Obituary: Bruce Hunter, golfer

Bruce Hunter, golf professional who started his career at Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed
Bruce Hunter, golf professional who started his career at Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 13 May, 1963, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Died: 6 July, 2015, in Newport, Wales, aged 52.

The sudden death at age 52 of golf professional Bruce Hunter, who was educated and brought up in Edinburgh, has deeply shocked his family and all who knew him. Since leaving Daniel Stewart’s and Melville College in 1981 he worked as a golf professional in a number of posts, latterly as manager of Golf Direct UK’s Superstore in Reading. Introduced to the game as a youngster by his late father Colwyn, a former Heriot’s pupil, he soon showed an aptitude for it and developed into a promising low handicap player at the Royal Burgess club at Barnton and as a member of his school team.

He loved golf with a passion and had his heart set on earning his living from it. Once he left school he joined Brian Mackenzie, the well-known professional at Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh, as his first assistant and completed his PGA apprenticeship with him. Thereafter the rest of his career was spent down south.

Bruce was born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where his father had gone some years before to set up a quantity surveying business.

There he met and married Bruce’s mother Mary, née Cheshire, who had been born and raised in Kenya. Because of the unsettled political situation in Tanzania, the family returned to Edinburgh to live when Bruce was one year old and set up home in the Strathalmond Park area of Barnton.

At Stewart’s Melville College, he particularly enjoyed sport, especially golf and cricket, and enjoyed some success in local competitions. Life as a pro golfer became his aim and he was delighted to secure the PGA apprenticeship at Bruntsfield Links.

From there he moved to become assistant pro at the prestigious Glamorganshire club at Penarth, south Wales, where he met fellow assistant, Ian Luntz, who was to become a lifelong friend.

The Glamorganshire was a delightful parkland course, the fourth oldest in Wales, having been founded in 1890.

Another claim to fame was that it was the birthplace of the Stableford scoring system, devised by club member Dr Frank Stableford and first tried out at the club’s autumn meeting in 1898. Stableford later became a military surgeon in the Boer War and in 1907 reached the semi-finals of the Welsh amateur championship.

After about four years there Bruce moved as assistant pro to the Bryn Meadows club near Caerphilly, before opening and running a golf shop for a short time at Risca, also in south Wales.

Then the owners of Bryn Meadows invited him back as head pro, and he gratefully accepted. This was also a very pleasant parkland course, opened in 1973, which had been designed by well known Welsh player Craig Defoy and a colleague. It incorporated a hotel and spa complex and Bruce spent an enjoyable 17 years or so there engaged in a variety of club pro duties. While at Bryn Meadows he met and married Joanne Morgan in 1996.

She recalled: “We met by chance through mutual friends in a club in Newport when I was just back from a year living in Hawaii. We hit it off quickly and started going out together. Three years later we married in Usk, near Newport.”

Unfortunately, a change in company direction led to his being made redundant and Bruce spent about a year commuting to Edinburgh to work in Nevada Bob’s golf store.

This was not an ideal arrangement for the family as by now he and Jo had two sons, Gregor and Griffin, currently 15 and 12. Fortunately, Bruce secured employment as “in-house” professional with Golf Direct UK in their stores, initially in Walsall, then London and latterly as manager of the company’s Reading Superstore.

His family were now based in the village of Rogerstone, near Newport, and his new job enabled him to be at home more often.

Jo said: “Bruce was passionate about golf and loved playing it. In fact, he had been out playing all day with our sons prior to his death. Although latterly his involvement was more on the retail commercial side he still did some teaching which he enjoyed and played socially as often as he could.

“He had recently joined the Celtic Manor club nearby and was looking forward to playing more there. Because of him, our boys are now also very keen on the game. Apart from golf, we enjoyed family skiing holidays especially in the French Alps and summer trips to the USA, usually with the golf clubs in tow of course.”

Close friend and colleague Ian Luntz, now the pro at Creigiau golf club near Cardiff, commented: “Bruce was a lovely big guy, larger than life. He was very gregarious and a wonderful ‘people person’ which meant he was very well suited to his work latterly with Golf Direct.

“He was also a very positive individual which was a big plus for his teaching as that transmitted to the pupil.

“And although never a tournament pro, he was a very useful player who I think could have played on the Tour had he followed that direction.

“A couple of years ago we played the King’s Course at Gleneagles and he was round in three under par. He was a lot of fun and one thing that used to amuse him was that because of a slight resemblance to Colin Montgomerie, he was sometimes mistaken for him out on the course. He was a great, great friend.”

Bruce succeeded in living his dream of being a golf professional and was very popular and highly regarded. In this, he epitomised golf’s values: friendship, conviviality and integrity. He is survived by his mother Mary, his wife Jo and sons Gregor and Griffin.