Jack Hughes was born in Mill Lane, Newbury in 1908 and was educated at Newbury Council School, where his only ambition was to be a professional footballer. At 15 applied for a vacancy at the yet unopened Newbury District Golf Club, and became shop assistant to the professional F. S. Perkins, although up to that time he have never held a golf club. He recalls his early days vividly, serving in the shop and “being a dogsbody for everyone”.
Naturally he was initiated into club making and repairing. In his first nine years at the club there were only wooden shafted clubs in use, which meant much reshafting, whipping, “leading” and other repairs.
After a year Perkins was replaced by George Riches, who was to be Jack’s employer for the next seven years. It may be supposed that the professional in those days would have taken young Jack under his wing, taught him how to play golf – and how to teach it. Jack is proud to relate that he was never given a lesson, but learned by watching the good players, and practising for hours.
The first recognition of Jack as a mature golfer was in a Newbury Weekly News report in 1928, covering an assistants championship held at Henley, in which he came second.
He is mentioned for the first time in the club minute books in December 1929, when, in response to a petition signed by many members, it was agreed that Jack would be offered the position of professional following the anticipated departure of Riches.
In 1931 Jack began his professional career, which was entirely spent at Newbury, until his retirement in 1977.
He played in major tournaments before, and after, the war including visits to the Open Championship.
He played with, and befriended, most of the famous players of his era. As for many other sportsman of the late 1930’s, the war came at wrong time for Jack, and vital years of tournament golf were lost. He spent five years in the Royal Artillary, seeing active service in France and Germany.
His visits to the Open Championship began at Hoylake in 1936 followed by Sandwich, 1938. When next able to enter, at St Andrews in 1946, Jack was 39. Vital years had been lost. Records are not complete, even at the Royal & Ancient, and Jack cannot recall which opens he attended. However, he definitely entered at Hoylake (1947), Lytham (1952), Birkdale (1954) and St Andrews (1960).
Jack’s most recent success was in 1984 at Stratford-on-Avon, where he won de PGA Seniors over 70’s title.
He twice won the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Professional Championship, and was the first captain of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Professional Golfers Alliance. He held the professional records for Crookham (64) and Newbury (63), the later being equalled in 1988 by Mark Howell of Henley.
At a monthly committee meeting in November 1952, it was proposed, and agreed, that Jack Hughes be made an honorary member of the club for his “long, loyal and willing service to the club”. Surprisingly, the requirements of the constitution were overlooked, and the proposal was not placed before the next Annual General Meeting in August 1953.
Jack has known every member since 1923 and can recall most of them, usually with an anecdote. He combines cordiality, good humor and respect in a way which exemplifies the demean our of professionals of “the old scool”. When quoting conversations with the pioneers of the club, it is noticeable that Jack addressed them as “Sir”.
A summary of Jack’s achievements is not sufficient to convey the warmth with which he is regarded by all club members. How many of today’s golfers, when playing the 13th, look ahead to the bench behind the green and, if Jack is there, put in an extra effort, or add some extra style, to impress him? When they have completed the whole, badly or otherwise, Jack will praise or encourage in a way which conveys a particular interest in that player result; and he does it with every player.
Jack’s swing was his hallmark – there his seldom a reference to Jack without a reference to his elegant, uncomplicated swing, which was still admired until he was forced to stop playing in 1991.
He lives only a few yards from the bench by the 13th and 18th greens, and not much further from the clubhouse, which he visits regularly. He is eagerly welcomed and never short of company.
In 1973 Jack Hughes become Honorary Associate Membership of the Professional Golfer’s Association.