Memorable 2017 county triumph is highlight of Hampshire Golf secretary David Wheeler’s two decades of administration
David Wheeler has spent two decades administering county golf competitions – first for the Hampshire PGA and, for the past nine years, Hampshire Golf.
As county secretary, Wheeler has watched as the successes achieved during the reign of his predecessor Barry Morgan continued – both for the county team and Hampshire’s elite amateurs, writes ANDREW GRIFFIN.
Since joining Hampshire Golf in the autumn of 2012, the county men have reached the English County Finals four times – claiming just their second-ever win in 2017 – and the South East League Final twice. They have also claimed the Colts’ crown three times in four finals.
Meanwhile, the Seniors won the South East League title back-to-back in 2016 and 2017, having lost the 2015 final, while the U18s qualified for two English County Boys Finals in three years.
And of course, Harry Ellis and Scott Gregory became back-to-back Amateur Champions in 2016 and 2017 – the first two golfers born in Hampshire to win the world’s oldest Amateur Championship, earning entries into The Open, The Masters and US Open in the process.
The smooth running of the 10 annual championships Hampshire Golf organises helps set the standard at the higher end of the game – and has produced a platform for players to perform on the national stage.
But Wheeler’s job also involves acting as Hampshire Golf’s go-between with its 80-plus affiliated clubs and England Golf, the amateur game’s governing body.
Wheeler, known by countless golfers across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands, is preparing to hand over to Stoneham’s former manager Richard Arnold in the coming weeks. After 20 years as a fixture on the golfing circuit, will be missed.
He has processed some 9,000 competitive rounds during Hampshire Golf’s competitions since 2014 and seen some 300 golfers crowned champions and winners of their age categories.
‘I would like to thank all those who have supported Hampshire Golf, particularly the clubs who host our events, as well as the many volunteers who give up their time in a wide variety of roles,’ said Wheeler.
A member of Brokenhurst Manor since 1982, Wheeler seen a widespread change in the way the game is governed - particularly in the last couple of years.
‘Obviously the changes to the Rules of Golf at the start of 2020 were the biggest changes in a generation or more, in an attempt to simplify them and to speed up the game.
‘I have still not got use to dropping the ball from knee high instead of from the shoulder and not having to tend the flag when your partner or opponent is putting on the green.’
Wheeler added: ‘I have been very lucky that the job has given me the chance to visit many courses in the South East and England generally.
‘I finally got the chance to play the Hotchkin at Woodhall Spa, one of the finest inland courses in Europe and the home of England Golf.
‘But the highlight was watching Hampshire win the English County Championship at Trevose in 2017, 21 years after we won it for the first time with a very young Justin Rose in the team.’
So is there any part of the job he will miss?
‘I have enjoyed every aspect to varying degrees,’ Wheeler replied. ‘Maybe putting on the marigolds to clean the county trophies every season might be one.’
Wheeler, who received the New Forest District Council’s ‘Services to Sport Award’ in 2018, will work alongside Arnold during a handover until he formally retires at the end of July.