SOME of Hampshire’s most successful golfers have led the tributes to Liphook’s former county golf union secretary and president Keith Maplesden, whose funeral was held last week.
Sam Hutsby, who grew up as a junior at Lee-on-the-Solent GC, and two-time county champion Matt Blackey – who played 66 times on the European Tour over nine years – led the tributes.
Hutsby, who became just the third player representing the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Golf Union in the Walker Cup against the USA, in 2009, said: “Keith was a wonderful man who supported me throughout my golfing career.
“He always offered me comfort and advice when I needed it the most,” added Sam, who also lost his card on four occasions – before spending six years playing PGA regional and mini-tour events in the UK.
In November, the 2006 Spanish Amateur Champion regained his card at the DP World Tour Qualifying School for a fourth time – having earned a total of €751,449 playing in 248 tournaments around the world over the past 18 years.
And last month, he dropped back down to the Challenge Tour for a week and won the Andalucia Challenge in Cadiz – his first victory since the Khazakstan Open, back in 2014, when it was the richest event on the second string tour.
Sam, who played for Hampshire as an amateur from 2002 until he turned pro seven years later, said: “As a young lad, I have many fond memories representing the county.
“Keith was always there to support us all. We had some amazing trips away together and some fantastic results – all thanks to Keith’s input.
‘I am forever grateful to have shared a part of his legacy. His kindness, generosity, and love for Hampshire Golf, Liphook GC – and most of all – family and friends, will live in many of our hearts.
“He will be greatly missed, but his memory will live on forever.”
Sam won the Hampshire U14s Championship in 2003, losing a play-off for the Hampshire Boys (U18) a year later to Stoneham’s Jon Watt, at Corhampton GC.
Hutsby also won the Courage Trophy, at the 36-hole Hampshire Strokeplay Championship at Lee in 2006, and represented England as a junior and full international – partnering county team-mate Darren Wright, from Rowlands Castle.
Blackey, who was part of the first Hampshire team to win the English County Championship for the first time in 1996 – alongside US Open winner and Olympic champion Justin Rose – echoed Sam’s sentiments.
The Hayling GC member now lives and works in California as Modest Golf Management’s director of golf USA. Matt said: “Keith, to my mind, was all that was great about Hampshire Golf – so enthusiastic, so committed, so loyal.
“He would do absolutely anything for the betterment of the game in the county, and to try and help anyone associated with golf in Hampshire.
“I first met Keith in 1994 when he was appointed county secretary and I immediately warmed to him. His outlook, demeanour and positive mind-set were there for all to see, and I felt it immediately gave Hampshire Golf a lift.
“I don’t think winning the English County Championship in 1996 was a coincidence. I’m positive that Keith played a huge part in helping the players perform their best, and bring back that elusive trophy to Hampshire.”
Hampshire reached the finals again in 2002 – held at Jersey’s La Moye – and back-to-back after he became president in 2007, although another victory eluded them.
They went on to dominate the South East group between 2010 and 2017 with five more English County Finals appearances.
Matt – who won all six points for England at the 1997 Home Internationals playing alongside Luke Donald and Justin Rose – said: “Keith was a huge supporter of mine.
“He was very loyal and he, and his wife Sue, travelled to all parts of the globe to watch me play during my time on the European Tour.
“I know he did that for all of the Hampshire players who competed on the various professional tours around the world. His support meant the world to me and I couldn’t wait to see him after each round, with his customary chilled glass of white wine in hand.
“Keith was a great man – a true friend and I will miss him every day. He will never be forgotten, as he blessed the lives of all that were fortunate to meet him.”
Keith’s holidays in Europe, Dubai and the USA coinciding with various Tour events, meant he could catch up with the likes of Rose, Hutsby and Blackey..
Keith knew Justin very well after the Hook teenager’s meteoric rise from Hampshire juniors to England Boys’ and Men’s caps and representing Great Britain and Ireland.
Rose was the youngest-ever Walker Cup player to face the Americans, in 1997 and they kept in touch, with the former World No. 1 dedicating Hampshire’s recent victory over Sussex as “one for Keith” in an Instagram post.
Maplesden also watched Meon Valley G&CC’s Harry Ellis, the youngest-ever England Amateur Champion, at just 16, play in Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour, at Ohio’s Muirfield Village, in 2018, after the 2017 Amateur Champion received a customary invite from the Golden Bear.
Blackey had spoken to Keith in advance of his annual three-week trip back to the UK, around the Open Championship, which was as at Hoylake, where he lost in the semi-final of the English Amateur Championship, in 1997.
Blackey, who would often watch Chelsea FC games with Keith before his move to the USA, added: “I was looking forward to seeing him again in July.
“We had planned a round of golf at Liphook when we last spoke. I woke up one Sunday morning in June to see a message that he had passed away suddenly.
“I was devastated and to never see his smiling face again fills me with a great deal of sadness and loss.”
Blackey – who won the second of his two Sloane-Stanley Challenge Cups, at Liphook, in 1996 – became Hampshire’s first-team coach in 2008 after giving up tour golf – the then Hampshire president was instrumental in the appointment.
“It was a role I loved doing, and I will always be thankful to Keith for giving me that opportunity,” said Matt, who earned €783,863 in career earnings, boosted by two Challenge Tour wins both in 2002.
Keith was popular with players and fellow golf administrators alike. South Eastern Golf Group president Jim Pocknell drove from Kent to attend his funeral at Guildford Crematorium.
Maplesden stood down as the 16th county secretary in the oldest county golf union in England at the end of 2005. He became the 25th Hampshire Golf Union president in 2007, serving for three years.
In 2009, he became the first chairman of the Hampshire Golf Partnership, comprising Hampshire Ladies, the county golf union and the Hampshire PGA, to boost grassroots golf participation.
TWO Corhampton players who played for GB&I in the Walker Cup four years apart also joined in the tributes to Keith Maplesden.
Scott Gregory was the first Hampshire player to be crowned Amateur Champion, in 2016, earning an invite to the Masters the following year, capped by playing against America at Los Angeles Country Club in 2017 alongside two other former Hamphshire juniors – Bramshaw’s Jack Singh-Brar and Meon Valley’s Harry Ellis.
Scott, who knew Keith from his days as county president, which he became in 2007, having retired as secretary a year earlier, said: “Keith was a wonderful man and will be missed by us all.
“I have many fond memories of Keith being there as I made my way through the county, national and international ranks.
“He was always incredibly supportive of myself and everyone else within the county – at countless matches, training sessions and our AGMs – pushing and striving to be the best we could be.
“Keith inspired us all to give our all. I had the honour of many conversations with Keith during my membership at Liphook GC. I’m sure he will be greatly missed at the club.”
Fellow Corhampton member Neil Raymond, who played in the 2013 Walker Cup – four years before Gregory and fellow Amateur Champion Harry Ellis faced America in LA – also paid tribute to the ex-IBM accountant, who also looked after the county’s finances for more than two decades.
Neil, who now carries out the talent-spotting role Matt Blackey once filled at Basingstoke-based TaylorMade Golf, said: “When I look back at my amazing memories with Hampshire, one face is always present… Keith Maplesden.
“Keith was incredibly supportive and was a huge part of my playing years. I hope Keith knew how much impact he had on me, and many others over the years.
“Hampshire Golf owes him so much and his memory will live on.”
FORMER Liphook GC secretary Barry Morgan, who took over as Hampshire secretary from Keith at the end of 2005, added to the tributes.
“Keith and I first met back in 1989 when I became secretary of Liphook GC, and Keith was the club treasurer,” said Barry.
“He gave me tremendous support and was always there for me. I will always remember Keith as a true gentleman – both on-and-off the golf course – who always had time for people.
“I am proud and privileged to call him a friend and will miss him tremendously, as will so many others.”
Liphook secretary John Douglass, who took over from Morgan, first met Keith Maplesden 30 years ago. He said: ‘Keith was a chap that you could not dislike. He always greeted you with a smile and was always prepared to listen.
“Due to his extensive golfing knowledge and experience, he provided sound and constructive advice to all. He will be sorely missed by everybody at the club and especially me.”
The club was packed for the wake held after the funeral, with family, friends, club members and Hampshire Golf officials attending.