Hong Kong: Renowned golf professional and executive Iain Roberts has received the ultimate accolade of his 40-year career in the game by being crowned a PGA Master Professional.
Out of more than 7,000 PGA members worldwide, only 38 have achieved the status of Master Professional and Roberts joins an elite group that includes world famous coaches David Leadbetter, Peter Cowan and Bob Torrance.
The Professional Golfers’ Association bestows the honour to those who have ‘demonstrated a significant contribution to the development of golf over many years’.
For Hong Kong-based Roberts, aged 56, it is the highlight of a rich and varied career in the game. He will be presented with his award at next month’s Open Championship at St Andrews.
“It’s a great honour, it doesn’t seem as though I’ve been working in golf as long as I have but it’s been a whirlwind career that has gone so fast,” he said.
Roberts’ CV covers a wide range of roles both in the United Kingdom and abroad. After taking up the game as a teenager, he earned his European Tour card for one season and went on to become head professional at Muswell Hill Golf Club in London.
He later moved overseas to become just the third head pro in the history of Hong Kong Golf Club. For the past five years he has overseen golf operations at the world’s biggest golf club, Mission Hills in China, where he is Group Executive Director.
It is all a far cry from his childhood in a sporting family in Luton, England, in which the preferred sport was football. His brother, Bill, was a Chelsea apprentice who went on to play for Watford.
“I was smitten by golf as a teenager because it’s a sport you can play on your own. I was crazy about it and from then I played in every competition I could. After that I became an assistant pro and I’ve been involved in the game full-time ever since,” said Roberts.
Roberts’ first job was as assistant to former Ryder Cup player John Garner – also a PGA Master Professional – at Flackwell Heath Golf Club on the outskirts of London.
Roberts’ experience on Tour was short-lived but invaluable and he came away with some incredible memories. “I always joke that there were five good reasons why I stopped and those were Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer!
“They were all much better than I was. As an assistant pro I had the ability to score well, but I wasn’t in the same league as them.”
Instead, Roberts carved out a career as head professional and golf coach, first in the UK before heading to the Far East some 20 years ago.
Although he has received the PGA’s ultimate accolade, Roberts is refusing to rest and is preparing to welcome an old friend back to Mission Hills later this year.
“When I was based at Forest of Arden Golf Club in the UK in the late 1970s, in the winter it wasn’t busy enough so I went to Cape Town to work. Gary Player turned up for some corporate event and I got chatting to him. I was 18 at the time.
“Fast forward and I’m currently helping organise celebrations for his 80th birthday at Mission Hills.”
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