SPA captain Aidan Savage has led the tributes to Gary Wardlow, the club’s PGA professional whose tragic and untimely death occurred last week.
Everyone at the club, he said, was “totally devastated” by the loss of Gary. “On a personal level the help he gave me this year as captain was invaluable. No matter what I asked Gary for, he was always there to help make my year as successful as possible. “His passing has left a massive void at Spa Golf Club. He was a great friend to all of us and he will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him,” the captain added.
On behalf of everyone at Spa, Aidan said he wished to express his sincere condolences to Gary’s wife Suzanne, their three boys, his parents, brother Alan and the wider family circle. Teresa Hazzard, Spa’s lady captain, said no words could ever adequately express the measure of Gary Wardlow’s influence and contribution to the club since he joined in 2015.
“He was a man determined to put Spa Golf Club on the ‘golfer bucket list.’ He was an avid believer that golf could be made more accessible to ladies and he worked tirelessly with the Ladies’ Branch to promote and run the highly successful ‘Get Into Golf’ programme for ladies each year to boost our membership,” she said. “Despite being a professional and talented golfer, Gary was always approachable, supportive and encouraging to us all, regardless of our golfing shortcomings,” the lady captain added. “A gentleman and dear friend with whom all our lives at Spa have been enhanced and inspired by his knowledge, skills and above all his friendship. We will miss you Gary,” she said.
Gary became gravely ill in his Pro shop on the morning of Sunday November 6 and was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he died two days later. In keeping with his expressed wishes Gary’s organs were donated to desperately ill patients including, it is understood, a little girl. This has been a source of great comfort to his grieving family.
Gary’s brother Alan has expressed the family’s deep, abiding gratitude to the Spa members who went to his aid, the first responders in the Rapid Response Team and the Air Ambulance as well as the medics at the RVH. “Everyone tried so hard to save Gary’s life but tragically it was not to be – but we deeply appreciate everything they did for him,” Alan said. Spa president Jimmy Kelly paid glowing tribute to Gary’s professionalism, his commitment and sense of humour. “After Gary’s appointment as professional at Spa in 2015 and the first purchase of a golf shirt from his shop I knew we would be friends,” he said. “He had that impish sense of humour required to navigate the wishes of our 600 or so members. Golf was his passion and his positivity through coaching turned many a hacker into a decent golfer,” Jimmy added. “Gary and I travelled together many times playing in Pro-ams and I enjoyed every minute of his company, apart from sharing a room…he could have snored for Ireland!”
Gary’s first love, of course, was his wife Suzanne and their three boys, Jaxon, Luke and Carter and they would miss him dearly, he added. “I have lost a friend. Spa has lost a stalwart. May he rest in peace,” the president said. Phil Posnett, branch secretary of the Professional Golfers Association in the North of Ireland, said Gary had brought much credit to himself and Spa Golf Club. “I first met Gary Wardlow when I was serving as PGA professional at Shandon Park Golf Club where Gary shone as a very good amateur, winning many titles from junior level to full senior,” he said. “Gary was elected to the PGA committee shortly after I joined as secretary and was a constant source of support and help to me during the next 11 years serving on both the Regional and Branch committee. “Nothing was too much trouble for Gary and his help and support for the PGA family was unswerving through playing and setting up many meetings with potential sponsors. “Gary was the first PGA professional at Spa Golf Club and brought much credit to himself and the club in his role and will be intensely missed by us all at the PGA,” Phil added.
In a statement Shandon Park – Gary’s first golf club – said they were “deeply saddened” by the news of his death. He had been a valued member of their Junior and Senior teams and Shandon members would have “happy memories” of Gary’s time there. Kenneth Burtney, who, as Spa’s honorary secretary, worked closely with Gary, described him as a dedicated professional. “His familiar greeting of ‘how’s you’ as you entered his shop never failed to bring a smile to my face. “His love of the game of golf was infectious and inspiring,” he said. “I watched him many times on the range coaching the young and the not so young and always thought to myself ‘he has the patience of a saint’ but then knew he did because he loved passing on his knowledge to others and took great pride in seeing our games improve. “We at Spa Golf Club have been truly blessed over the last seven years to have someone as dedicated and professional as Gary and we will look back in years to come and proudly say ‘Gary Wardlow, golf professional, Spa Golf Club’,” Kenneth added.