Johnny Briggs MBE: Why I'm passionate about golf

Corrie's ex-Mr Nasty reveals his charitable nature

Bob Warters
Wed, 12 Sep 2007

Johnny Briggs MBE: Why I'm passionate about golf

Johnny Briggs
Tree-iron:Johnny Briggs - competing at The Belfry yesterday

As he rolled in an outrageous par putt from the fringe at the back of The Belfry's fifth green, actor Johnny Briggs, known to millions for his villainous role as Mike Baldwin in over 20 years in 'Coronation Street,' sauntered over.

"No more Mr Nice Guy, eh?" he said with a wink and a wicked grin - a timely reference to his years beamed into in our front rooms playing a nasty character, which seemed far removed from this 72-year-old passionate about golf.

Though, as the proud, central figure in the Macmillan Charity Celebrity-Am which bears his name, he did not always perform to his potential on the golf course, he didn't let it upset him.

He has been playing for over 40 years and has long since realised that the game can both brighten up a torrid round with a remarkable shot as well as deliver the unexpected, just when you think you've cracked it.

He has played with the greats of the game, including Seve Ballesteros, Jose Marie Olazabal, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer but rates a chance to be paired with Arnold Palmer against Gary Player and Ronnie Corbett, as the highlight.

"It was one of those 9-hole TV celebrity challenges at Turnberry and I was playing so well, we were four up after four and the director was getting worried we wouldn't have enough to fill the hour-long programme," he recalled.

At the fifth Arnold was left with an 18-inch putt to clinch the match but missed it.

"I was shocked and asked him in a whisper if he missed it on purpose.

"'Would I?' he said, clearly understanding that golf was just as much entertainment as is acting."

Johnny Briggs
Unlucky for some:Johnny putts from the back of the 13th

Briggs looks back fondly on those years in the 1970s and '80s when he was playing to a 15 handicap.

"I can't do it now, I'm getting too old and play most days purely for the exercise. However, one of my sons bought me a Ping Rapture driver recently and I'm hitting it nearly 100 yards further than I used to."

Sons Mark, an 11 handicapper, Michael (26) and Anthony (24) are maintaining the Briggs family tradition in golf.

I asked him if, since he had been written out of the Coronation Street drama last year [at his own request] he was still working.

"Absolutely," he said "I need to for my pension."

We'll be able to see him again on our screens in the New Year in a new 12-part drama series for ITV called 'Echo Beach' alongside former EastEnders star Martine McCutcheon and ex-Neighbours actor Jason Donovan in the lead roles.

"It's set among a surfer community in Cornwall and I play the owner of a caravan park and cafe where they all live and meet,"said Briggs who was awarded an MBE by the Queen in the 2006 New Years Honours List for his services to acting and his charity work.CORRIE'S EX-MR NASDTY

"Golf is a great way of raising money for charity. When I left 'the Street' my character suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and we helped raise a lot awareness and money for them. Now I'm proud and privileged to be asked to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

"I'm especially pleased that we could play it here at the Brabazon, especially when it's in such great condition before next week's Quinn Direct British Masters. I've never seen it looking better."

Brabazon course
Six is the best: Outstanding new sixth hole at The Brabazon course

And indeed it is and spectators will be able to see a number of changes to the course since Johan Edfors claimed the title in 2006.

Most significant is the new sixth hole which has been turned into a 430-yard dogleg around the lake, demanding an accurate tee shot and a mid-iron approach to a green tucked into the trees.

Among other improvements are the dramatic shaping of several bunkers and the introduction two new fairway bunkers just over the stream which dissects the 17th fairway.

Briggs plays much of his golf at Stourbridge Golf Club, where he has been a member for over 30 years and at Marriott Worsley Park and Northenden near his Manchester home at Salford Keys.

"I'm not as good as I used to be but I still love golf. It's a fantastic way to meet up with old friends in great surroundings. And if we can raise money for charity doing it - even better," said the actor who's stone-hearted 'Mr Nasty' TV image, I quickly discovered, is far removed from the one who swings a golf club.

The ‘Johnny Briggs’ Macmillan Celebrity Golf Classic The Johnny Briggs Macmillan Celebrity Classic at The Belfry was sponsored by The UK Golf Show, due to be held at Whittlebury Park, Northants from April 11-13, 2008