Golf Q&A with John Harrison and Kenneth Ferrie

As golfers all over the UK prepare to get back out on the course, Matfen Hall professionals John Harrison and Kenneth Ferrie look back on their long friendship and look forward to returning to their favourite fairway.

Kenneth Ferrie, 41, Matfen’s Attached European Tour Professional 

What are your first memories of Matfen Hall?
My first memory of Matfen is doing England Golf squad classroom sessions in the early nineties. We used to go into the Hall before the renovation, sitting at tables covered in dust – there were dust sheets everywhere – while looking out over the golf course. Our lessons were at the driving range with the portacabins.

What’s Matfen Hall like as a place to work and play?
Matfen’s facilities are second to none with 27 championship standard holes, a par 3 course and covered range – having the ability to work on all parts of your game at one venue is rare. Being able to represent and promote the Matfen brand all over the world remains a huge thrill and honour.
Going forward it will be nice to work with John delivering some clinics so that we can share our wealth of knowledge and stories of our careers, hopefully we will be able to mentor some of the up and coming players to help the next generation progress.

When did you start working with John?
Our first meeting was when John came to overseeing an England session at Northumberland Golf Club, he was taking over from Bill Ferguson. We first started working together at the North Region England squad in the early 90’s. This then continued to him becoming my personal coach, and he has been ever since.

Kenneth Ferrie, Matfen Hall's Attached European Professional

Kenneth Ferrie, Matfen Hall’s Attached European Professional

What’s your favourite ‘John’ story?
John is always full of stories and he certainly has created many over the years!
During the 2005 Northern Rock event at Matfen Hall, John and I played each other in a play off – as we walked back to the tee he stopped and pretended to give me a lesson!
There was also the time at The Open in 2003 when John and I shared a house. One evening I was sitting watching TV in the lounge when there was water coming through the ceiling….he had let the bath overflow!
I should also mention that John was my Best Man when I married Lisa in August 2009.

What do you think is the strength in John’s coaching?
John has a great coaching ability and understanding of people and the golf swing. He is able to work with players of all abilities and get them to understand and progress with the changes he wants you to work on.
He has a fantastic understanding of the golf swing and is able to work with players’ swings and improve them, rather than rebuilding people to a blueprint of the “perfect swing”.
One of John’s greatest assets is his personality, he treats all of his pupils with care and consideration and always makes time for everyone.

How much are you missing playing and coaching during the Covid-19 lockdown?
I’m missing being on the golf course, but it is more the social side and regular interaction with your friends.I have been busy with a long list of jobs around the house and garden!

What are you looking forward to following lockdown?
I am looking forward to getting back to a new form of normal and catching up with everyone.

What are your thoughts on golf being one of the first leisure businesses to reopen?
It makes logical sense as social distancing is somewhat in place normally anyway. Clubs and golfers will need to adapt to the new procedures and hopefully people can benefit from some physical activity but, more importantly interacting with others from a safe distance.

Matfen Hall Golf Course

John Harrison, 60, Matfen’s Head Professional 

What are your first memories of Matfen Hall?I was the pro at Barnard Castle and had been for 16 years, then in February 1994 – I had just returned from playing a couple of tournaments in Africa – there was a message to call Sir Hugh Blackett (owner of Matfen Hall).
He asked if I could take a look at the golf course he’d just built. After driving over, seeing the place and spending a few hours with Sir Hugh, he basically offered me the role of developing Matfen Hall Golf Club.

What’s Matfen Hall like as a place to work and play?
I have been involved with Matfen now for 26 years and I still love going to work there.
To see it grow from an 18 hole golf course with a temporary clubhouse into one of the finest golf and hotel resorts in our area is very satisfying. I am still very proud to represent Matfen as the Head Professional.
It will also be very exciting – as Ken steps back from his playing career – for us to share our wealth of experience with golf clinics and residential schools.

What is your first memory of Ken?
My first memory of Ken was at Gosforth Park, Northumberland Golf Club, I was overlooking a coaching session Bill Ferguson was doing with the lads and Ken stuck out as the best player in his striking ability and the way he could control the ball flight.
He was also one of the loudest!

When did you start working with Ken?
I started working with Ken when I took over the role as England Golf Regional Coach, Taking over from the late Bill Ferguson.
After Ken left school he was given a golf scholarship in Texas in light of his great success as a junior golfer (British Boys champion etc).
We would work together when he came home during the summer, then in his last year of studies, I told him I’d got some support for when he finished college and wanted to turn Professional. This really gelled us together as a team moving forwards.

What’s your favourite Ken memory?
To be honest it’s the journey itself – the ups and downs of trying to make it to the top of your chosen profession. I knew there would be some bumps in the road, but I also knew if Ken got the support, he would eventually end up a European Tour winner. I never doubted that and I was proved right! Obviously his first win on tour (The Spanish Open) was brilliant to see, and gave us all in his team immense pride.

What do you think is the strength in Ken’s game?
It’s still the control over his ball flight and shape. He always has control over his ball – therefore on the right course and in the right conditions (tight courses and windy weather) he has a great advantage over his competitors.
He also has a great knack of not getting unnerved when he’s leading – it excites and motivates him.

John Harrison, Head Pro at Matfen Hall

John Harrison, Head Pro at Matfen Hall

How much are you missing playing and coaching during the Covid-19 lockdown?
I did not realise how much I would actually miss my job both playing and coaching. The interaction with my clients has always meant a lot to me. Also chatting to other pros and catching up at events is really important and playing competitions has always been a big part of my life, so I goes without saying I miss that also

How much are you missing being at Matfen?
I have been lucky in the sense of missing Matfen as Viv (John’s partner) and I police the course every evening- we live in Matfen village – so we do get to walk the course.
It is quite surreal walking around on a beautiful evening with no one around the place, I’ve been able to catch up with Derek our course manager now and again and Lee the gardener, which is nice.

What are you looking forward to following lockdown?
After lockdown I’m just looking forwards to getting back to as normal as we possibly can.

What have you been doing during lockdown to fill your time?
During lockdown I have been keeping myself busy. Yoga first thing then loads of projects – house, garden, DIY. It’s amazing amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it!
I’ve installed a staircase, laid a hardwood floor, built a drystone wall, and numerous other things I thought I could never do. Viv and I also go out on our bikes most days.

What are your thoughts on golf being one of the first leisure businesses to reopen?
Golf actually never got closed down, but because of restrictions on travel and the seriousness of the pandemic is was the best decision for the governing bodies to make.
The proposals all make total sense. Golfers will just have to be patient and understand it will take time to get back to where we were a couple of months ago, but with a good wind and cooperation we will.

Click here to read the reopening statement from Matfen Hall’s Director of Golf, Lisa Ferrie.