Ryder Cup hero gives Lee's academy course thumbs up
He has played in the Ryder Cup, the Masters, the US Open, finished fifth in the USPGA and played the Open Championship four times.
Now European Tour veteran Steve Richardson believes his club are giving youngsters the chance to follow in his footsteps by transforming a field that was used to graze horses into a five-hole short course.
The 50-year-old first set foot on the course at Lee-on-the-Solent – where his dad was the pro – when he was aged seven, five years after he first started swinging a club.
But the official opening of the Lee Community Golf Centre, on a strip of land next to where he learned to play as a junior, will now open the doors to scores more youngsters interested in taking up the sport.
And he hopes it will eventually lead to a junior or two following the same path he did – from the amateur ranks into the professional sport – to playing with the best golfers in the world on some of the best courses in the game.
Richardson helped officially launch the new academy course with a special exhibition match featuring other professionals who started their golfing careers at the club.
Although he now lives in Havant and spends most of his time practising at Hayling, Lee will always hold a special place in his heart.
His dad John was the club pro for 33 years, retiring at the turn of the century. When Richardson arrived on the south coast, having been born in Windsor, his golf swing was taking its formative shape.
He said: ‘I was introduced to the game naturally through my dad.
‘I used to swing a club when I was maybe two or three years old.
‘My dad would not let me go on the course at first.
‘We lived nearby, so I used to come down with him at the weekends when I was around seven and hit balls on the range. Dad would not let me out on to the course until I was about eight-and-a-half – when I could hit it about 100 yards.
‘Then I used to play the first two holes and come back in.
‘I started the game for fun and enjoyment and then as I got older, when I was 14 or 15, I wanted to be a club professional like my dad.
‘I loved being able to shape shots, change the ball flight and move them around – and still do.’
Now that part of learning the game is set to be revolutionised by the creation of Lee’s Community Golf Centre.
Richardson added: ‘The new course, with its short holes, can introduce people of all ages – boys and girls, men and women – to the game.
‘They can come along, get a couple of clubs from the pro shop and have a go.
‘They can get free lessons if they like it and take it from there. It is up to them how far they take it.
‘The most important thing is to show young people what the sport is really about.’