As he prepares to pass the baton of Head Professional at Avondaale Golf Club to his son Ben in July, PGA Professional Mark Paterson reflects on a soccer career cut short and the life in golf that fate provided for him.
Soccer was my no.1 sport as a kid growing up. I suffered a knee injury when I was about 16 and couldn’t play for 12 months so I went out and caddied for a mate of Dad’s at Waratah Golf Club in Newcastle every Saturday.
I got injured playing soccer again when I was 18 and that’s when I decided to give golf a go. I started the PGA Trainee Program in 1980 under Peter Porter at Newcastle Golf Club. The requirement first from my parents was that I had to complete my HSC. I did that so I had something to fall back on but luckily 40 years on I haven’t needed it.
When I finished the Trainee Program I competed on the proam circuit and did well but back in those days there just wasn’t the level of professionalism that there is now. If I was starting my golf now I’d probably try to be a tournament professional but back then there wasn’t the practise or fitness associated with it. They’re real athletes now.
After completing the Trainee Program at Newcastle I had two years as the Assistant PGA Professional under Lindsay Sharp at Bexley Golf Club, was the Head PGA Professional at Moree Golf Club for three years and then came to Avondale in 1988. I learnt a lot about the business side of being a successful Club Professional under Sharpy and then going to Moree was a great learning curve with great people. I loved my time up there.
Ben has been a junior here since he was 12 and he’s now 32. People have seen him grow from a young junior into an elite PGA Club Professional.
Ben was an elite amateur until he was struck down with Leukaemia when he was 17 years of age. That put an end to his tournament play but he’s been in remission for a long time now. As parents, watching that was probably the worst time of our life for myself and Robyn; you never want to see your kid go through that.
Ben was like me, he loved his soccer. He was a rep soccer player but at 14 he came to me and said that he preferred golf. At that point he was almost a scratch marker. There was no doubt he would have been good enough to be a tournament player. Life takes you in different directions though and now he’s going to be the Head PGA Professional at Avondale.
We’ve always got on really well but teaching him was hard. Like any young kid, he wanted to be brilliant overnight. There were blues on the practice fairway for sure. If he played bad it was always my fault because of something I’d told him.
“If I was starting my golf now I’d probably try to be a tournament professional but back then there wasn’t the practise or fitness associated with it. They’re real athletes now.”
Teaching has always intrigued me. I developed my teaching style by going through all the pages of instruction from all the top teachers and drew out the common denominators. I went to a lot of seminars, I spent time with Gary Edwin, I spent time watching Gary Barter teach to see that I was on the right track. It was predominantly self-teaching and even at 60 I still love reading about the golf swing. Teaching has certainly been my passion.
Because I’ll still be teaching the odd lesson at the club the only thing I’ll miss is being able to do what I love every single day. The reward will be watching Ben take over and knowing that he’s deserved it and that I’ve left the club that I love in good hands.
I was in the state soccer team with Craig Johnston and he went on to play for Liverpool. No doubt I thought I was as good a soccer player as he was and you wonder what might have been. But life took me in a whole different circle and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been one of the lucky ones.