Three cheers for Lee-on-the-Solent trio

Three cheers for Lee-on-the-Solent trio

Feb 11, 2016

Three cheers are in order for a trio of Lee-on-the-Solent pros who topped their respective Order of Merits last year, writes Ken Gaunt.

James Ablett (Virgin Atlantic PGA South), Jon Barnes (The PGA in Hampshire) and Jack Coulbert (The PGA in Hampshire Trainees) will each be celebrated during The PGA in Hampshire’s annual dinner at Weybrook Park, Basingstoke.

While Barnes and Coulbert will both be in attendance, Ablett is in America, taking part in the Scottsdale Classic Pro-Am.

Ablett, who plays full-time, won the PGA Surrey Open, the PGA Kent Open and the Keith MacDonald Matchplay on his way to finishing top in the south for the second time in six years.

He recorded 14 wins, eight second placed finishes and secured 11 top five slots in a successful season locally. In 71 rounds, his average score was an impressive 69.4. And he has made no secret of the fact he wants to advance to a higher level.

Barnes said: “The tour school is a bit of a lottery and James fell away last year, which was a shame. It is so tough at that level.

“There is no doubt he has plenty of ability as he proved by winning the South region again. He is a very good player, a talented lad.”

Lee-on-the Solent boasts a former Ryder Cup player in Steven Richardson and is a special place, according to Barnes, who won the OOM for the ninth time, going back to 1996.

Now 18 months into his spell as head pro, he said: “I love it here. It is a wonderful environment to play golf. That’s down to head greenkeeper Jason Diment, who does a great job.

“It is such a nice course and is always in brilliant condition, no matter how bad the weather gets. That’s why it is so popular and the membership are very enthusiastic.

“I enjoy all aspects of the job, the shop, coaching and playing in regional tournaments. It is always special to win the OOM and I finished in the top 20 in South Region as well, which was pleasing.”

Barnes is predicting a bright future for his assistant Coulbert, who turned pro two years ago after winning the club championship at the age of 15.

Coulbert, 26, is known for his long driving, averaging over 300 yards, but his boss reckons there is more to his game than that.

Barnes said: “He has got a lot of potential and is beginning to realise that. He is showing good signs of improvement and came close last season to winning a big tournament.”

Father-of three Coulbert added: “I have felt a lot more comfortable since Jon came in. He has been a massive help to me.

“He never scrutinises my game, is never negative and I appreciate that. My aim this season is to player in some bigger regional events and try to climb the Order of Merit.”