Popular junior golf coach moves to teaching post in Wales
GARETH BENNETT is to end a 22-year association with Cirencester Golf Club when he returns to his roots in Wales at the end of the month to take up a teaching post at Brynhill GC.
Golf pro Bennett has quickly built a reputation as a coach, particularly of juniors, and there were some emotional farewells at the most recent session of his Cirencester Cobras, which boasts almost 50 young players.
“There were a fair few eyes welling up and some of the kids were saying they would follow me to Wales,” said Bennett.
“But I will certainly miss them as much as they will miss me.”
Bennett, now 30, knows only too well how important it is to have a role model in golf – and in his case, they don’t come much more star-studded.
Soon after he had taken up the game at Ciren as an eight-year-old, Bennett was taken along to meet the great Jack Nicklaus, who was in the area to look over land between Lechlade and Cricklade on which he wanted to build a golf course with British pro Neil Coles. Sadly, it all came to nothing.
Bennett still has treasured mementoes from the day, including a photograph of himself with The Golden Bear (see right) and a signed copy of the youngster’s own vision for what the Lechlade course may have looked like.
There are also cherished memories of the grace and charm exuded by one of greatest sporting champions of all time.
“Jack was fantastic, a lovely guy,” recalled Bennett. “And it says a lot about him that he took the time to sign a kid’s golf course design and says some very complimentary things.
“Growing up, Jack and Seve (Ballesteros) were always my two heroes in golf.”
Though playing his golf in Cirencester, Bennett regularly returned to his homeland to play successfully for Welsh Boys as an amateur in the late nineties and then, having won two back-to-back club championships at Cirencester in 2004 and 2005, he decided to turn pro.
In 2012, having spent a little more time in the winter working on his own game as well as tweaking the efforts of others, he has enjoyed his best year since turning pro.
He won a Pro-Am in Sherborne, posted his best yearly stroke average and finished fourth in the Gloucestershire and Somerset PGA Order of Merit.
But it is to Brynhill, former club of European Tour player Stephen Dodd, that he is moving in order to concentrate on his coaching.
“My girlfriend ‘Charlie’ and I have been going out for three and half years,” said Gareth. “She lives 75 miles away in Cardiff and as she has a good job in a Welsh-speaking primary school it made more sense for me to move.
“I am going to Brynhill to take over all the lessons and it is a club that has a lot of potential to expand. What’s more, I have a lot of aunts and uncles who live within a half-mile of the course.”
Bennett, at 6ft 7in, cuts an influential Pied Piper-type figure with his juniors around the Academy course at Cirencester, and insists he will be a regular visitor back to the club, where his dad Clive remains a member.
“Cirencester is the only golf club I have ever been affiliated to and it has been a huge part of my life,” said Gareth.
“So I will be keeping an eye on at least two of my pupils who have the potential to become very good golfers.
“Chalmers Phin is a naturally gifted player and wants to become a pro and Jess Brown is already in the County U12 team, although she is still only nine.”
Bennett’s pro colleague at Cirencester, James Harraway, will be taking over the Cirencester Cobras, while assistant pro Ryan Dix will be assuming greater responsibilities in the junior section.