Aboyne. A place I’ve known of and been aware of for many decades but had never visited until a couple of days ago, but let’s take a moment to rewind.
It was 1980 and I was playing in the second round of the Women’s British Open Strokeplay Championship at Brancepeth Castle in Durham. My partner was a shy, quiet Scot from Aboyne named Pam Wright. And, oh yes, she was only 16 years old. This precocious kid shot 5 under that day and displayed a talent and all round game I hadn’t seen before. We had a lovely week together and have been friends ever since despite seeing each other only once in a blue moon. Pam ended up going to college in Arizona and playing successfully on the LPGA tour, representing Europe three times on the Solheim Cup team and being a vice-captain on a further two occasions. She is now back in Arizona and a successful teaching pro but it was Pam who put Aboyne on the map for me all those years ago.
Mind you, the golfing genes were spectacularly good. Pam’s Dad Innes was the pro at Aboyne for many years having built up a tidy record himself. He represented Scotland at boys and full international level, was a Walker Cup reserve and played in a couple of Open Championships. Her Mum Janette was a four-time Scottish champion, four-time Curtis Cup player and winner of a host of accolades. With that background it really would have been careless of Pam and her brother Innes if they hadn’t been able to swing a club!
And so it was that Gillian Stewart, Mary McKenna, Sandra “I’m from Nairn” Ross and I arrived at Aboyne ready to play the other day. If you haven’t been, do go if you get the chance. The welcome is warm and friendly and the course, particularly the back nine, is terrific, with the most spectacular scenery. There are lovely photographs of Innes and Janette on the wall going up the stairs to the bar with their impressive list of golfing achievements itemised in detail. Our only disappointment was there was no history or record anywhere of Pam’s achievements. We did find one photo in the locker room but nothing to celebrate Aboyne’s most famous player. A member who is a three-time Solheim Cup player is a rare beast for any club and is of huge interest to any visitor. Hmm, maybe time for an extension and a few spare walls ready to be filled with photos of Pam and her record?
Another candidate for space on Pam’s wall was sharing the photo with her down in the locker room – Julie Forbes. Ah, Forbsey – another high-achieving Aboyne player, universally popular in the amateur and professional ranks alike and mere mention of her name always brought delighted smiles to many faces. Her brother Stevie caddied for me for a couple of years on tour – at least he did until he wrote off my sponsored car whilst travelling from one tournament to another in Europe – but that’s another story! Another brother Colin is head greenkeeper at Aboyne and obviously resoundingly good at his job, if the condition of the course is anything to go by. Gary, a third brother, is pro at Murcar, I believe, so the golfing genes are strong in this family too.
The air at Aboyne is obviously conducive to producing top-class female players. As we played the front nine we looked across to the practice ground and saw a couple of players hard at work. Kimberley Beveridge is the current Scottish champion and Shannon McWilliam is bidding for a second consecutive Curtis Cup cap next year. They are following in the inspiring footsteps of these strong, resourceful female players who have been such ambassadors for their club worldwide – I’m confident they will continue the trend.We ended our day by calling in at Janette’s home for a cup of tea and a much-needed catch up – we had last seen her, with Pam, at the 2012 Curtis Cup at Nairn. I sent the picture below to Pam in Arizona and, time difference notwithstanding, she was on the phone to her Mum in a jiffy so we all had the added bonus of a chat with her. The inter-connections in golf are many and varied and the years have a habit of rolling away no matter how seldom our paths cross.
For me it was the perfect end to the day that I finally made my acquaintance with Aboyne.