As well as being the long-standing pro at Singleton Golf Club, we know Les as a proud dad to Emma Bennett, One Agency’s Property Management Assistant.
We had a chat with Les about a typical day in the life of a golf pro, what makes the Singleton course unique and the time Greg Norman played in a pro-am at Singleton.
Les, how did you come to be a golf pro?
I had my first hit when I was 12 years old and as soon as I hit a golf ball I fell in love with the game. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I started to play more regularly. By the time I was 16 I was playing representative golf and got offered a trainee professional apprenticeship at Shortland Waters Golf Club in Newcastle. I did my apprenticeship and then stayed on for another six years as an assistant professional.
How did you end up in Singleton?
I got the opportunity to come to Singleton and start my own business, so I came here in 1985 and I’ve been here ever since. I was going to use it as a stepping stone to a bigger club job but found that the coal industry paid pretty well and there was money to be made in town. I’ve been here about 35 years now.
I built a few houses in town over the years and I’m currently up at Hunterview living the dream.
What has it been like to raise a family in Singleton?
Singleton was very good, with the country type of attitude and not the city life. It’s funny that our son Michael has turned into a cityite, he loves living in Sydney – I couldn’t think of anything worse! He’s an endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, and of course, our daughter Emma works for Lindy Harris OneAgency. We’re very proud of them.
What do you love about Singleton?
It was a bit of an awakening when I got here and saw how country people and golf coexisted after being in the big metropolis of Newcastle, where everything was still very prim and proper. Everyone was wearing ties and coats in the clubhouse, and when I came to Singleton everyone was wearing t-shirts and thongs. It was a bit of a shock to the system to realise that this is how golf is played in most Australian clubs, and maybe I needed to loosen up a bit. It didn’t take me long to do that!
What does a typical day look like for a golf pro?
I’m in charge of running all the competition golf and coordinating the social side of the golf. It certainly keeps me busy keeping the public happy when they come in. Managing the cart hire, a little bit with the greenkeeping side, promoting the club and doing junior clinics. We do clinics now for senior golf too, it’s a growing part of the game.
Tell me about the role the golf club plays in the community.
We’re one of the few golf courses that’s situated in the centre of town. Most golf courses are on large tracts of land out of town, but we’re right smack bang in the middle of Singleton and surrounded by population, so the course gets used by a lot of people and the golf club is used as a place to meet with people and have a drink.
We run charity golf days. We’re a non-profit club so we like to give back to the community. The golf club supports and sponsors other sporting organisations as well, such as some of the district cricket teams.
What makes Singleton Golf Club unique?
When you turn up, it looks like a parkland. And you might think this is going to be easy. But no-one beats the course. We’ve had a good calibre of players over the years play the course, like a former Australian golf pro, Brett Ogle. But we’ve never had anyone come out and rip the course to bits.
Over the years the best score ever shot was 62 in 1996, which back then was 6 under par. It was me that shot that! That score was matched in 2000 by someone else. In professional golf, pros are going around shooting 10 under par, so you’d expect someone to shoot 58 around here, but no-one’s ever going to do that. The course is much, much more difficult than people give it credit for.
Do you have any funny stories from the club?
We ran a pro-am here years ago and I was trying to get people to come to the event. I wrote an article that said Greg Norman was playing. There were a fair few people who turned up to watch Greg Norman, which was understandable because he was the world’s best player for six years in a row. When these people turned up to watch him play, I said, ‘there he is, he’s hitting off now’ and they turned around and saw a C grader hitting off the tee. And they said, ‘where is he?’ and I said ‘that’s Greg Norman. He’s from Muswellbrook.’
And that’s a true story. I was sort of blacklisted by the media for a while after that.
Haha! Well, they couldn’t accuse you of not telling the truth! Thanks for the chat, Les.