You know what they say about buses? No sign of one for ages and then two come along within seconds of each other. Well, it seems to me that the same sort of thing is happening in golf as regards change. Nothing of any great significance happens for years and then a flurry of activity explodes centre stage.
On Wednesday I was the guest speaker at the Hertfordshire County Ladies’ annual dinner at Porter’s Park golf club, a venue and dinner I first spoke at ten years ago. There’s a lot going on in the county at the moment, what with the men’s and women’s side of things amalgamating and new initiatives and names coming into being. In my experience this is seldom a smooth path, with the inevitable flexing of muscles on either side but with patience, strong listening skills and an eye on collective goals and aspirations I have no doubt the joining together of the two sections can and will be successful – and Hertfordshire golf will be the better and stronger for it. With members the calibre of Elaine Radcliffe, former professional and Curtis Cup player, in their midst, Jane Walter, the intrepid captain in this time of change and Lesley Hewitt, the first president of the new collective, there is a strong and stable base for success. I just hope that there remains room in the new association for some separate men’s and women’s dinners and lunches. After all, everyone enjoys them and surely we don’t have to be joined at the hip ALL the time, do we?My evening at Porter’s Park was made complete by meeting up again with Brickendon Grange member Deirdre Martin from my home town. The dinner brought us together after forty years or so! Our fathers were great pals and had a regular fourball for many years at Portstewart and when they were a man down I was called in to make up the numbers, first doing so at the age of 12. The boys played off anything from 7 – 12 handicap and, believe you me, it was a tough school – no quarter given. I loved it and those games certainly helped shape my golfing career. Meeting up with Deirdre again made the decades slip away and it was just lovely.
At the weekend it was off to Muirfield for our annual match against the members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG) in the Madill Trophy. Huge change is afoot here too. Scaffolding is shrouding a large part of the clubhouse as preparations are made for building ladies’ locker rooms and readying the club for the inclusion of the fair sex within its walls as members.
We are homing in on this match’s quarter-centenary celebration and although there has been undeniable momentum towards history-making changes there has been one indisputable constant – the welcome and hospitality afforded us by our impeccable hosts. That has never altered. This year we were treated to the club’s famous Sunday lunch and, afterwards, just prior to the trophy presentation, my February landmark birhday was marked by a cake and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. This was accompanied by a gift of Peter Brown’s lovely photographic book of the 2013 Open at Muirfield – the one in which Phil Mickelson triumphed. I must admit I never thought I’d be celebrating a birthday within the hallowed walls of the HCEG but I came crashing back to reality when it came time to present the trophy to secy Stuart McEwan as his team won for the third time in the last four years. They are closing the gap!
Life is unpredictable and one of the only things we can be sure of is that things never stay the same. Any change can be scary, uncomfortable and disorientating but as I said earlier, as far as golf is concerned, if we have a positive attitude and collective will I believe we can make our great sport even better and share the fun we all have with even more men, women and children.