To start, love and condolences to the family and many friends of Lady Angela Bonallack (above), who has died at the age of 85 after a long illness. Angela’s golfing heyday started in the 1950s and in 1956, as Angela Ward, before her marriage to Michael Bonallack, she made her debut in the Curtis Cup, at Prince’s and won her singles to help GB and I to a 5-4 victory over the USA
In 1958, at Brae Burn, as Mrs Bonallack (Michael’s knighthood was a few decades away), she won her foursomes with Elizabeth Price and halved her singles with the formidable Barbara McIntire, to more than play her part in a dramatic tie: 4 1/2 – 4 1/2 (36-hole matches in those days). Then came the 1960s and a very long period of American dominance. Angela played in 1960, 1962, 1964 and 1966 and kept meeting the Great Gundy, JoAnne Gunderson (later Carner) in the singles. Unfortunately for Angela, JoAnne, a self-confessed “fire and fall back” belter, loved playing the sweet-swinging Englishwoman because she admired – and absorbed – the rhythm of her opponent and raised her already considerable game to meet the challenge.Angela, who had four children in between matches, won the English Championship twice, in 1958 and 1963 and reached the final of the British (now officially the Women’s Amateur Championship instead of the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship) twice, losing to Marley Spearman in 1962 and Carol Semple in 1974. Marley, a dancer before she discovered golf, had the utmost admiration for her friend and compatriot: “I was lucky to play in the time of Angela,” she told Lewine Mair. “I liked her enormously. She was a terrific golfer and I had the utmost admiration for her tenacity.”
Bridget Jackson, another great friend and contemporary, has some lovely memories of Angela’s off-course exploits – heading the wrong way up an escalator in Belgium; travelling to events in a caravan with her sister-in-law Sally (Barber, nee Bonallack); having to get out and push an overloaded car and caravan on the way to Harlech; the list is endless and there was always laughter.
Above all, as Bridget said, “Angela was great fun.”
St Andrews next week won’t be quite the same without her – she and Michael made their home in Scotland and she became a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in 2015 when women were admitted as members at long last, so the place was in her blood and she’d have revelled in the 150th celebrations.
An Open at the Old Course is always a treat (though it’s a bugger for spectators) and I’m expecting this year’s edition to be completely bonkers, a wonderful celebration of “the marvellous mania”, as Alistair Cooke called his passion for the game. Luckily, I was successful in the ballot and secured a ticket – for Tuesday. It’s so long ago that I’ve forgotten how much it cost and it might take me until Wednesday to work out how to download it. Think I have to get an app first and start from there, then remember to keep the phone charged and avoid getting mugged. Some poor soul who had his entire life on his phone was robbed and had the devil’s own job sorting things out as the bruises healed.
For your delectation and delight, here’s another Harold Riley special, also from the 2000 Open, which I came across on my never-ending sorting campaign – it’s one of the reasons I can’t just scoop everything up and lob the lot in the recycling bin!
Finally, to change the subject, thanks to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols, indefatigable, well-informed and always readable (the biggest of compliments in my book, just to ensure that there are no doubts) for giving us a thoughtful take from Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon, Hall of Famers both, on the LIV Golf debacle.
It’s easier, they conceded, to look at the bigger picture when you’re many years retired but Daniel still has vivid memories of the time she was blacklisted by the United Nations in the early 1980s for playing in the Sun City Million Dollar Challenge in South Africa (well, Bophuthatswana).
“It ended up being a tremendous learning lesson for me,” she said. “You can call it naive, ignorance but I didn’t realise going over there the apartheid policies and how it affected the people of that country. When I went over there and saw some of it, I was mortified by it. I grew up in the South and what I saw over there was worse than what I saw growing up.”
Armed with that knowledge and experience, Daniel said, if she was still in the prime of her career and offered an invitation (and appearance fee) to compete in Saudi Arabia, she wouldn’t accept because of human rights violations. “Now that’s easy to say from here,” she admitted. Still the right choice, though.And, a laugh to finish, one of my birthday cards, a classic.