Mark Wilson, who has died aged 90, was a much respected and revered golf writer on London’s Evening Standard and Daily Express before going on to become head of communications for the European Tour.
He counted Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and European Ryder Cup captains Tony Jacklin and Bernard Gallacher as good friends.
Jacklin, who won The Open Championship in 1969 and the US Open eleven months later, said: “I was saddened to hear of Mark Wilson’s passing. It was during his time with the Evening Standard and the Daily Express that I was on top of my game.
“I spent many good times with Mark and found him to be a straight shooter – he was always fair and balanced with his comments about me. I’ll miss knowing he’s not around. Astrid joins me in sending our best wishes to his wife and family.”
Gallacher recalled: “Mark and I wrote a book together and he was the driving force. It was called ‘Teach Yourself Golf’.
“Mark was terrific to work with; always cheery and he made my job easy. I knew him by whole golfing life when he worked at the London Standard then the Daily Express. He was a trusted journalist.”
Wilson was born in Gosport. His father, Henry, was in the Royal Navy and his mother, Beatrice, was a nurse. His father died when he was only six and, when he was 11, and due to start Grammar School, war broke out and he was evacuated to stay with the Post Master in Salisbury.
He attended Bishops Wadsworth School and it was there, aged 15, he met a local girl, Joan Edwards. They became ballroom partners and nine years later they married.
Wilson worked in a munitions factory before starting a two-year apprenticeship as a trainee report with the Salisbury Times but was commissioned into the Army after a year.
Three years later he returned to complete his apprenticeship in Salisbury before joining the Manchester Evening News and then the Birmingham Gazette. Next step was the Evening Standard where became night news editor and then war correspondent.
It was during the Suez crisis that he had his biggest scoop. He learned that the British troops were going in to protect the Suez Canal the following day but could not file his story because of a telephone black-out.
Wilson noticed, however, that there was a British Naval ship lying off Alexandria. He hired a rowing boat, made it to the ship and filed his story.
Wilson’s lifetime love of golf was ignited when, against his will, he was sent to help the coverage of the Ryder Cup at Lindrick in 1957. Soon he landed his dream job as golf correspondent of the Standard where he stayed until 1973 when he was appointed golf correspondent of its sister paper, the Daily Express.
Wilson was also an accomplished golfer and member at Sunningdale, The Berkshire, Royal Mid-Surrey and Pyecombe, near Brighton. He captured many titles of his own – he was proud to receive one trophy from Arnold Palmer – and he won the Association of Golf Writers’ Championship in 1964, 1966 and 1985 and was chairman of the Association from 1982-1984.
In 1986 he became head of communications for the European Tour working from their Wentworth Headquarters in Surrey with first chief executive Ken Schofield and then George O’Grady.
Schofield said: “From the first moment of his arrival, Mark threw himself into action, devising and developing the Tour’s first full-time, highly professional media department and generally bringing fresh impetus to our entire operation with his unique enthusiasm and unrivalled experience.
“He was a phenomenon. We were all privileged to call him our colleague, friend and confidant. Today’s European Tour – and the entire game – owes him our gratitude. To Joan, Jacqueline and Lisa, and all the family our love and fond memories.”
O’Grady said: “His unique ability, his professionalism, his personality, the relationships he formed throughout the world and the respect in which he was held contributed enormously to the growth and success of The European Tour.”
The family invite all to Mark Wilson’s funeral service at Woking Crematorium with a reception afterwards at Sunningdale Golf Club. Family flowers only.
Donations to The Golf Foundation or the Royal National Lifeboat Institute via Lodge Brothers Funeral Directors, 7 Broomhall Buildings, Chobham Road, Sunningdale, Berkshire, SL5 0DU or www.lodgebrothers.co.uk
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