Still Aiming For Glory

Paul Nessling, who was appointed last month as head professional at Sedlescombe Golf Club after arriving initially in June, has a distinguished pedigree in sporting circles of Hastings and Rother.

Paul Nessling in action

His dad Dave was once a stalwart footballer for Hastings United, more recently (until October 2019) chairman of the club and still significantly involved in the on-going project to re-locate its stadium from Pilot Field to Tilekiln. Son Paul grew up playing a range of sports locally, including golf at Highwoods (on the fringe of Bexhill), but could well have landed a professional football career at Sunderland. He attended the football academy there along with future England and Liverpool star Jordan Henderson, and at age 18 was offered pro terms. Instead, it was golf which took his fancy as the basis for a more reliable sports career. 

He was already playing off scratch by then; he took up PGA training, and in 2009 got a job as assistant at Cooden. That position enabled him to earn a living from the game over the eleven years since, combining teaching and admin duties at the club with pursuit of competitive glory. Five years ago he finished just one shot off qualification for the British Open. In 2019, he achieved victory in the PGA South Order of Merit.  

This plague year of 2020 has been virtually a wipe-out in terms of competitive opportunities, but Paul has high hopes for next year when, as it happens, the Open will be held (Covid-19 allowing) at Sandwich in Kent. Although there are only 12 places for qualifiers out of a total of 400 entrants, it’s a focus for his ambition. And in the longer term he still hopes to get enough ranking points on the PGA tour circuit to win a place on the European Tour. 

Is he, at the age of 31, running out of time? Not necessarily. In a lot of sports, over-30s get talked of as ‘veterans’. But the average age of a pro on the PGA tour is around 35.  There have been plenty of British Open winners in their 40s, Darren Clarke was nearly 43 when he won in 2011. Tom Watson was 59 when he finished runner-up after a play-off in 2009.

It’s been agreed with owners Phil and Leigh Copolo (see adjacent feature) that Paul should retain sufficient time away from his teaching, admin and other supervisory roles at the Sedlescombe club to pursue the competitive dream. He will, after all, be promoting the local brand if (let’s dream with him) he should find himself stepping out in front of the TV cameras on the first tee at Royal St Georges in July next year.

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