Many years ago, Elspeth Burnside, a fellow journalist and I were at the Dinah Shore tournament (now the ANA Inspiration) in Rancho Mirage, California, when one of the Americans in the press room did that oh-so-easy but very risky thing: he made an assumption. He was sure we were players manquees, that we would have loved to be professional golfers and that we were writing about golf for a living because we couldn’t play it well enough.
Elspeth and I looked at each other, appalled, thought about it briefly, then we both laughed, shook our heads and said, “No.”
I fell into golf writing via jobs at Downtown Radio in Newtownards, Golf World magazine in Bermondsey, BT Sportsline, an adjunct to BBC Radio Sport in Broadcasting House, then became a freelance and ended up doing a lot of work for The Times, who happened to be extending their golf coverage at the right time for me. There was no grand plan but it helped that I married David (Dai) Davies, who was the golf correspondent of The Birmingham Post and then The Guardian.
I learned a lot from him and numerous colleagues, who were generous with their time and advice. I’d have to reproduce the entire set of AGW (Association of Golf Writers) handbooks from the 1980s on to mention everyone who taught me one way and another. There are four people I must thank by name, though: Candy Devine, a singer and radio host at Downtown, now back making music and painting in her native Australia; Peter Haslam, the editor who gave me my chance at Golf World; Tom Clarke, the sports editor of The Times who took me on; and Kathie Shearer, one of the golf world’s great people, who’s taught me so much about life, love and laughter, probably without realising it.
It’s not easy for a garrulous person like me to be brief but if you had a small hole in the paper to fill and you wanted to say what you wanted to say, you had to write to length or the sub-editors (an endangered species these days) would trim your words as they saw fit. It’s hard to believe that the likes of Elspeth and me were sent to tournaments and had words appear in the paper; nowadays, you’d struggle to find the results of those events in the paper. But then, we started with things called typewriters and had to telephone our words to a copy taker who could type like the wind and was prone to ask, sometimes wearily, often enough scathingly, “Is there much more of this?”
Inevitably the answer was, “Yes.” So, be ready for more.