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The Big Interview with York Golf Club's Mark Rogers
York Golf Club’s forward-thinking head professional, Mark Rogers, is intent on nurturing young talent, as he tells TONY KELLY.
MOST people hold dear a cherished birthday memory – and it is no different for York Golf Club head professional Mark Rogers.
One of his golden moments literally swung into view some 30 years ago.
Back then at the age of nine his birthday brought him his first set of junior golf clubs – second-hand he insisted with pride – and a round of golf with his dad at the Blackwell Grange GC on the south side of Darlington.
To this day Rogers remembers that celebratory outing with extreme fondness.
“It was August but it was a day when it was absolutely pouring down. The rain was so heavy I think there was only me and my dad out on the course, yet it was such a brilliant day,” he said.
If golf was ever going to bag a recruit then it was Rogers. His entire family played at the Blackwell Grange club, noted for no fewer than seven par-three holes.
“It just seemed so natural for me to take up the game,” he explained.
“Like most youngsters I enjoyed lots of other sports, but by the age of 12 or 13 that was when I really started to focus on golf.”
The family link, which so fired Rogers’ zest for par wars, remains a driving force in his near evangelical desire to not just introduce more youngsters to the game, but also enable them to develop their playing potential to the maximum.
“It’s such a great buzz coaching youngsters,” said Rogers. “And if you can get them interested, then it’s all about retention.
“A lot of clubs do not see juniors as the future because they are not the major income stream. But by promoting junior golf you are trying to safeguard golf for the future, to have a supply of new members.
“And if youngsters stick with the game then, as they grow older and have families of their own, they will hopefully pass on that enthusiasm like my family did with me.”
Support from his family was especially pivotal for Rogers as he set out on carving his career as a professional in his teenage years.
“After I had done my ‘O’-levels there was an opportunity to work at a golf shop at the Brookmans Park course in Hertfordshire,” he said.
“Even though my dad was a school headmaster and obviously stressed the importance of education, he fully backed me in wanting to take the job, so at the age of 15 I left home and moved into digs to start what was to prove my career.”
The young Rogers spent three years at Brookmans Park before returning north to Bedale GC, where he finished his pro training under Terry Johnson for almost a year.
He then moved back to almost where he started out, this time to the north of Darlington to look after the club shop at Darlington GC before, at the age of 21, graduating to the position of the club’s head pro.
After 11 years at the Mackenzie-designed course, Rogers joined Seaton Carew GC – the tenth- oldest course in England – in 2001.
“It was an established links course with a reputation as one of the best clubs in the North-East,” said Rogers.
His tenure lasted just over seven years before an unavoidable draw lured him to the Strensall home of York GC.
“I was looking for a new challenge. Seaton Carew was a great club, but it was set in its ways. At York there was a lot of development going on and it was quite an exciting prospect and I wanted to be part of that,” he said.
“When I came here there was a lot of work going on with a new shop refurbishment and new practice ground facilities and short game area.
“York were a club which was really wanting to move forward. There were new membership schemes and other major changes. It is moving with the times and trying to progress.”
Progress has always been the watchword of Rogers since he first played the game.
“People want to see progress in their game and members want to see progress at their clubs, so it’s a question of trying to combine the two,” added the York GC head pro.
“There are a lot of golf clubs around and in these straitened times a club has a responsibility to be as good as they can possibly be for their members, future members and visitors too.”
While concentrating in his opening year on developing and refurbishing the shop and practice provision at the Strensall-based club, Rogers admitted his own involvement in competitive play has taken a back seat.
But his primary love remains teaching and that will be turned into the priority this year with a significant drive to improve the club’s junior section.
Besides his new role as junior coach for the York Union of Golf Clubs’, Rogers has devised a programme of expansion for junior play at York GC with planned visits to nearby primary and junior schools.
“I want more people to play golf and then to keep improving,” he said, that obvious Mark of zeal shining through. “It’s a wonderful sport to play – great exercise and played in great surroundings.
“And York GC ticks all the boxes. It’s a superb golf course with a great membership and a great attitude among the members in wanting to move forward.
“It’s an ideal place for me to work.”