It seems like only yesterday that I was watching Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood et al battling for the honours at the European Tour’s end-of-season, in-the-balance finale in Dubai and then, suddenly, there they are again, at the UBS Hong Kong Open this time, playing in the first event of the new season. Is it one of Mo’s more bizarre dreams where anything can happen, anywhere, at any time?No, turns out it’s true. They’re off again, on the latest Road to Dubai, on the ever-revolving merry-go-round that is professional golf these days, no time to breathe or savour the moment. Onwards and upwards – or downwards; who knows?
Fleetwood, Europe’s new No 1, is looking a bit tired and shell-shocked in most of the photos I’ve seen but he’s a man on the up in life, with a fiancee and a new baby and in golf, with titles, the Vardon Trophy and lots of money tucked away. He’s in Europe’s team for the match against Asia in the EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in January and seems a cert for the Ryder Cup in Paris in September. Perhaps he’ll do a Danny Willett and find it all too hard to handle but most careers involve downs as well as ups and if you need a poster boy for perseverance, Rose, the Olympic champion, is as good an example as any.He turned professional too young, probably, missed cut after cut after cut after cut in the full glare of high expectation but ploughed on, working and working and working some more, always managing to maintain his self-belief and his poise, in public at least. Now he is in the record books with a major championship and a gold medal to his name, a devoted family man with a career that is leaving solid behind and heading towards stellar.
I was pondering these things when I got an email telling me that Florence Descampe had become an official ambassador for Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, near Alicante and I nearly jumped for joy! Florence had a game that glittered but, like many women, found other things in life that mattered more to her than her golf. A Belgian who became quite famous for a while, she was confident, outgoing, engaging and sometimes infuriating. She won the European Amateur Championship in 1988, turned professional and won her first event, the Danish Ladies Open, at Rungsted, at the age of 19 years and 74 days, the tour’s youngest-ever winner. It took until 2005 for that record to be broken, by Paula Creamer when she won the Evian Masters at the age of 18 years, 11 months and something days.
Maureen was playing in that tournament in Denmark and I was covering it for The Times – those were the days! Mum (who didn’t fly), Dad and I drove there (the ferry from Harwich to Esjberg did a lot of the work) and none of us had a clue who this brilliant, big-hitting Belgian was – and no one thought she’d hang on to win. We’d reckoned without her self-confidence and skill but for us her victory was not quite as memorable as the final night of Hamlet, starring Kenneth Branagh, outside, in the grounds of Elsinore Castle. Judi Dench was also in the cast. Then it was off to Gothenburg for the next event. Whatever happened to the women’s European Tour?
Florence nearly made Europe’s team for the inaugural Solheim Cup in 1990 – she won three tournaments – but two years later she was on the team that won a famous victory at Dalmahoy, about 99 years earlier than the experts predicted.In all, Florence won six times in Europe and once in America but her daughter Elodie was born in 1996 and by 2000 she had retired from the tour. If she’s evolved into a mature version of her younger self, Las Colinas have themselves quite a catch.
Finally, just to put you all out of your misery, the Pat Ward-Thomas trophy has been found safe and well and will be delivered to its deserving winners ASAP.