I followed through on my intention last week to return to Enville golf club where the R&A Under 16 Girls’ Championship was being played. One of my main reasons for going, believe it or not, was Gareth Edwards, CBE, Welsh and Lions rugby wizard of yesteryear.
Let me explain.
For some years, Patricia has owned a limited edition Grogg of Gareth, Dai’s favourite player and when she discovered that our golfing pal Pam Chugg was friendly with the Edwardses she unashamedly tasked Pam with getting Gareth to sign the piece. That was more than two years ago during which time Grogg Gareth has been socially distancing down in South Wales chez the Chuggs. Finally, the deed was done and I learned that Gareth, (of the Grogg variety) was en route to Enville with Pam who was refereeing at the Girls’ Championship, so it seemed a good idea to facilitate reuniting Gareth and Patricia.
Of course, it was also a great opportunity to catch up with Pam, another of the blog’s favourites, and of whom we have written on more than one occasion. A former Welsh international (at golf, not rugby) and early pioneer of the Ladies’ European Tour, Pam has held pretty much every top administrative post in British and Welsh golf and was deservedly awarded the MBE for Services to Women’s Golf.
Given all the shenanigans we have endured over the past twenty months or so with the pandemic, she has only recently received notification of her big day out to receive her gong. Residents of Windsor, prepare yourselves for a mid-November visit from the Chugg connection. I can’t promise that the blog will be allowed to publish photos of the big day – something about Hello magazine having exclusivity, I believe – so we will just have to make do with a refereeing pic in the meantime. Hope she scrubs up well for Windsor.
Despite having an abundance of friends dripping with awards and medals I have only been present at one investiture and that was back in 2012 at the British Ambassador’s residence in Dublin when Mary McKenna received her MBE. (That’s it at the top.) Like Pam, but for different reasons, McKenna (as she is widely known) had quite a wait before receiving her medal.
Firstly, there was the historic visit of the Queen to Ireland which put a lot of other diplomatic business on hold for a while. Then there was a two or three month hiatus while the newly appointed ambassador, Dominick Chilcott was installed. It was worth the wait, however. Mary essentially had a private party for thirty people, hosted for her by the British ambassador and his wife.
It was a wonderful occasion in a superb setting and once the gravitas of the ceremony was over we were encouraged to wander through the residence and its grounds at will. The food and drink were both divine – and plentiful – and Patricia and I were thrilled to be invited, along with Dad, who was bursting with pride for McKenna, who was always (whisper it) his all-time favourite. It’s one of my most special memories out of a whole treasure chest that golf has given me.Back to Enville and after a morning watching the golf I was fortunate enough to have a bit of lunch and a chat with another MBE, Bridget Jackson, who confided in me that on October 1st this year she had been a member of Handsworth Golf Club for EIGHTY years. Those eighty years of golfing have been action packed with numerous international titles and caps. When prompted, she volunteered that her most memorable trip had been to Australia in the mid 1950s. I asked her how long she’d been away for, fondly thinking back to my own month-long adventure on a Commonwealth team Down Under.
“Seven months,” came the nonchalant reply. “It took a month to get there; then there was three months in Australia, followed by two in New Zealand and then another month to get home.”
The LGU paid the fares out and back and the golfing unions of Australia and New Zealand hosted their visitors for the duration of their stay. Wow, wow, wow – just imagine, seven months away and your only form of communication with your families is by letter. How right Bridget was when she said she regarded it as her university education, the university of life that is. The players were responsible for their own “incidentals” on the trip and Bridget remembers her total, which included a few perms at the hairdresser, being £70. Sounds like a scandalous overspend to me!
When the drives were no longer quite so long and true, Bridget provided a steadying hand on the rudder for both the English Ladies’ Golf Association and the Ladies’ Golf Union and it was no surprise when she was awarded the MBE and then, more recently, in 2017, honorary membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, one of the first women to receive this accolade.
It was a joy spending some time with her, seeing how her passion for the game is undimmed and hearing some of the marvellous tales she has to tell. When I was leaving she was off out on to the course to see these modern whizz kids who can drive it miles and putt fearlessly. Little did the players realise the calibre of golfer who was about to be forming part of their gallery!
(By the way, it was an England 1-2-3 at Enville, with Buckinghamshire GC’s Rosie Bee Kim, 14, winning the title, two shots ahead of Woburn’s Roisin Scanlon and three ahead of Ellen Yates of West Hill.)
In a rather haphazard way MBEs have formed a thread throughout today’s blog but I’d like to finish with a completely unrelated PS – just because it makes me smile. One of my non-MBE friends, Gillian Stewart, coaches 10-year old Fraser Mackenzie of Inverness. Last week Fraser had the thrill of his life when he was allowed to join Gill and Gordon Moir, another friend of the blog, for a game on the Old Course, his first visit to the Home of Golf. Playing off a handicap of 8.8, Fraser birdied the Road Hole and two of his three shots (the drive and the putt) were captured on camera for posterity by his Mum! Thanks to Vicki for the photos below. He confided later to Gill that it had been “the best day of my life”.
And it’s going to be pretty hard to top!