For nearly four decades, the remarkable military career of John "Sid" Trench of Hampshire, England, sent him to many of the trouble spots in the world. Beginning with the political hotbed in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, to Bosnia, and capped by two tours in Iraq. Through 36 years, Trench counts himself among the blessed for having escaped injury while serving his country.
Trench also considers himself fortunate to love golf, a sport that seemed light years away while he was embedded in combat. The game beckoned him even when missiles sailed overhead. Trench found temporary solace while sneaking off near sunset to hit practice balls at burned-out tanks in Iraq.
This month, Trench, 54, a PGA Professional since July 2011, makes his debut at the 59th PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. He earned the trip by winning the second annual "Blow Your Own Trumpet" competition sponsored by The Professional Golfers' Association. Trench's efforts to transform the junior section of his home club, Test Valley Golf Club, cemented his winning entry.
It will be Trench's third visit to U.S. soil, having spent one brief military break in the 1980s in Montana and an overnight stay in 1987 in Miami.
"I'm extremely lucky and privileged," says Trench, who enlisted at age 15. "There are so many who were not so fortunate. I had been involved in many sports while in my youth, but you see those skills fall by the wayside when you get older."
Ironically, golf offered Trench some precious respite from the demands of tours of duty, and ignited a passion that led to a second career when he retired from the army at 50.
"You get some downtime and I remember a few of the lads saying let's try this golf lark," recalls Trench. "I think I was about 25 at the time. We went out with a 7-iron and I never looked back. I loved it.
"I would pack a tube of balls, a couple of clubs and a small piece of Astroturf. In Basra, the only time I could play was at 6 p.m., because it was so hot. But I could only play for 45 minutes before it went dark. I used to go down to the airport and hit balls at burnt-out Russian tanks."
Competitive by nature, Trench began to take golf seriously at 30 and captained the army golf team from 2006-08.
"Golf was a sport I knew I could do forever. It was also a competitive environment and I wanted to achieve," says Trench. "I couldn't just settle with being mediocre, I wanted to play to the best of my ability." The prospect of becoming a PGA professional only became a reality as he began to contemplate retirement.
"As a career soldier nearing fifty it was time to think about my family. I knew I wanted to be a PGA Professional but there were a few raised eyebrows when I told my family and friends," he says. Among those who helped guide Trench to a new career was PGA Professional John Jacobs of Cumberwell Park, one of the UK's Top 25 current golf coaches and no relation to the World Golf Hall of Fame golf legend.
Trench worked hard with the younger Jacobs and gradually improved his skills to where he could pass the Playing Ability Test. His big moment of graduation, after three years in the PGA Training Program, came last July.
Last spring, Trench became a junior golf academy manager at his home club. From a handful at the start, Trench now oversees 80 youngsters. He has started two junior teams, and guides indoor classes at two college campuses. Among the students he coaches are two groups of disabled children.
"It is emotionally challenging, but it is very rewarding," says Trench. "Three kids in the program can really move the golf ball. It is true that golf can enhance their lifestyle."
Trench relishes giving his time and energy to golf, and is determined to make the most of his new career. That passion reflects his efforts to develop the Hampshire club's junior program. His work included spending afternoons delivering leaflets in his nearby village. He reported that some residents had been there 20 years and didn't know there was a golf course. He set up two new junior golf teams, enrolled in the National Skills Challenge, which implemented the Golf Foundation's Junior Passport scheme and organized golf day visits to the BMW PGA Championship.
Recalling his years serving in many of hotbeds of violence in the world, Trench says that he is "privileged" to be in a new chapter of his life. Could there be any more fitting recipient this year of a "Blow Your Own Trumpet" competition?
"My golf window is short. I can't waste a day, I have to hit the ground running," says Trench. "I am very fortunate to be running a junior academy – every day is a golf day. I am living the dream."