I’m a bit out of my comfort zone this week because I’m sitting writing this in the press room at the last Ricoh Women’s British Open (new sponsors to be announced in due course) at Royal Lytham & St Annes, not at the dining room table at home. It’s late afternoon, not after midnight, The Proclaimers are not belting out at full blast and there’s no sign of the red wine writing mixture.
It’s hard to believe that I used to spend my life in places like this, not many of them as posh as this one, hammering away on the keyboard, battling to control my tendency to convolution and convey a flavour of the day in the required number of words (not many usually) and trying not to panic at the thought of the looming deadline. Deadlines always loom don’t they? It’s the nature of the beast.
I’m keeping an eye on the golf, I have a vague idea who’s leading, who’s already heading for home and who’s still in the thick of things despite an untimely glitch – usually, at Lytham, bunker related – but the relaxing thing is that I really don’t need to know very much at all. This blog is often a fact-free zone and so far this week, I’ve been catching up with friends I haven’t seen for a while at a venue that is one of my favourites. Lytham is SUCH a good golf course, a fierce test even when the weather is relatively benign and there are always loads of people here, in a part of the world where golf is a long-established passion.
This championship, which started in 1976, was first held in this neck of the woods in 1979, at Southport & Ainsdale (S&A), just down the road and I remember Alison Sheard, of South Africa, holding up her Pretty Polly candlesticks (the winner’s trophy) in front of hordes of people. Maureen played as an amateur and I was impressed by the numbers who turned out to see the women play. Our friends Hilary and Michael Edwards lived nearby and Michael, who had played for Ireland, caddied for Mo.
I seem to remember that Michael made his debut at Muirfield in the early 1960s and in the foursomes was paired with the great Joe Carr against Reid Jack, a formidable Scot who’d been Amateur champion and another luminary. Michael, the rookie, recalled that the rough was waist high and by the turn Joe, who could be wild, had lost four of his (Michael’s) golf balls. That was in the days when balls were precious items, not handed out like sweeties on the 1st tee and I fear Ireland did not win that match.
Anyway, I digress but I did bump in to someone who goes back as far as I do and well remembered Alison and her candlesticks. Jane Allen, who’s from Royal Portrush, also confirmed her great age by mentioning the name Barry Edwards, the man who was in charge of what is now the LET (Ladies’ European Tour) in the days when it was sponsored by Carlsberg and there were numerous tournaments all over Britain and Ireland. Jane remembers tournaments at Portstewart and Portrush and organising a last-minute birthday cake for Sheard. The baker came up trumps with a South African theme that reduced the birthday girl to tears. Bet she still remembers that.
There have always been prodigies in golf, kids who’ve been brilliant little and have lived with great expectations. Some live up to them and train on after burning brightly early, others don’t and struggle to cope with the adult game. Some, like Michelle Wie, blow hot and cold, winning the odd big thing but fighting what seems to be a losing battle against injury. The Hawaiian pulled out on the 12th hole in the first round because of a painful wrist injury that wouldn’t sit nag, nag, nagging away in the background but erupted onto centre stage, refusing to be ignored. Like many sports people she’s a one-person A&E, accommodating aches and pains to achieve her dreams but such single-minded dedication takes its toll, physically and mentally.
For other people success comes a little later in life and, if I’m in charge of the trophy, even later than it should. Colin Callander was, in his heyday, one of the AGW’s (Association of Golf Writers) better golfers and has won most of our trophies many times. Last November, at the sainted Brancaster, Royal West Norfolk, he and his wife Jill won the coveted Pat Ward-Thomas Trophy, a foursomes event. Colin has won the title many times but it was a first for Jill and she was denied the glory of receiving the silverware at the time because no one knew where it was. To my shame – because I’d denied all knowledge of its whereabouts – the trophy turned up at Maureen’s, so I polished it up and, very, very belatedly it was presented to one half of the winning team. Sorry you weren’t there Jill but congrats on the arrival of Clara, the first grandchild.
Footnote (literally): Being in need of new golf shoes – my current ones are falling apart at the seams – do I play safe or do I spend a small fortune on a swanky, swoon-inducing, swing-enhancing Italian pair…..A dilemma for the weekend.