One of our region’s most respected PGA professionals, Matfen Hall-based John Harrison, shares his favourite places to play, his love for playing and teaching the game, and who would get a place in his dream fourball
John Harrison is one of the North East’s most recognisable PGA professionals. A regular winner locally throughout his career, he has competed on the European Tour and the European Seniors Tour, the later alongside his older brothers Steve and Phil. Based at Matfen Hall, John continues to split his time between playing and teaching, with students ranging from club and county players through to Challenge Tour player Garrick Porteous and European Tour winner Ken Ferrie. We caught up with our resident Tips professional to learn more…
1 How do you split your time between playing and teaching?
I tend to play two day per weeks in a mix of tournaments and pro ams through the season, and then I’ll teach four days per week along with doing a bit of work for the golf club. It’s a nice mix and I love being able to play competitive golf while helping people improve their own golf too.
2 How did you get into golf?
My dad was a footballer and my two older brothers and I all played schoolboy football growing up in Manchester. When we moved to Castle Carrock near Brampton Golf Club in Cumbira, there was less football but we were on the doorstep of the golf club. We all took up the game at the same time and the young pro at the club, Billy Laird, took me, Phil and Steve under his wing.
3 Which is your favourite course in the region?
I love the experience of playing golf by the sea on a links course, that’s where golf should be played. In the North East, I would have to pick Bamburgh Golf Club and Dunstanburgh Golf Club. The scenery is great up there.
4 And further afield?
I’ve played so many great courses all over the world but I’d still head back to the coast. The best example I’ve ever played is Turnberry, though the Old Course is a close second.
5 What’s your best ever round?
My lowest score is an 11 under-par 61 over the O’Connor Course in Portugal, but my best round would have to be shooting 65 around North Berwick to qualify to play in the PGA Cup [the Ryder Cup for PGA professionals] in the US in 1994. Shooting a final round 67 to win European Seniors Tour Qualifying School in 2009 was also really special.
6 Which is your favourite golfing memory?
Playing in the PGA Cup in 1994 at PGA National in Florida.
7 What about embarrassing moments?
There have been a few over the years. While playing in Africa, I managed to apply Vaseline nail polish remover rather than Vaseline lotion – a mistake I’ll never make again.
8 Do you have any superstitions?
None, they’re not my sort of thing.
9 What are your strengths on the course?
I enjoy it. It amazes me how many people seem as though they’re not enjoying their game of golf, but I genuinely enjoy being out there competing and playing.
10 And where do you focus your practice time?
It’s always the short game. My swing is short and economical so I don’t need to practice that too much these days, but pitching and putting are really important if you’re going to keep playing well.
11 Which is your favourite club in your bag?
My driver, it’s as good a part of my game as any. From there, I tend to favour the even numbered irons as I grew up using a half set and I only had those to practice and play with as a young lad.
12 Who is your best golfing friend?
An old friend who I’ve played all over the world with, John Gould. We’ve played a lot of practice rounds together over the years and we’ve been friends for a long time. Closer to home, there are loads of guys that play on the local circuit, both amateurs and professionals.
13 Which event is your favourite to play in?
When I played on the Seniors Tour, it was always a toss up between Switzerland, a beautiful little place where we were always really well looked after and Mauritius, where the weather and setup was always fantastic. I really enjoy going to some of the local pro ams every year too, the people at the clubs are great and I enjoy so many of the events every year because of the people involved.
14 Who is your favourite tour player?
I like Brooks Koepka’s attitude a lot and I think every golfer has to admire Tiger Woods.
15 What’s the best part of your job?
The balance between playing and teaching. I enjoy having the regular competition locally and I still get a lot out of teaching people, whether they’re young tour players like Garrick Porteous or club golfers that I’ve worked with for years.
16 Who do you admire?
The people who have endless drive to improve their golf. I teach a few guys in their 80s, and one guy who is 92 and still comes down for a lesson once a month. That desire to play golf and improve is incredible.
17 Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
I’d want to play with the best golfers so I’d pick Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros and Ben Hogan.
18 If I could offer you a Green Jacket or a Claret Jug, which would you choose?
It would have to be The Open Championship. I grew up watching it, I’ve played the courses and there’s something about the tradition, the fact it’s open to anyone and that it’s played on the British seaside with all the conditions that brings that just makes it the best event in the world.