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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Nettlefold, Leonard (1905–1971)

by R. A. Ferrall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Leonard Nettlefold (1905-1971), golfer and businessman, was born on 16 October 1905 at Bellerive, Hobart, one of three children of Isaac Robert Nettlefold, a Tasmanian-born assurance agent, and his wife Edith Maria, née Hutchison, who came from South Australia. Len was educated at The Hutchins School. Encouraged by his father to join him in learning the game of golf on a nine-hole course at Wharncliff (the family property on the Huon River), he developed as a natural left-hander and soon played off low handicaps. In 1926 he won the Australian Amateur championship. One year later he was runner-up in the Swiss and a quarter-finalist in the British amateur championships.

Australian amateur champion again in 1928, Nettlefold combined with Ivo Whitton to take the national foursomes title in 1932. He captained the Australian team which toured Britain in 1938. Between 1924 and 1947 he won sixteen Tasmanian amateur championships, including eight Open titles (1930-32, 1934-37 and 1947). He had numerous other successes in men's and mixed foursomes, often partnered by his father or his sister Mollie. A prodigious hitter off the tee, he held many Australian club records. In 1927 he had equalled the amateur record for the old course at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland. In his later years Nettlefold helped in the administration of his chosen sport. He was president (1947-60) of the Tasmanian Golf Council, a State delegate to the Australian Golf Union for much of the period 1932-56, and president (1944-47 and 1960-64) of the Kingston Beach Golf Club.

At St Clement's Anglican Church, Kingston, on 1 October 1934 Nettlefold had married Beryl Olga Heathorn. In the mid-1930s, when his father became chairman of directors of the family's motor-trade business, Robert Nettlefold Pty Ltd (which held the Tasmanian franchise for General Motors), Len succeeded him as managing director. From May 1943 to March 1944 he served as an intelligence officer in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Appointed a director of several radio and television companies, he was also a foundation trustee of the Van Diemen's Land Memorial Folk Museum, a councillor (1957-69) and life member (1971) of the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania, and a State council-member of the Fairbridge Society.

Nettlefold was a successful and prosperous businessman who gave generously to philanthropic organizations. He helped young sportsmen financially, but always on the condition that they make some small contribution themselves. An extremely private person, he had accepted community adulation for his sporting achievements, but shunned it fiercely in all other respects. In 1960 he was appointed C.B.E. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, he died of a heart attack on 4 October 1971 at Honolulu, Hawaii, and was buried in the graveyard of the church where he was married. His estate was sworn for probate at $1,211,676. Nettlefold's name was listed (1988) in the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame, Launceston.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Waters, Kingston Beach Golf Club (Hob, 1991)
  • Advocate (Hobart), 5 Oct 1971
  • Mercury (Hobart), 5 Oct 1971
  • Sunday Examiner-Express, 9 Oct 1971
  • private information.

Citation details

R. A. Ferrall, 'Nettlefold, Leonard (1905–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 15 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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