Helsby members who support the annual Powered Wheelchair Appeal MEGA (Merseyside Entertainers Golfing Association) event may be familiar with the name Fred Whitfield – he is one of their players. Our Chair of Greens, Paul Collins recently had the opportunity to spend some time with him and Paul confirmed that Fred is a really interesting character and he enjoyed his company very much!
Fred was born in Widnes and from his teens became a lifelong Everton FC supporter. As a youngster he even got as far as a trial with the club but it didn’t sadly work out. He started work with ICI initially but then went on to join the Cheshire Police force.
He got hooked on golf in his teens and started playing at Allerton Municipal Golf course. He was instrumental in forming the Runcorn Police Golfing Society and their home course was here at Helsby! He remembers playing with Steve Kennerley and learnt a lot from the pro at the time – Ian Wright. In 1983, he was promoted to a Sergeant and when based at Wilmslow, was delegated to organise the Manchester Open and one of the perks was an invite to play in the pre tournament Pro - Am. He was delighted to be paired with Tony Jacklin and admits it gave him a real insight into professional golf at the top level.
Following a heart attack in 1983, he had a triple heart by pass and retired from the police just short of completing 30 years service. Back to good health, he entered the 1994 Seniors British Open with his brother Frank as his caddy. He rubbed shoulders with the good and great and played with Christy O’Connor in the practice round! He made a great start and after round 2, was in second place to the legend that is Arnold Palmer. Sadly, he fell away after that but took away great memories and had the taste for Seniors golf at the top level. It also made him decide to try and join the Seniors tour.
Next, he went to Florida to the Seniors Q school and in doing so, had to forfeit his amateur status so he is in name only a “golf professional”. Sadly, he missed out by 2 shots and returned to the UK. Rules prohibited him from attending the European Seniors tour Q school, however the executive committee (after much deliberation) allowed him to do just that and he then qualified at Peralada in Spain and was delighted to gain his Players card for the 1997 schedule. That decision allowed many more age 50 plus golfers to go through the same process and Fred believes the tour in enriched by a more diverse collection of individuals from all walks of life.
He remained a Tour member for 5 years playing in European Seniors events in the UK and Europe and won the German PGA International event in a strong international field. At the turn of the century he lost his players card and turned his focus to golf and charity. He was appointed the Tour Pro for the Celebrity Golf Tour – effectively a Celeb - Am event to raise money for charity. It was hugely successful, raising over £2 million for various charities. Fred loved being involved in this – playing golf, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous (Johnny Mathis, John Miles, Sir Norman Wisdom, Stan Boardman to name a few), world class golfers and fundraising! He now loves being involved in the MEGA set up, helping local golf clubs to raise funds and particularly enjoys returning to Helsby.
As you will see, Fred has lived his dream, played golf all over the world at a good level with some wonderful people and says he would do it all again in a heartbeat!
Thanks to Fred for sharing his story!