THE Professional at Longniddry Golf Club retires at the end of the month... nearly five decades after he first started work there.

John Gray has been the resident pro at the club for the last 40 years, but actually started there nine years earlier as assistant to Gordon Durward.

After a two-year spell at a club in Oxfordshire, he took over from Durward and has served members and visitors alike for the past 40 years.

He will call time at the end of November, a month in which the village resident will celebrate his 70th birthday.

And he told the Courier: “An old boss of mine retired when he turned 70 and basically I decided that I was going to follow him – that is the main reason I am retiring.

“I have enjoyed it, though.

“I’ve been in with the bricks here – I certainly did not think I’d still be here when I started more than 40 years ago.”

One of his highlights was playing with legendary American Sam Snead in the early-1970s – Snead was in the county preparing for the World Senior Championships.

“He will always be up there when you talk about the best four or five golfers of all time,” he said.

Although he has worked for four decades at Longniddry Golf Club, Gray’s association with golf actually began as a youngster in Dunbar.

The 69-year-old added: “My mum and dad were out a walk and the club captain of Dunbar Golf Club at the time saw them and said, ‘You’ve got a boy, tell him to come to the club on Monday, he’s got a job’.

“I started there as, I believe, the first official apprentice greenkeeper in Scotland.

“I wasn’t even that interested in golf before then, but took to it like a duck to water.”

John McDougall, captain at Longniddry Golf Club, said: “For the last 40 years Longniddry Golf Club has been very fortunate to have had in John Gray a most likeable and knowledgeable professional whose teaching abilities has seen many of John’s assistants progress into successful professional careers.

“John’s whole career has been based around being a club professional and supporting the members of the club in all aspects of the game and everyone at the club wishes him a long and happy retirement.”

A number of Gray’s previous assistants have gone on to successful jobs – Derek Scott is general manager at Craigielaw Golf Club, while Paul Wardell is a coach based in North Berwick.

And on his impending retirement, Gray said his wife Dororthy will “no doubt” keep him busy with jobs around the house!