Eric relives the triumphs and dramas of a golfing journey
Published at 11:06, Thursday, 01 September 2011
FOR renowned former Cumbria golf champion Eric Gulliksen the 18th hole at Seascale was always his nemesis – no matter that he actually won the county’s stroke play title there in 1976 at the age of 31.
The fact was that while Seascale was his favourite course the 18th was his personal bugbear.
It also brought things to a head in a different way.
For, just as I was leaving the interview with Eric, Anne Gulliksen entered the room with this parting shot: ‘Did my husband tell you how I sacked him?’
Yes, indeed he did.
You see, for many years, Anne was her husband’s golfing caddy, through thick and thin, until the time her husband threw a bit of a course wobbler.
Eric takes up the story: “Yes, it’s true Anne caddied for me in both club and county championships then it all stopped. What happened was that I was tying for the lead coming up to the 18th but once again I drove down into the bottom, tried to chip it up, missed the chip and I slammed my club down. There were quite a lot of people watching.
“Anne just said ‘right, that’s the last time I’m caddying for you’ and walked off.
“She was true to her word and I thought it was quite a natural reaction. Anne reckons she’s ‘gonna’ scatter my ashes down in the bottom of the 18th.
“It’s probably cost me about 10 or 15 Seascale club championships,” Eric reflects. “I suppose it was a kind of mental block, it is still is - my shots are still a bit duff down there.”
Bitter-so sweet stuff and certainly one of Eric’s funniest anecdotes does concerns caddying.
He recalls: “In 1972 Seascale reached the final of the English club championships played at Sunningdale, Berkshire.
“Our team was Joe French, Ken Richardson, Ian Stavert and myself. The whole club got behind us, holding competitions, raffles etc to pay for travelling expenses and caddies.
“In those days club caddies were usually out of work men who hung around the course to carry a golfers bag. My caddy kept going into the trees (I thought to relieve himself!) but found out later it was for a drink of meths. He also jumped into a pond to retrieve my ball, the other caddies commented that it would probably be his first wash for weeks.”
Whatever the abiding terrors of the Seascale 18th, Eric Gulliksen has a record which simply speaks for itself at both county elite and senior level where he’s still doing his stuff today.
On top of being club champion at St Bees, Seascale and Workington, Eric was Cumbria county stroke play champion twice and match play champion three times.
The record reads: Cumbria Union match play champion in 74, 78, 79 first two at Penrith, third on his Seascale home course.
Cumbria Union captain 90-91.
Cumbria Union stroke play champion 76 again at Seascale (score 299 15 over par)
Cumbria senior champion 2001 & 2005
Cumbria union master golfer/green jacket 78
Cumbria union James Salver presented to the player (s) with most points in the Northern Counties League matches shared with Ian Stavert in 1974
Topping it off Gulliksen has the honour of making the second highest number of appearances for Cumbria. Reaching ton up was a highlight even though it ended in defeat for Cumbria at Durham and to on and play another 34 times is impressive in anybody’s golfing book. But there lies another tale.
Eric’s ton up for the county ended in defeat against Durham but No fewer than 134 Cumbria appearances is impressive in any golfer’s book. Rival and friend Andrew Morrison, an England senior international from Appleby, shades him by just one cap.
Says Eric: “The funny thing is that I actually selected Andrew in the team to beat my own record. We were dead level but as county captain at the time (non playing) I put him in the team knowing full well he would sneak ahead of me. I think I must have taken over the captaincy a bit too early,” Eric laughed.
“Mind you, I still think I should have one more game to my name. Once when I was captain I stood in for one of the lads who fell ill but wasn’t put down on the team sheet, so in my own mind I should still be in the record book level pegging on appearances but I won’t argue.
“Andy was a fine player, he won the match play twice, beating me in one of the finals. I’m way behind some of the guys from Silloth like Gary Winter and John Longcake – John is arguably the best golfer Cumbria has ever produced winning British championships. He’s still going strong now.”
If you could have just one treasured memory what would it be? – “Well, winning the county stroke play championship on my own course at Seascale was particularly memorable, it cost me money mind. I said ‘everybody have a drink on me’. I got a £25 voucher for winning it and the drink bill was about £40.”
Eric can count the number of holes in one on more than one hand. I suppose it’s what all weekend golfers dream about.
Getting six or seven holes in one, three of them notably in championships, was a terrific achievement but it did hit Mr Gulliksen’s pocket. “I had one in a match play final at Workington, holing in one at the 7th in the morning and at that point there was a crowd of about 60 people followers. The lot of ‘em disappeared into the bar, again I had to fork out.
“It cost me quite a lot of money,” he quipped. Seriously, Eric reckons that to be a good competition golfer you have to be a bit selfish and self-confidence counts a lot.
“When I won one of the county championships I knew I was going to win. I was up against Andy Morrison. Anne said ‘he’s one ahead of you know’...I said ‘let him worry about that. I knew I was going to win and I finished birdie to win.
“What I mean is that you have to be single minded. Golf isn’t physically hard but it’s mentally tough – trying to overcome your opponents with your own mind, ” said the man who became county captain in ‘90-91 and turned down the chance to become a professional at the age of 21. “The pro game then wasn’t as it is now,” he explained.
Just how important is a caddy bearing in mind all the recent fuss over Steve Williams? “The golfer’s got to do it but a good caddy backs you up and makes your mind up on a lot of occasions as to which club to hit with. He’s got to drive you on mentally.
“If it’s a good caddy he or she can actually make the difference between winning and losing a title.”
Anne Gulliksen definitely helped a lot until that fateful day.
What about handicaps? -“It’s an obsession. The lower handicap the more obsessed you get. I played off scratch (zero) for quite a number of years; scratch now is not as difficult to get as it was in those days. Once you get to scratch you go the other way, plus one, plus two, plus three; there are golfers now off plus four. ‘Golf Monthly’ used to print a list of every scratch player in the country, I was one of them, maybe only a couple of us Cumbrians.”
And the best golfer in your lifetime? “The best this county has produced as far as I’m concerned is probably John Longcake, from Silloth. His dad was good as well, he won the county championship about five times.
“However, the best golfer I ever played with was a Yorkshire guy, Rodney Foster in the early 70s; Rodney was a Walker Cup player and magnificent. I was renowned as quite a long hitter but Rodney could just do what he wanted.
“Tony Jacklin always inspired you, Sevo Ballesteros as well but everybody wanted to be Arnold Palmer.”
Does practice make you perfect? “Probably, I was a bit more fortunate being quite natural early on. My St Bees mate Ken (Richardson) used to practise hitting ball after ball. As I say competitive golf is really a selfish single minded game. Every Sunday I was to play 36 holes from eight o’clock in the morning and back home nine at night
Eric fitted it all in with a top job at Marchon, working there over 38 years – rising to civil engineering manager after starting as an apprentice
Retiring 13 years now, Eric and Anne spend half the year now at their apartment in Spain as does another of his great Marchon and golf mate Bill Tubman from Monkwray. They’re part of a cosmopolitan group and it’s nice to play with the sun on their backs.
While there have been so many outstanding moments at county elite competition, Eric is proud of being in the Cumbria team which in 2001 won the Northern Counties senior championship against Lancashire, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Durham and Cheshire.
“Having played poorly in the first round, I was five under par for the second round to win by a couple of shots from Roy Smethurst, who has been British senior champion.
Golf for Eric began at a very early age living in St Bees.
“My father, who had come over from Norway, paid my subscriptions in those days. Trouble was at St Bees, being a junior member you couldn’t enter any competitions, you could at Seascale so my dad forked out eleven guineas for me to go there.
“That first year (‘63) I played in the Seascale club championship as a 19-year-old and came runner up to Joe French.”
Those bigger titles were to follow.
But was there one thing you lacked to make you an even better player? - Well, if I could chip,” he laughed. “I put a lot of pressure on myself knowing that I’ve got to hit the green,if I miss I’m going to drop a shot whereas the really good golfers are not bothered about missing the green.”
Eric enjoyed his jousts with Alan Squires, the current England seniors champion.
He recalls: “Playing at Penrith in ‘76 it took us an hour and 59 minutes to play 18 holes (there was an article in the Daily Mirror about it); he holed a long putt on the last to beat me one up, as we were walking off the green Alan’s arm came round my shoulders and he said ‘Eric you’re the best putter in the North of England, you just don’t hole any puts.”
So what’s the fascination of golf? “Basically it’s about wanting to improve. Once you get hold of a golf club you hit one good shot and you want to go out the next day and hit another. I started playing more seriously when I was only 14, first of all with my dad then my St Bees mates Ken Richardson, Wally Leech and Harold Shackley. Ken and I stuck together at golf, shadowing each other in the early days, played in our first county match together. Our handicaps came down in tandem fairly quickly. Harold went on to make a name for himself in cricket and Wally likewise in rugby (union) at Whitehaven.
“EMy dad was a pretty decent golfer and spent a lot of time helping to build the St Bees course and had trophies named after him.
“As a lad can remember winning a prize at Barrow, the first I ever won in a competition but they weren’t going to give the prize to a 15-year-old a prize even though they accepted my entry money but they gave in. My father who also a winner got a clock and I got a matching barometer.
“When I was selected for the county juniors I got down to a four handicap by the time I was 17, undefeated both in foursomes and singles. In 1966 both Ken and me played for Cumbria at adult level in the same match against Cheshire. We lost.”
Recalling travels to county matches with Ken and Joe French, Eric said: “Joe was the only one with a car and the M6 was just being built. My earliest memory of leaving Seascale was Joe saying ‘look for signs’....we were on our way to play at Warrington but we ended up in an open prison.”
As the years have rolled on Gulliksen, having just turned 67, continues to remain focussed. “You have to be. Travelling to senior county matches now, I can set off for places like Middlesbrough at seven in the morning, play 27 holes of golf, had a meal and came back for ten at night.”
I have the feeling that despite all his success Seascale 18th continues to haunt him .
“Joe French actually has the record for winning Seascale club championships, about 20 on the trot. I have the record for coming second. That 18th hole, well made a lot of mistakes, I just couldn’t chip up on to the green. I could never chip up on to the green.”
Never mind, Eric, maybe the scene of one of your triumphs would be a better bet for those eventual ashes!
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
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