There are oodles of lovely things going on in the golfing world at the moment – lots of Open days at clubs up and down the country and captains’ and presidents’ days being contested fiercely and with no mean level of skill.  It’s high season, too, in the elite amateur game and I’m just home from a most enjoyable week at Royal Dornoch where female junior and senior teams from the Continent of Europe and from Great Britain and Ireland put on a sparkling display in the Vagliano Trophy matches.

The Europeans were the winners of the senior contest by three points and the standard of play in the high winds and driving rain of Saturday was more than a little impressive.

The boundless energy of youth! The European Vagliano team celebrate their win before all the teams danced the night away at Royal Dornoch. [ROSS PARKER. R&A via GETTY IMAGES]

It was the juniors, however, who served up a battle royal with the match finishing all square at nine points apiece.  The home captain, Janet Melville, was understandably delighted as this was the first time in its relatively short history that GB&I had avoided defeat.  For general morale and also, I suspect, for the future of the event, it was a hugely important result.

These junior players were all fifteen or sixteen years of age and it begs the question, “how have they all become so good so young?”  The answer, of course, is a mixture of things with access to places to play and high-quality teaching both being very much to the fore.  We must keep that up.  Elite amateur golf used to be a destination in itself.  Now it tends to be a slither of a timeline in a player’s career, a transition into the paid ranks and not deemed to be particularly vital if the top team honours are not achieved.

Am I the only one who hears myself sounding more and more like my parents when I say I had the best of times?  I had a decent number of years in amateur golf at a high level and followed that with great times on the Ladies’ European Tour from the mid-eighties to the end of the nineties.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Maria Dunne, the captain of the senior home team, was a wonderful career amateur in her day and now is a mum of two.  She has no regrets about not turning pro and it’s a bonus to have this experienced and engaging character at the head of our international teams. I wouldn’t be too quick to accept a lift from her, however. as the following picture would suggest her prowess in plotting her way round a course is with clubs on her back, NOT in a buggy!

No captains were injured in the making of this picture.

The smorgasbord of delights available for us this week includes the US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.  What a glorious setting for a golf course!  My only visit there was covering the 2019 men’s US Open and it was my last visit to America before lockdown.  Gary Woodland won that one, holding off Brooks Koepka, largely courtesy of a sublime chip shot from the actual putting surface on the 71st hole.  Odds on there will be another exciting finish this weekend.  Pebble Beach does tend to produce great winners.

Brooks Koepka explaining to me why he didn’t win the 2019 US Open.

Now to the story of the week as far as I’m concerned.

There will no doubt be a number of our readers who will remember Laura Baugh, the blonde bombshell who was the poster girl of the LPGA back in the 70s and 80s?. Laura never did win on tour but had ten runner-up spots and lots of lucrative sponsorship deals.  Her second (of four) marriages was to Bobby Cole, the South African professional and winner of 13 pro events.  Together they had seven children, one of whom is Eric Cole who is now 35 years of age and a rookie on the PGA Tour.

Eric has bounced around on mini tours all his life and graduated to the big tour last year from the second-tier Korn Ferry tour.  At the moment he is in prime position to win Rookie of the Year honours and has banked just shy of $3 million.  He recently finished a ten-week stretch of tournaments and you’d have thought he deserved a week off.

Eric Cole – classy on and off the course. [PGATOUR website]

Not a bit of it.  He had promised to support and play in the Frank B Fuhrer Jr Invitational in Pennsylvania, an event he had won in 2014 after a special invitation from the host.  That win gave him a much-needed injection of funds and he has supported the tournament every year since.  This year, however, was especially important to Cole as it was to be the last edition of the tournament after the death of Frank Fuhrer last year.  But it wasn’t going to be easy.

With the ten-week stretch of tournaments behind him Cole’s flight to Pittsburgh was cancelled and he drove for nearly eight hours through the night to make it to the venue.  He opened with a course record 63, shot a 72-hole total of eleven under and won by nine shots.

“Mr. Fuhrer passed away last year … this was the last year of his tournament, so I felt like it was a really important thing for me to be there and play in it,” Cole said. “It was cool to be part of the last edition of his tournament. To be there, one, and then to win the last edition of his tournament was awesome.”

The first prize was $20,000 which Cole immediately gave back to the Fuhrer family for use in charitable causes of their choosing.

What a great guy and what a story.  Hopefully, he has now had an opportunity to recharge his batteries and regroup.  I for one will certainly be rooting for this remarkable rookie from now on.