Kind-hearted parishioners in Stroud, Gloucestershire, gave their parish priest Fr David Ryan, his own golf course last week. The four-hole mini-course, complete with marker flags, was the idea of George Dickinson, 81, who leads the gardening team at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Parish administrator Gabriella O'Donnell told ICN: "They started out by building a memorial garden for our last parish priest, Fr Fr Tom Curtis-Hayward. He served the parish for 18 years and lived here after his retirement." She said: "The garden backs on to our youth club and took six months to build. When they completed it they found they had some soil left over - so they hit on the idea of the little golf course." After a special Mass for Fr Tom, and a ceremony to open the garden - she said, the green was unveiled with flags and balloons. "The golf course was a surprise, although I suppose I knew they were up to something," Fr David told the Gloucestershire Citizen. Fr David, who has a golfing handicap of 18, said: "They say if you play with a handicap of under ten you are playing too much golf and neglecting your parish. But if it's over ten you're spending too much time in the parish and not enough on the golf course." A former teacher, Fr David, 57, who was ordained in 1976, took up the sport on his first day off as a priest. "My parish priest asked me what I was doing on my very first Monday off, took me along with him, and I found myself at a clergy match," he said. Since then Fr David has become a keen golfer. Next month he will be playing for Clifton at a national clergy golf tournament. Fr David has also been known to work the game into his homilies on more than one occasion - and has taken a club into the pulpit.
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