By Rachel Mackie

A GOLF club starter who once welcomed the first man on the moon to the fairways has called it a day.

North Berwick Golf Club bid farewell to starter Sam Fox this week, as he retired after 21 years of service to the club.

As a starter, it was Sam’s job to set the pace of play on the course, as well as offering his knowledge about both the course’s history and hints and tips on how to play it.

Sam, originally from Wales, moved to Scotland as a youngster and attended Dalkeith High School; he eventually joined the police, working in Musselburgh and then later in North Berwick.

Retiring after 30 years on the force, a friend of his let him know about a vacancy at North Berwick Golf Club.

“I started there as a ranger,” said Sam, “and pretty quickly they asked if I wanted to be their starter.”

Over his two decades at the West Links, Sam has seen many changes.

“There have been 10 captains while I’ve been there, and they seem to be getting younger and younger,” he said.

“I’ve worked through the introduction of high-tech computerised systems, elite golf equipment and the golf outfits getting more and more colourful!”

With North Berwick Golf Club being hailed as one of the best and oldest in the world, Sam has seen his fair share of high-profile golfers and famous celebs.

“The most important customer that I had was the next one who would play – everyone gets treated the same, but saying that, I have met some pretty famous people,” he said.

“I remember Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, coming in.

“I didn’t recognise him at first, and so asked him what he did for a living. He said he was a pilot and I asked him if he flew with Virgin, or one of the big companies. He replied that he usually flew a little higher up than that. It was only then I realised who he was!

“I’ve met Michael Douglas, Sean Connery, and I’ve recommended good local pubs to Jack Nicholson.

“If someone high profile is coming round, we usually get the call a few days ahead of time. They’ll make up a name for them so we never know who it is until they arrive. They’ll say ‘Mr Brown is helicoptering in to Archerfield and will be with you at such and such a time’.

“That’s when you know it’s somebody famous”.

Sam has been receiving cards and letters from people all over the world at the news of his retirement, thanking him for making their experience at North Berwick memorable.

But he said: “I was only doing my job. People pay a lot of money to play at the course and sometimes have booked years in advance and saved up to do so, so it’s important to make their time with us as special as possible. We do everything we can to accommodate.

“Even if we’re having to tell people they can’t play, maybe because the weather is too bad or they’re not experienced enough, or if it’s a stag do who are too drunk and have fallen over trying to put the tee down, we do what we can to still make a good experience for them.”

As for his retirement plans, Sam said: “My wife has a list of things needing doing around the house, so I’ll be spending a lot of time at the DIY shop I think! But I’ve had many invites from golf courses over Scotland to play there, so it’ll be nice to have the time to take them up on their offer.”

Sam’s wife Andrea also works at North Berwick Golf Club in the accounts office and they have been married for 33 years.

Elaine McBride, general manager of the club, said of Sam: “What a great servant to the club, who has been synonymous with our visitor experience at North Berwick Golf Club for over two decades. Sam will be missed by staff, members and visitors alike.”

Sam has been praised on social media, including by Andy Bower, who said on Twitter: “Myself and seven other golfers played a few years ago and before we teed off Sam spent 10 minutes thanking us for choosing to play North Berwick. Sent us all on our way with a smile on our face.”

A drinks reception for members and staff to mark Sam’s retirement takes place at the club at 5pm on Monday.

North Berwick Golf Club is in the process of recruiting a new starter.