Born: March 19, 1925;

Died: May 15, 2020.

MANY high-profile golfers have, over the decades, won key tournaments using clubs made by the renowned Glasgow company of John Letters.

Fred Daly, playing John Letters clubs, was the first Irishman to win the Open, in 1947. Two years later, eight of the ten-man British Ryder Cup team opted for Letters clubs.

Film stars such as Frank Sinatra, Sir Sean Connery and Danny Kaye all used and admired the clubs that Letters has been making since 1918; and golfers such as Lee Trevino, Bernard Gallacher and Sam Torrance have all won championships with them.

Hope Letters, who has died peacefully at the age of 95, after suffering a stroke at his home in North Berwick, was a natural at golf-club design and was heavily involved in the success of the iconic Golden Goose and Silver Swan putters, and Master Model irons, amongst others. He also designed the clubs used by four other Open Champions: Peter Thomson, Bob Charles, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

Hope Letters was born in Glasgow in March 1925, the last surviving child of his parents John and Hanah’s eight children. He was evacuated to Newton Stewart at the outbreak of war in 1939 but after only three months he decided that children should be with their parents.

He returned to Glasgow and started work at his father’s company of golf club manufacturers. The factory had been re-tasked to make essential wartime equipment, mainly black-out blinds. This work was not for Hope and he left to work as a supervisor loading and unloading ships in a Glasgow dockyard.

Despite being in a reserved occupation, Hope got permission to volunteer to the army in November 1942, he was only 17. He was called up to the Gordon Highlanders and trained in Aberdeen for six weeks. During this time he survived a Luftwaffe attack on his barracks, in which more than 30 soldiers were killed. As he later remarked: “Luckily, Aberdeen is made of granite. It could have been worse”.

He was then posted around Britain with the London Scottish regiment. In late 1943, the army asked for volunteers to join the Second Front which was then raging in Europe, and Hope stepped forward.

He was deployed for action in Italy, and on his arrival in Naples in March 1944, was reassigned to the 4th Indian Division, which comprised the Cameron Highlanders, along with Sikh and Gurkha regiments. He went into the line on his 19th birthday, and over the next eight months progressed with his Division on foot from Naples to Monte Cassino, and northward from there.

On one occasion, he rescued a young boy from an atrocity committed by the Nazis. In 2009, the German officer responsible for the atrocity was finally brought to justice in a Munich courtroom, in one of Germany's last Nazi war crime trials. The young boy Hope had saved, now Gino Massetti, now 81, testified as a witness. The trial generated worldwide publicity, and in 2010 Hope travelled to Italy with his family, where he and Massetti were re-united in Falzano di Cortona.

Hope fought with distinction, and his Division was the first Allied troop unit into Florence, San Marino, Montepulciano and other neighbouring towns. After the German surrender he was posted to Yugoslavia and Greece.

Hope rejoined his father’s company in 1947, beginning a lifelong passion for golf. Working together with his father and four brothers he saw the company became a highly respected name in the golf world.

It was while on a trip ‘Doon the watter’ that he met May McNiven, who would be the love of his life. T hey married in September 1954 and went on to have three sons, John, Peter and Cameron.

In 1968 Hope moved his young family to North Berwick where he was Works Director at Ben Sayers until 1980. He developed carbon fibre technology for golf club shafts, which fitted well with his Big Ben Design for the world’s first oversized wooden driver.

He also introduced parallel tip shafts into the manufacturing process, thereby cutting global shaft inventories by 80 per cent. It was a huge saving for all golf club companies.

As a golfer he was good enough to play in the Scottish Amateur championship. He introduced his wife and sons to the game and to his other passion, fishing. He was never happier than when standing waist-deep in a fastflowing salmon river or casting a fly on Coldingham Loch. Indeed, inspiration for carbon fibre golf shafts came when he came across fishing rods of that material.

He was captain of Haggs Castle golf club in 1963 and served on committee at North Berwick and Gullane. At one time he possessed one of the world’s largest collections of antique golf clubs and balls, and he was the club historian at North Berwick, the 13 oldest club in the world.

Hope visited many countries on business or holidaying with May and visiting their boys in far-flung parts of the world. In later years he discovered a talent for landscape painting. His specialist subject was, of course, golf courses.

He was a loving father, a devoted husband, and a loyal and caring friend to many. His outlook on life was summed up in his own words: “Every day is a beautiful day”.