Who knows where the expression “Gordon Bennett” came from?  It indicates mild surprise, astonishment even annoyance and according to my trusty Chambers probably comes from James Gordon Bennett (1743-1827), a US journalist.  Sadly, the explanation goes no further, so, really, we’re none the wiser and more research is required.  Suffice to say, though, it means that the admirable Sarah Bennett, just announced as the next PGA captain, successor to Bernard Gallacher, has always been Gordon to me.

The nickname is lacking in imagination but the appointment is not.  It’s quite, quite brilliant.

Bennett, head teaching professional at Three Rivers Golf & Country Club near Chelmsford and a Fellow of the PGA, was astonished when she was asked to take on the role.  “It was a complete and utter bolt out of the blue,” she said.  “It’s not something that’s remotely on your radar.  I kept thinking, ‘Really?  Really?  Is that right?’  I was stunned but I am extremely honoured, humbled and immensely proud to captain this historic association.”

Sarah Bennett (right) with friend and mentor Bev Lewis [pic courtesy of The PGA]

It was more than 100 years before the PGA, founded in 1901, appointed a woman as captain (in 2005), the late, much loved, much missed Beverley Lewis, an Essex girl like Bennett.  “It means so much to me following in the footsteps of my role model Bev,”  Bennett said.  “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  She used to coach me in her garden when I was 15 and we used to discuss my swing in her kitchen.  I really tested her knowledge!  She was always there for me as a mentor and friend, offering advice, support and encouragement during my career and my illness.”

The illness, a severe form of vestibular impairment, which affects the inner ear, meant that Bennett was bedridden for nearly three months in 2005 and couldn’t work for nearly five years.  She lost 95 per cent of her balance and was told she wouldn’t play golf again.  “It was pretty grim,” she said.  “I still have it but I just deal with it.  I kind of know when it’s coming.”

Bear in mind that this blog is not in the least bit medical but I think that Sarah is more of a Blimey O’Reilly than a Gordon Bennett when it comes to her recovery, a bit of a medical miracle from the sound of it.  She went through the sort of rehab that soldiers who’ve suffered severe head injuries and head trauma go through, exercising three to four hours a day “wearing a hole in the carpet” and eventually becoming involved in the Golf Fore Recovery initiative, using golf to help wounded and sick members of the Armed Forces.  She’s also involved in Canine Partners and has raised more than £20,000 to fund research into thymic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer that killed her close friend Wendy Lodder.

Sarah and Wendy [pic courtesy of The PGA].

How on earth did she cope with it all?

“I’m a bit tenacious and gritty – not stubborn, no, I will admit when I’m wrong but I don’t give up.  And I love what I do.”

In the blog’s humble opinion, the PGA couldn’t have made a better choice.

The U.S. Open is under way on the West Course at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York and I have to say I’m glad I’m not one of the ball spotters.  The rough is brutal, not long (and apparently an inch shorter on day one than it was during the practice rounds) but thick and all-consuming, gobbling up golf balls like some voracious predator in an Attenborough wildlife doc.  The spotters did their job well because I didn’t hear of anyone losing a ball, not even Phil Mickelson, who scarcely found a fairway on a calamitous day.  Safe to say, he’ll not be breaking his U.S. Open duck this year.

Really I just wanted an excuse to use this photograph from early in the week, showing just how hard it was to extricate your ball if you were a bit wayward.

Joaquin Niemann, contortionist of Chile, gives it his all [pic courtesy of the USGA and the incomparable Robert Beck]

Winged Foot is tough but at least its 18th hole is not disfigured by an ill-conceived backstop in a show-stopping shade of blue, an excrescence that played a far-too-prominent part in the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California, last week.  My understanding is that it was constructed to compensate for the lack of the grandstand that’s usually there behind the green and prevent balls from rolling into the water on the other side.  I think it was Laura Davies, commenting on television, who said that she’d always thought the grandstand should be on stilts, so that the water beyond the green would come into play, as it was designed to.

Of course, players going for the par 5 in two used the backstop as a failsafe, knowing they’d get a free drop and Mirim Lee, the eventual champion, did just that, then chipped in for the eagle 3 that secured her a place in a play-off with Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson.  Lee and Henderson used the backstop again in the play-off, as they were entitled to but, really, when you think about it, the hole had been emasculated.  On the plus side, it kept the rulings and the drops relatively simple.

Couldn’t find a decent, useable photo of the blue advertising hoarding but here’s a remembrance of Dinahs past.

Charles Schulz was a keen golfer – probably a bit better than Snoopy – and often played in the pro-am the week of the Dinah Shore (now the ANA Inspiration).

And, finally, some photographs from the archives, simply because I came across them, of the Curtis Cup at Western Gailes in 1972.  Belle Robertson, on the right, has put her partner Diane Frearson (nee Robb, now Bailey) in the sand but notice what Diane is doing after extricating the ball:  she is smoothing out her footprints.  This was in the days before rakes, so will today’s inconsiderate trampers, too young to remember such privations, please take note…..


…..and learn.  PLEASE.