Mary McKenna told me you must always have a plan in life, because if you don’t have a plan, then you can’t change it.  This particular plan all started last Friday with Mary Hafeman.

Mary H is a fine golfer to this very day and we first met when we played on opposing sides in the Curtis Cup (trophy above) way back in ………well, never mind!  Suffice to say, it was quite a while ago.  After last week’s blog, when I shared that I had actually played my first nine holes in two years, Mary sent a very encouraging comment or two, signing off with “Look forward to seeing you at Sunningdale/Curtis Cup next fall.”

Those of you who deign to plough through this blog nonsense on a weekly basis will be aware that I was with my great pal, Gillian Stewart, last week.  Well, Gillian played in that same Curtis Cup match and has played golf with Mary in the recent past when our American friend was over in the UK with a golfing group.

A friendship, forged through golf -Gill (left) and Mary H at Castle Stuart. [Gill Stewart]

I mentioned Mary’s comment to Gill and we looked at each other.  “Do you fancy going?” I asked.  “Where is it?” said Gill.  “Sunningdale!” was the answer – and no further discussion was required.  It was the prod that I needed, however, because, honestly, I hadn’t looked beyond getting through my small bit of broadcasting this season and then going to Rome with the sister.

Going back to 2020, I had managed to procure a wonderful Airbnb in Conwy marina for five of us for that Curtis Cup and then Mr Covid came along and put paid to all our plans.  When the match did take place in 2021 many folk were still wary of travelling and mixing and so we hadn’t resurrected our group.  Time to rectify things.

Upon my return home I rang the great Mary McKenna, who paused briefly in the car park of B&Q to confirm her inclusion in the scheme and then swept off to buy tiles for the ensuite shower.  (Note to self – book some time with the Great One for a proper, lengthy, catch-up chat.)

A grainy pic (taker unknown) of Mary McKenna playing in one of her nine Curtis Cup matches, at Western Gailes.

McKenna (as she is known to her friends) prefers to spend her time behind the lens of a camera nowadays and she is as talented at photography as she once was with her golf clubs.  This is one of my favourites:-

Sunningdale has a bit of a special place in both McKenna’s and my hearts as we had a lovely run of five or six years playing together in the Sunningdale Foursomes, with a fair degree of success.  What makes this tournament so special – aside from the two great courses, the Old and the New, and the superb half-way sausage hut – is that it’s the only competition in the world where men and women, pros and amateurs, can all compete together.  The amateurs must have a scratch or plus handicap to enter and the field is often graced with Ryder Cup players, sometimes even current ones.

McKenna and I played in three finals, winning once and twice losing on the final green.  In one of our losing finals we played Roger Chapman and a young Ronan Rafferty and when Roger drove into a bunker up the left on the last our hopes of prolonging the match to the 19th rose.  Ronan waded into this deep bunker with a 5-iron and I idly wondered if he’d be able to gain the height required to clear the lip.

Not a problem.  With his wristy pick-up action he clipped the ball away, clean as a whistle, into the heart of the final green and that was that.  A few years later he became the first Irishman to top the European Tour Order of Merit.

Sunningdale – such a special, special place, a golfer’s paradise. If you haven’t been – start organising that trip asap. [Picture is from their website]

Another of my favourite Sunningdale memories comes from the Women’s Open which was played there in 2004.  Karen Stupples was in the final group on Sunday and I was out commentating on her match.  She opened up with an eagle three on the first and then, after a good tee shot down the second, hit a five iron up over the hill and down to the distant, out-of-sight, green.  I was standing level with Karen when she hit the shot and she turned questioningly to me when she heard a roar from the green.  I could hear in my head phones the excited commentary as the ball found the bottom of the cup for a two, signalling an eagle, albatross start.

“It’s in!” I yelled above the noise at which point Karen leapt high in the air and fairly galloped down the fairway.  She held her nerve, held her game together, and four hours later she held the biggest prize of her golfing life, a major trophy.  And for some reason, she’s STILL the only British winner of her home Open in the last forty years not to have received an honour of some description.  My pleas, through this blog, to the various golfing bodies have so far been met with deaf ears.  Perhaps someone will listen and take action soon.

So, in the space of a week – and thanks to Mary Hafeman – I now have seven people confirmed for our house.  As soon as the eighth confirms her presence the search will begin for our accommodation.  There will be four former Curtis Cuppers in the group and, amazingly, we all played in that same match where we met Mary H.

So we WILL see you, Mary, for the Curtis Cup at Sunningdale next autumn.  Can’t wait.