HK pro earns British PGA fellowship

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 12:00am

Hong Kong Golf Club resident professional Iain Roberts has been rewarded for 30 years of service to the industry with a fellowship to the British Professional Golfer's Association.

Britain-born Roberts becomes one of just 34 fellows of the association, which has 6,000 qualified members. The 46-year-old has just completed 10 years as the club pro at Fanling, which is widely regarded as one of the world's most respected private members' clubs with its 116 years of history and being the second oldest golf club in the world outside of Britain.

'Naturally I'm thrilled about being awarded a fellowship to the association,' said a delighted Roberts, who is only the third resident pro at the club following Taiwan's 'Mr' Lu Liang-huan, who spent two years there in 1963 and 1964, and Joe Hardwick, who spent three decades at the Fanling club.

'Being recognised in this way by my peers is very rewarding,' said Roberts. 'The British PGA celebrated it centenary this year and is widely known for providing the very best professional teaching programmes in the world. The association was originally founded by the Great Triumvirate [J.H. Taylor, James Braid and Harry Vardon] which means a superior quality of instruction has been there right from the very beginning.'

To qualify for membership of the British PGA, Roberts, like the other 6,000 members, had to undergo a strict regimen of training that included teaching, merchandising, club repairs and event management.

'It was very intense when I started in the business 30 years ago, but to keep standards at the highest level it's even more demanding today,' said Roberts. 'The key objective of the British PGA is to promote the game of golf and to produce a consistently high standard of professional, but through an holistic approach to the game.'

Roberts, who lives at the club with his wife and two children, began his career in golf in 1975 when he turned professional and worked as an assistant pro at the Forest of Arden Golf Club in the English midlands. In 1982 he won his player's card for the European PGA Tour and embarked on a tournament schedule that also took in events on the South African Sunshine Tour.

'I actually preferred teaching to tournaments, so after a couple of years of playing the tours I decided to concentrate on club pro work,' Roberts said.

He has been involved with many different aspects of the industry in his three-decade career, including designing an 18-hole golf course at Great Hadham in Hertfordshire. He has also provided TV commentary, and co-hosted clinics with stars of the game such as Vijay Singh, John Daly and Gary Player. He has also written two books on golf instruction.

During his tenure in Hong Kong, Roberts has been national coach and has overseen the development of prominent local players such as Wilson Choi and James Stewart. 'I get just as much fun out of teaching an absolute beginner as I do from teaching a season pro or a low handicapper,' said Roberts. 'The sense of elation from a high handicapper getting a golf ball airborne and in a straight line is highly satisfying.'

Roberts has a team of six teaching instructors working with him at the club, all of whom are on hand to provide members with a range of instruction, including computerised lessons. 'The club has changed quite a lot over the past 10 years,' said Roberts. 'The golf courses continue to undergo extensive renovation while a new and expanded golf shop and caddie master area is now being constructed in a brand new building. The Hong Kong Open is also staged here each year, and now the event is part of the European Tour our facilities have to be seen to be as good as the other host clubs on the circuit.

'The club has a wealth of interesting history to look back on, as it's actually older than three of the four major championships. As such we have to ensure that the reputation of the club is well maintained.'