Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Courage and Grit to Spare; Graham Willis, Arguably the Most Popular Man in the History of Northumberland Golf, Is Battling Courageously against a Savage Blow to His Health. Tim Taylor Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Courage and Grit to Spare; Graham Willis, Arguably the Most Popular Man in the History of Northumberland Golf, Is Battling Courageously against a Savage Blow to His Health. Tim Taylor Reports

Article excerpt

AT this time of year, if you want to make a festivity go well, nobody's company is more sought after than that of Graham Willis, the kindest and funniest guy in golf.

His personal honours board is only part of the story, although he won 19 caps for Northumberland and played in their back-to-back Northern Counties League winning sides of 1988 and 1989. He has won the championship at Whitley Bay four times and at his former club, Backworth, on seven occasions.

As an after dinner speaker, Graham has brightened up many a golf club with his humour, always refusing to accept payment or even expenses, despite the revenue his popularity as a speaker has often generated.

But during the 2010 festive season, many a glass is being raised to toast a valued friend. That the 51-year-old was able to pose for yesterday's Christmas week picture at his home in Cramlington is something his wife, Carol , calls "a minor miracle".

Twelve weeks ago while at work at his blacksmith's business, Graham suffered a minor stroke, which quickly turned into a swelling on the brain. Following a lengthy brain operation, he was in a coma for a week and, after switching between Wansbeck and Newcastle General Hospitals and back, he has been home in Cramlington for a fortnight.

The medical staff at Wansbeck were bemused when 19 people turned up to visit Graham on one day and suggested to a phone caller, whose identity has never been established, that he might like to liaise with Carol before going to the hospital.

Such is Graham's popularity, the caller replied: "You are asking his wife to organise hospital visits for the whole of Northumberland."

I first met Graham several years ago, at a carol service at Prudhoe Golf Club. It is the only carol service I have ever been to which ended up with my sitting in a clubhouse bar with tears of laughter running down my face. …

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