IN HIS younger years it was noticeable to everyone at Selsey FC that Tom Aspital was born to be a great sportsman. Sadly for them it was not to be on the football pitch.
Aged 12 his love turned to golf. Encouraged by his family, the challenge began at Selsey Golf Club – starting with a junior handicap of 40.
After one competition his natural ability reduced his handicap to 28 and by the time he was 14 he qualified with an 18 handicap to compete with the men in Sunday competitions. That was the start of Tom’s name appearing in gold on the trophy boards in the clubhouse.
Members were in awe of his no-nerves, no-pressure game – especially on one occasion in 2008 when he had a hole in one on the 16th at Selsey.
The late Max Faulkner was once owner of the Selsey club and, as a professional, won the British Open at Royal Port Rush in 1951.
Tom paid his own tribute to him by winning the trophy named after him in 2010.
Still supporting the juniors in Saturday competitions, Tom was soon voted Selsey junior captain and twice won the junior club championship, followed by the Bognor junior open (twice) and Seaford open.
In 2010 and 2011, Tom was absent from the local course in the winter as he went with Sussex College of Golf to Spain for warmer-weather golf.
All-year golf brought its rewards to Tom as he entered the Under-21s Nick Faldo Series at Royal Ashdown Forest. He equalled the course record with 67 (five under par) in the first round, only to endure a turbulent 77 on day two, followed by a a play-off win secured by a birdie at the second extra hole to clinch the boys’ under-21 division and overall victory.
You’d think winning his home club championship in 2009 and 2010 - would be his best golfing memory. Not so.
He said: “In 2011 at Selsey, I was playing in a turkey medal. Word was out that I was shooting a good round. On the 18th, a par-three, I played over the ditch on to the fairway 25 yards left of the flag.
“I took my time to chip on to the green knowing a three would equal the course record, and the ball went into the hole for a birdie to take the course record with 63. It had stood at 64 for 16 years.
“I felt so proud when all the applause began – that was my best moment.
“Golf brings out goodness and honesty, is well-tempered, keeps you active and gives you good social skills, and is enjoyable at any age. I hope to improve my golf, work hard and move up the ranks.”
Tom turned pro in March hitting his first ball playing in the Tournament Players series at Denham and recently shot level par at Little Aston, Birmingham.
Golf is in the family – grandparents Jean and Derek are still playing in their 80s and 13-year-old brother Billy plays off 11, competing in men’s competitions.
Dad Simon used to play a lot of golf but is now tied up working hard with his company Aspect Electrical, who are one of Tom’s sponsors.
Selsey golf pro Peter Grindley gave Tom his very first lesson and said: “Tom is a confident young man working hard. I expect see him at the top and wish him well.”