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Lilley Brook's 100-year celebrations are in full swing

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Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Sunday, 29th May 2022, 09:00

Lilley Brook’s centenary celebrations are in full flow Lilley Brook’s centenary celebrations are in full flow

“It’s an amazing achievement for the club to reach its 100 years.”

Those are the words of Tim Clink talking about Lilley Brook Golf Club’s centenary year, the celebrations for which are now in full flow.

And there’s certainly plenty to celebrate at one of the best known sports clubs in the area, a club that has seen plenty of changes since the people who founded it all those years ago came across from nearby Cleeve Common.

And with Clink as chairman, the club on the outskirts of Cheltenham is continuing to evolve and progress at a rapid rate.

“Yes, we are,” said Clink. “We’ve done a lot of work over the past few years.

“We wanted to make the course much more playable in winter, we’ve put drains into all the greens and built new ditches to get water off the course.

“The course is consistently in as good condition as it has ever been, particularly given the increase in the amount of rounds played each year.

“We’ve refurbished the clubhouse and are looking to improve the practice facilities.”

It’s no wonder that the club are full to capacity – they have some 770 members plus another 100 social members – but while those numbers are very impressive, Clink refuses to stand still.

“We’d like to increase the number of ladies and juniors at the club,” said Clink, who has also just finished two years as President of the Gloucestershire Golf Union.

And that’s where the club’s new 9-hole course, which is currently being built, comes in.

Clink hopes the work will be completed later this year and he said of the par 3 course: “It will be ideal for newcomers, ladies and juniors.

“The longest hole is about 100 yards and the shortest 50 yards. The 9-hole course will get them gently into the game and it will be fantastic for the kids, the course will be flat and it will encourage them to play without being overwhelmed by the main course.

“The plan is to go out into the schools and we want to introduce the next generation to golf.”

Lilley Brook, in common with many golf clubs around the county, saw a significant increase in their numbers during the various lockdowns.

“We probably recruited about 100 new members under the age of 35,” said Clink. “Our demographic before the first lockdown was 60-plus but now we’ve got a lot more younger people at the club.”

And a good number of those are likely to be at the club’s centenary party on Saturday 18th June.

“We’ve sold 380 tickets, we sold out in 10 days,” said Clink. “I believe it’s the biggest event we’ve ever done.

“We’re putting up a marquee on the first fairway and I thought we’d sell about 200 to 250 tickets so to receive the support we have is fantastic.”

That is just one of many events that have either taken place or will take place to mark the club’s 100 years.

“We started the Centenary year with a hickory shafted challenge and that went down really well,” said Clink.

“We went back to using golf clubs from 100 years ago, it’s slightly different from today’s equipment, you can’t hit the ball half as far!

“We’ll probably do another one of those later in the year.”

The club also hosted the county championships for the first time in many years in mid-May, as well as a centenary pro-am on 27th May and at the end of September they will be the venue for England Champion Clubs tournament for the first time.

That’s something that the club are very excited about, of course, with some of the best amateur players in the country heading for this part of the world.

For many it will be the first time they will have played at Lilley Brook, so what can they expect?

“It’s a challenging course,” said Clink. “People think that because it isn’t the longest course they’re going to murder it but they never do.

“I’ve played on some of the best golf courses in the country but being slightly biased, the bottom 11 holes at Lilley Brook are the best of any I have played.

“It doesn’t matter where I’ve played, I always enjoy playing at Lilley Brook.

“It’s tree-lined, it’s tight and the greens are very tricky to read.”

Clink is a former county player along with fellow members Guy Whittern and James Mitten – Matt Bell is a current county player – so he clearly knows what he’s talking about.

He plays off scratch but ask him what a good score around the par 69 course is and he says, quite simply, “any score below your handicap”.

Now 55, Clink, who also played rugby for Cheltenham for many years, has been playing at Lilley Brook for some 43 years.

His mum Jenny, who recently served as President of England Golf, is President of the club during its Centenary Year so it is very much like a second home to him.

“We’re very lucky at Lilley Brook, we’ve got a lot of good people who do an awful lot for the club,” Clink continued.

“John Ashenhurst has been our treasurer for the past 13 or 14 years. He’s a real unsung hero, he does a superb job.

“Nigel Thompson has been our course manager for five or six years, he’s transformed the place, he’s been brilliant. I used to play county foursomes with him and we have a great working relationship.

“And Mark Sheridan has done an awful lot heading up our centenary celebrations.”

Those celebrations are going to run and run, of course, it truly is a special year for Lilley Brook Golf Club.

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