North East: Ilkey pro recalls round with ‘superstar’ SeveMarch, 2015
Ilkey professional John Hammond to retire
Ilkley’s club professional, who once played a round of golf with Seve Ballasteros, is set to retire after 36 years at the club.
John Hammond has been at Ilkley so long ago that Colin Montgomerie was still a junior at the club when he began his stint.
“He was always a good player,” said Hammond, who spent five seasons on the European Tour before retiring due to a muscle injury. “I have known him a long time, but we have helped him on his way.”
Ryder Cup chaplain Paddy Roach was also a member at Ilkley and used his contacts with some of the game’s greats, such as Arnold Palmer, to secure Montgomerie a scholarship in America.
“Monty was a good player when he went, but when he came back he was a great player,” added Hammond, adding that Montgomerie remains a good friend.
Hammond’s own career began at Filey when he was aged 12. He moved to West Bradford two years later.
He became one of Yorkshire’s top amateurs and represented the county for three years, as well as being selected for the England Youths’ team.
‘Some of the shots he played were impossible’ Turning professional in 1971, Hammond joined the European Tour two years later. He would have notable success, including top 10 finishes in the German Open, Irish Open, Italian Open and Zambian Open.
He played against some of the game’s greats, including Greg Norman, Tom Watson, Sandy Lyle, and Nick Faldo, but it was an encounter in 1976 that he remembers most of all.
At the Madrid Open he got drawn to play with two young Spaniards, including a 19-year-old Seve Ballesteros.
Hammond said: “I got drawn with these two Spanish lads, who of course didn’t speak any English. We went up the first few holes and on of these lads was absolutely awesome. It was Seve, just before he came second at the Open and set the world on fire.
“Some of the shots he hit were just impossible. I could tell he was going to be a superstar.”
A rib injury in 1978 caused Hammond into early retirement. He got a job at Ilkley, but despite having his European Tour exemption for the year, he was unable to play at all.
“It was frustrating,” said Hammond. “But it has been great being at a great club like Ilkley. We get a lot of visitors from all over the world and it’s just nice because you are dealing with different people all of the time.
“I’m sad to go, but I turn 65 in June and you have got to let someone else have a go.”
Having become a grandfather just eight months ago, Hammond said he plans to spend his retirement with the family, as well as being able to play some more golf.