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Death of Paul Johnson 1944-2022
Obituary from Dave Sweetnam - lifelong friend and colleague
England Schools past Secretary and Past President; Bedfordshire Schools past Secretary and Treasurer
It is with great sadness that I have to update and inform you that the stalwart of Bedfordshire Schools Golf since the late 1980’s, Paul Johnson, sadly passed away on Thursday 22nd December. He never regained consciousness after what appeared to be a freak accident after England’s World Cup defeat. Paul had travelled down to London to watch the match with his family friends from Holland, in a Big Screen venue that he had previously used near to his beloved Arsenal stadium. They parted company afterwards to make their way home and it appears that he slipped and fell in the London Underground where he was found unconscious on the ground. He suffered three separate bleeds on the brain and a stroke during his time on life support.
A couple of days beforehand he was celebrating Christmas with 87 Seniors at Leighton Buzzard GC playing in the Barney Hallam Christmas Trophy, so many people have been deeply shocked at what has happened since. He was a very fit and able 78, member of 5 Societies and at Leighton Buzzard GC for 40 years or so, but most of you will remember him from his voluntary work with Bedfordshire and England Schools, where he was National Secretary and later President of ESGA. He was the person who each year went to the NASUWT National conference to promote and negotiate the sponsorship, as the Bedfordshire treasurer, that enabled the National Association to function financially for so long.
He was also a talented artist who took great pride in producing a different local scene from his home area around Heath and Reach or Leighton Buzzard that was the standout Christmas card for so many each year spending months in its thought and presentation. Until recently he had always had an annual sponsored dig on his double sized allotment of turning manure into the ground raising thousands of pounds for local charities. Some of you might have glimpsed him when England cricket played a series abroad as his massive banner was clear to see when the cameras panned away from the action to the English supporters with its Arsenal, Leighton Buzzard GC and Heath and Reach references clear to see! He travelled to India, South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand where he had relatives. An avid sports fan of football and cricket, season ticket holder at Arsenal, he also followed Lech Poznan in Poland, where he had a wide, extended family connection and often visited them abroad.
In his younger days he was a leading scorer for Leighton Buzzard hockey club and also played regionally at a higher level before turning to golf. I estimate that over the years from 1987 he was involved with organising over 80 County Schools Championships that conservatively gave at least 3,250 players an opportunity to play golf at a higher level.
Bedfordshire, the smallest County golf Union in England Golf, with just 22 GC’s, created opportunities for 70 Bedfordshire players in the Regional Schools team, of which 23 gained international selections, 37 players moved onto gain US Golf Scholarships and 25 have since become Teaching or playing professional golfers.
He once proudly picked up Paul Casey and Luke Donald together and drove them up to the Scotland match when they were still at school in Middlesex and Buckinghamshire. Also seeing Lee Westwood pass through the ranks too, such was the depth and longevity of his involvement. I first knew him back in 1990 when I was involved with running Hertfordshire Schools golf and we decided to have inter county matches in the George McPartlin Trophy. We have been club mates ever since I joined LBGC at a similar time.
I will deeply miss his friendship, company, depth of support both on and off the golf course as he was also a family friend to my wife and our 2 children. So, so sad to lose him, but he died with dignity, something he held important and leaves many, many friends behind around the globe.