For the first time for ages I played 18 holes three days in a row and by some miracle improved on each occasion, even hitting the odd shot that could pass muster as something approaching a proper golf shot, one of those things that makes you think all is not yet lost.
It was a real treat to play Hollinwell, the Notts Golf Club, again – it’s a pleasure just to turn down the drive on a lovely morning and see a proper golf course spread out before you. Sheer bliss. But you need to be on your mettle to have any chance of scoring well – the rough is not to be trifled with and if you can’t navigate your way round the bunkers, you’d better be a wizard with the sand wedge.
I believe the club, which has hosted many top-class events in the past, including Open qualifying, is – or was – having difficulty staying on that rota because the R&A insists that they must now have women members. The trouble is, apparently, that the women are perfectly happy being members of Notts Ladies, a separate entity that’s been around since 1891. A case of egalite, liberte, impasse, perhaps…(apologies yet again for failing to find the acute…)
Enid Wilson, who was born in 1910 in Stonebroom, just over the border in Derbyshire, played a lot of her early golf at Hollinwell and the ladies’ course is named after her. A formidable competitor, Enid won the British Ladies Open Amateur Championship (as it then was) three times in a row from 1931. She was a fascinating character who wrote about golf for the Daily Telegraph and numerous magazines and had several books to her name. She was great company if you dived in and braved her rather prickly, no-nonsense manner. At least you were never in any doubt as to what she thought!
She once told me that she trained like a boxer for the big competitions and would lose at least a stone during a championship. When I played with her at Crowborough, her home course for many years, she described my backswing, succinctly, accurately and damningly as “a non-event”. Then in her 80s, she still enjoyed the game but laughed that she and her fellow octogenarians all had trouble staying on their feet after hitting a shot – their balance was shot to pieces.
Enid, who played in the first Curtis Cup match in 1932, was not afraid to express her views in the most trenchant manner and when the veterans Belle Robertson and Mary McKenna were named to the team for the match at Prairie Dunes in 1986, she wrote, rather unkindly, “Bring out your dead” and said she’d eat her hat if they did any good.
Admittedly, the Americans had won every contest from 1960 on but GB and I upset the odds with an emphatic victory in the heat in Kansas and Robertson and McKenna, paired together in the foursomes, were unbeaten. It was the triumph that all their years of team toil, littered with BBUs (brave but unavailings), deserved. The team tried hard to persuade Enid to eat her hat but I’m not sure they succeeded.
Just another reminder that this year’s Curtis Cup is at Conwy in north Wales at the end of the month, August 26th-28th, more than a year late because of the pandemic. If you want to buy a ticket, you have to do so before next Friday, the 20th. See randa.org for details (not panda.org as my computer is trying to insist, in black and white, of course). Elaine Ratcliffe is the GB and I captain and is plotting to regain the trophy the USA won back at Quaker Ridge in 2018. The encouraging news is that the home side won in 2016 at Dun Laoghaire and at Nairn in 2012 and here are the women attempting to continue that trend:-A Curtis Cup year is a good time to revisit all our yesterdays and for your delectation and delight I include some photographs from Fairway and Hazard, Douglas Caird’s pride and joy and a source of many happy hours of browsing and reminiscing. There were extensive trials to select the team for 1970 and Belle, Mary Mc, Kathryn Phillips and Dinah Oxley led the way. Happy but undoubtedly nerve-wracking days.
There was no stinting on detail – or opinion – in those far-off days. Here’s a sample: “Of course, Mrs Robertson was quite superb getting 23 out of a possible 26 points. She left Sunningdale unbeaten and that surely was a tremendous achievement. Mary McKenna, the Irish Champion, charmed all who met her and delighted the spectators with her great power, her determination and her temperament. She has the three vital essentials of a top international.
“We have always mentioned that eighteen year old Kathryn Phillips was a great fighter but none of us ever saw her play better golf than on that final morning….”
And so it goes on, fascinating stuff for us golf tragics.
Finally, also from F and H, a couple of tips for the Friday morning bridgers. May you have good hands….
Some sound advice. Aunt Agatha isn’t always right apparently!