Jill Edwards, a former chairman and president of both the Ladies’ Golf Union and the Welsh Ladies’ Golf Union, has lent madillgolf.com a veritable treasure trove of golfing lore, namely a chest full of that renowned and much-loved women’s golf magazine of yesteryear, Douglas Caird’s Fairway and Hazard.
An indulgent hour of leafing through these old favourites was just what I needed after a week that saw Brian (husband) have surgery to reattach his triceps and elbow to the bits they’re supposed to be attached to. They had parted company after a nasty fall on an icy pavement in London and I chose that very same time to succumb to a dreaded lurgy that has kept me indoors, mostly in bed, for four out of the last five days. So, what better than a little indulgence of the reminiscing kind? It wasn’t long before I was stepping back in time.
What are the following ingredients the recipe for: the month of March, snowy weather, creaky, unoiled golf swings and the Red and Blue courses of The Berkshire Golf Club? Mix them all together with a liberal dose of competition and laughter and it can only be the Avia Foursomes, the season’s opener, our very own Augusta, signalling the arrival of another year of competitive golf. Welcome to 72 holes of the unpredictability that only foursomes golf can bring and such was the Avia’s popularity it ended up being over-subscribed every year, with all the best British and Irish players attending, as well as some of the best Continentals.
I played first in 1980 although I didn’t intend to. I was at home in Portstewart and had gone out for a run along the strand in a vague attempt to up my fitness levels. Upon my return, Dad (home from the office for his lunch) said, “Douglas Caird rang for you. He wanted to know if you’d play with Linda Bayman in the Avia.” Douglas was the editor and publisher of Fairway and Hazard and, along with Joan Rothschild, organiser-in-chief of the tournament. Linda was an eminent English internationalist who had won this prestigious title on five previous occasions. Truth to tell, I was in awe and so somewhat horrified at Dad’s easy arrangement with Douglas that “of course Maureen’ll play.”
Linda and I met for the first time in the car park of The Berkshire at the start of the week. We never looked back, winning on our debut and following it up with high place finishes on a few occasions. I think we may even have won it another time. Those details I tend to forget now, but not others.
There was the thrill of playing two great courses and the marvellous opportunity to spend some serious dosh in Keith Macdonald’s pro’s shop, which he and his wife Ivy stocked to the gunnels for the week. One of the highlights was the totally green window display on one of the competition days each year, a nod to St Patrick’s Day and the large, noisy, visiting Irish contingent. The clubhouse food was superb and constant. Coping with more than 300 women golfers for a week, The Berkshire never missed a beat, providing endless supplies of towels and drying facilities for bodies and equipment. The week finished on a high with a hilarious prize-giving and speechifying from all section winners.
The Avia was an integral part of the season for all those keen to advance their careers and realise their ambitions but above all it was FUN. A 72-hole strokeplay foursomes tournament was a tremendous test and more’s the pity it has exited the calendar. Am I the only one sick of all the super-serious golf our young squad players are expected to play? If golf is made to seem like work it soon will be. The greatest work is achieved when it’s so enjoyable you don’t even realise it’s happening and the time flies past. Viva the Avia!