Watching the birdie for 25 years

Award-winning: Mark Newcombe.
Award-winning: Mark Newcombe.
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HE’S got one of the best known faces on the professional golf circuit.

South Yorkshire’s Mark Newcombe has made his way around all the world’s most challenging courses and regularly rubs shoulders with the game’s greatest of greats.

Phil Mickelson in the bunker in 2006

Phil Mickelson in the bunker in 2006

But you don’t normally see Mark with a driver, sand-wedge or putter in his hand.

That’s because the golf shots for which this man is famous are those he takes through the lens of his camera.

Over the last 25 years Mark, aged 51, from Barnsley, has captured some of the greatest-ever players in action, including Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Sir Nick Faldo.

As a result his business in Dodworth – Visions in Golf – is home to one of the biggest golf picture libraries in the world with more than half a million images.

Mark took his first pictures during a school art class and later went on to work for two news agencies covering news and sport.

Football, Formula One motor racing and golf were his main interests and he covered his first golf major in 1984, the Open at St Andrew’s.

In 1987 Mark decided to become self-employed to concentrate exclusively on golf.

He has since travelled the world on hundreds of assignments from all the major tournaments to promotional work and fashion shoots for a range of corporate giants.

Mark’s award-winning pictures have immortalised many memorable moments.

Of particular note was Tiger Woods’ ecstatic celebration at the US Open in 2008 following a long putt which forced a play-off. The player went on to win the play-off and scooped his last major.

He worked with Ballesteros several times and the Spaniard features in Mark’s favourite, and what he describes as his best, picture.

It was taken during the Ryder Cup in 1991 when Ballesteros and team-mate Jose Maria Olazabal shook hands after a crucial shot against the backdrop of a stunning sunset.

Mark said: “It’s all about having an eye for a picture and being in the right place at the right time to get it.

“It’s not like football or other sports where you’re in a stadium, courses are 100-plus acres so you have to anticipate what’s coming.

“I’ve met some great people over the years and been to amazing places but, more importantly, I’ve had a ‘front-row seat’ to some of the biggest sporting events in the world.”

The job is demanding. Hauling 25 kilogrammes of photography equipment around a golf course, sometimes in high temperatures, requires physical fitness.

Mark spends up to four months of the year working away from home which he shares with wife Debbie, 41, and son Harry, 16.

But his favourite course is nearer to home than most.

“Wentworth is the best,” he says. “I have so many good memories at what is an extremely beautiful golf course.”

He lists Seve as his favourite all-time player and his current favourites as Worksop’s Lee Westwood and Aussie Adam Scott.

And the secret of a good golf photographer?

“Just being professional I suppose,” says Mark. “Knowing when to keep out of the way of people.

“And not clicking away at the wrong time – photographers who do that get some pretty funny looks.”

The office-based side of the business is the on-line library service covering all aspects of golf, from action pictures to the 1800s. The majority of pictures are Mark’s but he also sells work by other international photographers.

Each day images are downloaded and published in books, magazines, newspapers, and used by advertising agencies and sponsors.

Business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley is now supporting the company to further build on its success by helping with marketing.

Kevin Steel, a coach with Enterprising Barnsley, has been helping Mark develop his company’s sales, marketing and use of social media.

Mark said: “I’ve always recognised the importance of utilising developments in digital media and Kevin has been helping us to make the most of business opportunities that are out there.”