A Life Member of the PGA and of Killara Golf Club, Mercer passed away on September 12 aged 89, his son Richard’s final words a gentle encouragement to round out a heavenly foursome with Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle and Arnold Palmer.

One of eight
children, David and his six brothers – including fellow legendary PGA
Professional Alex – were drawn to golf in part due to their proximity as kids
to North Ryde Golf Club, the other a chance to make pocket money by selling
balls dredged up from the course’s lakes.

Their sister
Jean wanted no part of it yet by the time the youngest Mercer boy was 16, the
highest handicap of the seven – including the two who suffered from polio – was
just four.

A
traineeship that began at North Ryde in 1951 was soon transferred to Killara
Golf Club where Mercer began to learn his trade under Jim McInnes.

When McInnes
moved to Royal Sydney Golf Club Mercer followed to complete the final year of
his apprenticeship but prior to leaving received an offer from the top brass at
Killara that would come to define his career.

“They loved
Dad so much that when he left to finish his apprenticeship at Royal Sydney they
told him to come back in a year to be the club’s Head Professional,” explains
Richard Mercer, himself a 43-year PGA Professional whose love for the game developed
as a six-year-old while watching his father teach.

“Dad was
only 21 or 22 at the time but he came back and was there for the next 43 years.”

As he began
to entrench his place at Killara, Mercer continued to mix with the leading
players of the day.

Although
suffering what became known as the ‘Mercer Curse’ – an affliction that affected
only the shortest club in the bag – his playing ability was of the highest
calibre.

He bested
Open champions Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle to claim the Killara Cup shortly
after becoming the club’s Head Professional, he twice won the NSW PGA Foursomes
Championship with close friend Len Woodward (1958 and 1967) and led the
qualifying at Lundin Links to play his way into the 1973 Open Championship at
Royal Troon.

Joining the
caddy ranks at Killara as a 12-year-old, Rodger Davis was invited to carry
Mercer’s bag in a pro-am at Moore Park Golf Club and saw first-hand just how
talented a player he was.

“Except for
the odd shot he’d hit on the practice fairway I hadn’t really seen Dave play
and had no idea how good a player he was,” says Davis of his coach of some 40
years.

“On the
first tee he blistered this thing with a little draw down the middle and I just
thought, Wow!

“He was a
hell of a player from tee to green. From tee to green he was one of the best.

“The ‘Mercer
curse’ was the putter, it certainly was.

“I remember ‘Thommo’
saying to me one time when Dave Mercer’s name came into conversation that he
was the best ball-striker we had. That was Peter Thomson!

“Even though
he was a great coach and great with people, I think he would have loved to have
been a tour player.”

Mercer would
regularly host the likes of Thomson, Nagle, Billy Dunk and Col Johnston in his
home yet his greatest contribution would be the way he encouraged players of
all abilities to find enjoyment in the game he held so dear.

By pure
chance Greg Hohnen attended Forestville Primary School with Richard Mercer, the
invitation for a game inside the exclusive Killara enclave facilitating an
introduction that would change Hohnen’s life forever.

Perhaps the
only Australian professional to have undertaken a traineeship with both David
and Alex Mercer – Hohnen did his first six months under Alex at Royal Sydney –
Hohnen would become business partners and then David’s long-time successor at
Killara, carrying forward the Mercer legacy.

“It was his
rapport with people,” says Hohnen, who has been at Killara for 43 years this
year and the Head Professional since 1995.

“He used to
do 50 lessons a week every week and he was booked out six weeks in advance.

“He had
incredible knowledge of the game but lessons with Dave were centered around
enjoying the game no matter what your handicap was.

“He would
tell people, ‘You’re going to get a lot of enjoyment out of the game, you’re
going to meet a lot of great people and you’re going to have a lot of fun.’ It
was his ability to relate to people and encourage them at any level.

“Not
everyone is going to be a great player but as long as they enjoy their game of
golf, that’s the No.1 priority.”

Two of Davis’s
finest moments as a player came following a five-minute refresher from his
coach.

On the
Wednesday of the 1981 State Express English Classic at The Belfry Davis was on
the practice fairway “hitting it sideways”, calling Mercer back in Australia
desperate for a swing fault he was unable to fix himself.

“I was on
the phone for two minutes and he said, ‘I think your right elbow is flying a
bit with the shots you’re telling me you’re playing. Keep it tucked for a
little bit and then forget about it’,” Davis recalls.

“I beat Seve
(Ballesteros) and Greg Norman by two shots and won the tournament and he fixed
me in a two-minute phone call without looking at my swing.”

Six years
later, on the eve of the 1987 Open Championship at Muirfield, Davis received
some surprise input from his coach that very nearly etched his name into golf
immortality.

“I’d been
there for a couple of hours after playing in the morning and I’m just about to
pack it in when a security guard came over to me and said, ‘Mr Davis, there’s a
fellow over here that says he’s your coach’,” Davis says.

“And it was
Dave! He came over and said, ‘Same old problem, your right elbow is starting to
fly a bit.’

“Straight
away I started hitting it good. The next day, the first round of the
tournament, I set a course record 64. I finished second that week to Nick Faldo
by a shot.”

Decorated PGA Professionals such as Hohnen, John Halliday, Tom Linskey and Jimmy Ballard were among the estimated 35 PGA Trainees who graduated to the Professional ranks by virtue of Mercer’s guidance and leading tour players regularly sought his counsel.

Mike Harwood, Peter O’Malley, David Mercer and Peter Fowler at the 2016 David Mercer Senior Classic

When Hohnen introduced the David Mercer Senior Classic to the Legends Tour schedule in 2014 – “He thought that was the best thing ever,” adds Richard – the crème of Aussie touring pros converged on Killara, the 2020 edition scheduled for November 12 sure to be an emotional occasion if it can go ahead.

“Dave was
one of life’s true gentlemen. An incredible family man, mentor and friend,”
says 1991 Open champion and PGA of Australia board member Ian Baker-Finch.

“He set the
standard for all PGA Professionals in Australia as a player, coach, club pro
and a great bloke!

“He was just
a regular guy that did everything the way it’s meant to be done.

“Dave was an
excellent leader and role model.”

Whether it
was advising his sons Richard and Gregory to steer clear of flashy cars,
showing his trainees how to keep calm in the face of challenging members or
simply steer rebellious youngsters into a more productive pastime, Mercer’s
influence went far beyond the swing plane.

“When I was
14, 15 I was going down the wrong path,” Davis reveals.

“Dave
brought golf into my life and set boundaries without me really knowing and
manoeuvred me away from the path of destruction.

“At 16 I got
in the state junior team and became a member at Pymble Golf Club.

“All of a
sudden golf opened all the doors and the path of destruction closed.”

As he copes
with the loss of his father with the support of wife Sharilyn, sons Andrew and
Stewart, family and friends, Richard Mercer reminds himself of the Rudyard
Kipling poem ‘If’ and the passage his dad would often recite.

“If you can
walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, you’ll be a Man, my son!”

David was
preceded in death by his siblings Don, Jim, Jean and Ivan, and son Gregory. He
is survived by his wife of 66 years Barbara, son Richard (wife Sharilyn),
siblings John, Alex and Kevin, granddaughter Rebecca, grandsons Andrew (wife
Jordan), and Stewart and great grandchildren Hayden, Fletcher and Grace.

David’s
funeral will take place on Sunday, 20 September at midday (AEST) at Knox
Grammar School Chapel in Warrawee, NSW.

Due to
COVID-19 restrictions, a maximum of 60 people can attend to the funeral and has
been limited to close family contacts.

A live stream of the funeral can be viewed via https://www.funeralvideo.com.au/DavidMercer

Images: Killara Golf Club

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