From football pitch to golf green – the Wellington story continues at Axe Cliff GC

PUBLISHED: 08:54 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:54 22 April 2020

Simon and Jill Wellington on the first green at Axe Cliff Golf Club. Picture DAVE BRUCE

Simon and Jill Wellington on the first green at Axe Cliff Golf Club. Picture DAVE BRUCE

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We continue our series on the lives of members at Axe Cliff Golf Club and today the spotlight is on management duo Simon and Jill Wellington.

Here is their story…

Jill and I have surprised ourselves that we should be running a golf club. Both of us are relatively new to golf, especially compared to the many seniors we have at Axe Cliff, writes Simon Wellington.

We met at Midsomer Norton’s, Norton Hill School. It was a rugby playing school. I loved rugby and played cricket, basketball and any other sport going. I was also playing for Welton Rovers from the age of 15. I had just signed for Bristol City when we played Welton; my home club, in a pre-season friendly. Welton still had my boyhood heroes playing against us. As a boy, my Mum used to give me 6d to get in to Welton, but I would climb the wall and spend it on Vimto and crisps!

As a 15-year-old, I was on the bench as one of the Bristol City substitutes watching hosts Welton take City apart in a pre-season friendly. Many of the Welton team had played for Bristol Rovers so there was an added incentive in them beating City 4-1. I was so proud of my home club. I must be the only person ever to ask to be transferred from Bristol City to Welton Rovers!

After the transfer, my world changed very quickly. I made my debut for Welton in a home win over Bridport. A few weeks later, I was asked to sign for Birmingham City, but turned them down because I was home sick. I then went to England Youth trials. I captained the Somerset county youth team before being invited for trials with Bristol Rovers, but my parents wanted me to finish sixth form and that’s what happened.

I was shattered every week with rugby on Saturday mornings, Welton in the afternoon and youth football on Sundays, plus representative games. It came as a blessing; that although I loved rugby when my Welsh master that I was banned from playing rugby as, given I must be being paid to play football, money and the world of rugby union was an absolute ‘no, no’ and so it became a case of football only for Simon Wellington. Then in 1973-74 Welton won the league when Taunton Town had been the favourites and, I was one of just three ‘local lads’ in the title winning team I was able to enjoy ‘five minutes of fame’.

I tell of all the above, to put into context, meeting Jill at school. I was quite good at art and was doing my A-levels. The teacher was young and wanted to achieve his first pupil with an ‘A’ at art. He asked me to join in extra classes, so I chose Jill’s class as it had the best looking, 15-year-old girls in it. I was 17 and in the papers most weeks thanks to my footballing exploits and I couldn’t understand why Jill was not responding to my charms. Apparently, as soon as I joined the class, she was warned to stay clear of ‘boots’!

I kept on trying to date her, until Jill was chosen to model for the life drawing aspect of our exam. The teacher was delighted with both Jill and my artistic efforts and the ice was broken. She agreed a date!

We stayed together, through school and my short stint as full-time professional footballer, until we both went off to college. I went to Wimbledon to become a teacher and Jill went to Weston-super-Mare.

I would travel back to meet up every weekend and fund it by playing for Paulton or Welton every Saturday. In my final term I asked Jill to marry me. She said no and went off to marry in Los Angeles! As far as I knew, she stayed out there. In turn, I taught in Southampton and I also married.

Twenty years later; two of my four brothers still lived in Midsomer Norton. I had separated and had come back briefly to visit a brother. By chance I saw Jill in her front garden. She had returned from the USA quite some time before and was divorced. Four years later, in 2004, we married. Both of us had to start from scratch. As anyone who has been divorced knows; it is expensive, but worth every penny.

Along with our sign-making and embroidery business; we spent lots of time on public projects.

Welton Rovers has a new grandstand, car park, gate house, which I initiated, and we saw through the plans to fruition. Jill and I took up golf and were made joint captains of Farrington Golf Club and with the senior captain; raised £12,000 for a local disability group.

Jill and her friends annually set up charity sales for the local hospice. We have always tried to be public spirited.

Then came a change as my brothers asked if I would help Mum out. Mum was living alone, and her house needed major work doing to it. We moved to Seaton in 2013. We bought the house from her, so she could move to a bungalow. We did not really want to take it on as we had renovated a beautiful house in Midsomer Norton and would have stayed there. Nevertheless; we put the Norton house up for sale and set up our caravan in Seaton Hole and refurbished ‘The Dutch Glen’ over six months of hard slog. This is now our home.

Our next obvious move was to join a golf club. We paid up our membership for Axe Cliff in the August of 2014 and, within a few weeks the lease holder chose to opt out.

None of us were best pleased as our memberships had just begun and everyone else had four months to run on theirs. I was asked to speak at the EGM meeting, probably because I’d just finished as Norton Town councillor and had a background in Sports Clubs. I had also been Head of Trust, of a community tennis club in Southampton and dealt with grant funding etc.

The point I made at the Axe Cliff EGM was that as the golf club was at the point of closure; someone had to step up and fund it for a while and steer it into calmer waters. As the meeting went on; there were no takers. We could not let the club fold, so we offered our help.

We continue as volunteer managers. The club is now a charitable organisation with a helpful new landlord; Robert Loveridge. We love our members. It has gone from strength to strength and once this Global crisis is over, we will continue to make Axe Cliff thrive. I am sure the love story of Simon and Jill Wellington will do the same…


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