I’ve always enjoyed this time of year, late April and then the glorious month of May, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that some of my favourite and significant moments, golf and otherwise, are from this handful of weeks. I’ve also always enjoyed reminiscing and have an above average, detailed recall of various milestones in my life and the life of my friends and family. In that respect I take after Dad and we jointly regarded Patricia and Mum as philistines for their mystified looks when we would announce that at that exact moment 22 years earlier such and such a person had hit THAT shot that led to this, that and the other. How could they not remember? Sometimes it was even Patricia who had hit the shot in question and even she couldn’t remember it!
It was late April, 34 years ago, that I signed on the dotted line, turned professional and made my debut in a Pro-Am at The Mere Golf Resort & Spa, near Knutsford – less than an hour from where I currently live in Cheshire. I was extremely nervous but remember being warmly welcomed by the other professionals before making my way to meet my team at the 12th tee where we were due to start our round. The 12th was a fairly straightforward par 3 and to my relief I managed to hit the green before taking a swift three putts and starting my professional life with a bogey.
Mum was caddying for me, always a bit risky as I sometimes had an overwhelming desire to throttle her and this was one of those times. With nerves already heightened, I charged my opening putt past the hole and her sharp intake of breath (which had earned her the nickname of “Hissing Sid” on the amateur circuit) did not help matters. However, it turned out to be a great day – it was lovely weather, the course was in great condition and I had a lovely team. All this conspired to help me settle down and I came in with a 1-under score, good enough for runner-up spot in my opening salvo as a pro. How special it was to share that with Mum and her great friend Molly Boyd, who was with us as chief supporter. I could hardly believe my eyes when I was presented with a cheque for £343 – for ONE round of golf! In today’s money that’s a shade over £1000, certainly not a figure to be sneezed at. I still have the dummy cheque somewhere.
This time of year always signalled the start of the serious golf season. As an amateur it meant taking the road to Troon for the prestigious Helen Holm tournament which, believe it or not, was invariably played in snow and sleet. As a pro it meant turning south and heading to Alex Hay country and Woburn for the Ford Classic, one of the best and longest-sponsored events we have ever had on the tour.
Ford did a wonderful job for women’s golf and the event drew huge crowds. For heaven’s sake, one year there were traffic jams all the way to the M1 with carloads of fans beating a path to Woburn to follow round after Dame Laura Davies, Marie-Laure de Lorenzi, Alison Nicholas, Trish Johnson and the like. My highlight over the years there was holing in one while playing with Laura and winning a car!
Many years later, again at this time of year, I received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation from the PGA. I had stopped playing seriously and was immersed in coaching and I was both horrified and delighted to be invited to address fellow pros at a couple of seminars at the Belfry and one at Portmarnock. That was a daunting enough prospect but I was sharing the bill with five very special people, Karl Morris, the first-class performance coach and mental skills guru and the four Harmon brothers, Butch, Dick, Bill and Craig. We were to spend three days together, staying two nights at the Belfry and then sharing a private jet to Dublin. To spend all this time with some of the greatest coaches in our industry was such a privilege – I really was living the dream. Having dinner together every night was great and made all the more special because the four brothers weren’t very often all in the one place due to their busy lives and schedules. In fact, it was probably one of the last times they all spent time with each other as Dick was to die within a couple of years.
And now from the sublime to the ridiculous. This week we are celebrating four years of this piece of nonsense we are pleased to call our blog. Many of you will know I was not in the least bit keen to embark on this and it was very much Patricia who chipped away at my resistance over a number of months. Her trump card was to recruit my husband and Pam Valentine (she of 260-balls-into-a-golf-net-in-an-hour fame) to join her in persuading me to have a shot at it. That is now four years ago and I’m in turn astonished, humbled and delighted that so many of you seem to get a bit of enjoyment out of our ramblings. Thanks for subscribing.
Finally, another reason to have good vibes when the calendar turns over to these special days – my better half and I have just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. We cooked a special meal and actually got dressed up for dinner – the first time since lockdown that I’ve bothered with getting any of the sparkly gear out. It was worth it – we had a lovely evening. No wonder I just love this time of year.