Meet our Seniors Captain

My name is Phil Selley. Seniors Captain for 2023.

I started golf in about 1974 aged thirteen, was born and grew up in Zambia. My father and two other dads would drop six kids off at the Nkana Golf Club at around 6:30 am most mornings of the school holidays to keep us out of trouble. A couple of Kwacha for fees, lunch and a caddie. We were not serious at all but had a blast. We had no instruction or lessons, but it wasn’t too long before we got our handicaps, playing off the ladies’ tees. We hacked our way through the bush and around a very long beautiful course. We learned from the caddies, who were not allowed to play but they did, when out of site of the clubhouse, mainly playing one handed whilst carrying one or two bags. I played only until I was 17 years old though when I discovered better things to do, but two of our group went on to become pros in South Africa. I only played sporadically in the USA in the 80s and 90s at corporate events and then nothing at all until recently, when my father persuaded me to start up again. He gave me a set of clubs that was gathering dust on his garage wall.

I came to Cuckfield many years ago, in the nineties whilst visiting one of our UK offices and a colleague wanted to hit some balls one day. Which we did. There wasn’t a clubhouse then, perhaps a shed. But there was a driving range and a ‘course’ populated with sheep. It stuck in my mind as an interesting place to come back to one day. I had bought a house in Sussex during my travels, close to our offices in Gatwick. Just prior to covid I decided to take up golf again. I looked at couple of clubs nearer to my house, but they were all flat, featureless or way too narrow for my game!

I came to Cuckfield because of the driving range at first. I booked my first ever lesson with a pro, Roy, who undertook the task of unpicking a myriad of bad habits dating back to beginning. One day, after a clinic, he took me to a Friday rollup gathering and said, ‘this guy needs a game.’ So, the hacking started again!

My favourite hole for me is the 5th. It’s the best-looking hole and the approach requires some thought with the green nicely protected. And I have actually driven the green a couple of times with good bounce and nice roll around to the left.

What I like about Cuckfield is that it is friendly club with great members and the course changes dramatically with a slight weather change. There is a lot going on, on and off the course which is refreshing. Having had the opportunity to sit on the committee as a captain, the club really listens to input. The club and course have come on tremendously in just the past couple of years. Players talk about the improvement in the greens and the fairways, but as frequent visitor to the rough this too has improved greatly. It is tough but fair and not just plain ridiculous as many courses are. Visiting clubs are constantly commenting positively on the course and clubhouse and their progress.

I grew up in Zambia, went to school in Rhodesia throughout the bush war which made getting there and home an interesting challenge. I came to the UK to do a degree in Fisheries with the aim of going back to develop fish farms in Africa. The first time I played a round of golf in the UK I was dismayed to see my bag still sitting on the 1st tee box amongst the next group of players after I had walked 250 yards down the fairway and a caddie nowhere in sight. I got myself a job on the fishing trawlers in south Devon for a few years having given up the fish farm idea. In the interim time, my parents and siblings migrated to the USA. My wife who I met at Nkana Golf club, Jackie, was also born in Zambia and we’ve been together since 1979. We joined my family in Arizona in the mid-80s in Globe, a mining & cowboy community. There I laboured at making descaling chemicals for large industrial cooling towers and also became a truck driver, 3-axle, delivering chemicals all over the southwestern US states. I soon fell into the offshore oil industry by accident with my fishing equipment and navigation knowledge and we moved to Houston. I was involved in processing navigation data and positioning deep water exploration ships utilising radio navigation, lasers and underwater compasses. I had the privilege of being involved in the early deployment of commercial GPS navigation systems. We even suggested putting GPS on golf carts but that was rejected as daft as at the time GPS units were as large as a suitcase and cost $100K each. We had the challenge of bringing up two kids whilst moving between several countries at a moment’s notice. I ended up running a fleet of exploration vessels in Brazil. I left all that nonsense in 2003 and for a retirement hobby, I started a software company with an old college friend, developing operations and grant management software primarily for large charities working in Africa. In my spare time I like a bit of gardening and during all those years travelling, I collected a loft full of model train bits & pieces. Rather than sell it I have recently built a completely impractical large layout in my garage.

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