Rookery Park welcomes new professional Gary Kitley

Rookery's new professional is Gary Kitley, who first played golf when, at 12, he visited a seaside putting green.

He had never held a golf club before but it fired an interest and, when returning home, he and a friend joined Bury Golf Club as juniors.

Another friend had a brother who played off a one handicap and they all spent endless hours on the golf course together.

Eventually, he attended Farnborough College to study Leisure Management. The course, however, failed to really interest him and when Bury professional, Mark Jillings, offered him a post as an assistant he immediately curtailed his studies and accepted the offer.

During the three years that followed he undertook PGA training and was delighted to be selected as one of the top 15 assistants to be offered a Titleist sponsorship.

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In 1992 he became the golf professional at East Dereham. By coincidence his two Rookery predecessors, Martin Elsworthy and Steve Beckham were both once the professionals at East Dereham GC. After three years in the post Gary Kitley became professional at Thetford GC and remained there until his move to Rookery.

He once qualified to play in a final Open Championship qualifying round on a course in Kilmarnock, which was close to Turnberry, where the Championship, eventually won by Nick Price, was due to be held.

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As a late replacement for Jim Payne, he had to travel up to Scotland through the night in order to tee off early the following morning.

Shattered and half asleep he was astonished to begin with a chip-in birdie. Tiredness then took over and he had one of his worst ever rounds.

Knowing that he could not qualify but duty bound to play the second round the next day, he decided not to waste money on a hotel, so he slept in his car. Next morning he arrived on the tee with a stiff neck, aching back only to be soaked by heavy rain. He said it was a worse experience than having to watch his beloved Ipswich Town play football this season.

The new professional enjoys teaching and, with his new assistant, 18-year-old Ed Garrod, he wants to start an academy to attract and teach youngsters.

He plans to live locally and become involved in all of the club's activities. The professional's shop, he believes, should be a hub of golfing interest and activity. In welcoming him to Rookery members all wish him well.

His assistant, Ed Garrod, joined the West Suffolk Golf Centre ten years ago. A former Thetford junior he won the under 14, 16 and 18 Norfolk Championships. After completing his PGA qualifications he hopes to become a club professional. He is looking forward to helping Rookery's juniors.

David Batley

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