf – Mercer’s earliest introduction to golf was picking out balls to sell for pocket money at nearby North Ryde Golf Club and he began his traineeship in 1951.
In 1953 Mercer was appointed the Head Professional at Killara Golf Club and would spend the next 43 years endearing himself to every member who walked through his pro shop door.
While his putter would prove to be his Achilles heel, Mercer bested Open champions Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle to claim the Killara Cup shortly after becoming the club’s head professional, twice won the NSW PGA Foursomes Championship with close friend Len Woodward (1958 and 1967) and led the qualifying at Lundin Links to play his way into the 1973 Open Championship at Royal Troon.
After starting his traineeship under Alex Greg Hohnen completed his training under David and would become his business partner and ultimately successor at Killara, carrying forward his legacy of imparting a deep love of the game.
“He had incredible knowledge of the game, but lessons with Dave were centred around enjoying the game no matter what your handicap was,” Hohnen said on Mercer’s passing on September 12, 2020.
“He would tell people, ‘You’re going to get a lot of enjoyment out of the game, you’re going to meet a lot of great people and you’re going to have a lot of fun’.
“Not everyone is going to be a great player, but as long as they enjoy their game of golf, that’s the No.1 priority.”