My first taste of any sort of International golf at all was almost half a century ago, way back in 1971, at the wonderful links of North Berwick in East Lothian in Scotland. I was there as a wide-eyed, open-mouthed onlooker at the Girls’ Home Internationals. Big sis Patricia was making her debut for Ireland and it was watching the wonderful golf on display that week that cemented a number of my early ambitions.
The opening morning also proved to be an introduction to a well-known North Berwick, indeed British east coast, phenomenon, namely the haar, a cold sea fog that meant even the most puny golfing muscles could propel the ball out of sight. Out of the sea fret emerged the first two players on the course that morning. England were playing Wales, each side represented in their top match by their respective champions, on this occasion Mickey Walker and Pam Chugg, nee Light. In my young eyes they were already giants of the game but both went on to achieve hugely on their individual platforms. Mickey was a trailblazer in so many ways and was awarded the OBE in 1992 after leading the European Solheim Cup team to an amazing victory over the Americans at Dalmahoy. And then, last weekend, in the Covid-delayed Queen’s Birthday Honours list, Pam was awarded an MBE for Services to Golf.There are a few of us who have been around for large amounts of Pam’s journey along the numerous and diverse paths that encompass golf and her breadth of experience in these varying arenas is impressive to say the least. As a player she has had an exemplary record spanning five decades, mostly as an amateur, during which time she led Wales at both girls’ and full International level as the champion.
Despite golf being largely an individual discipline, Pam always displayed support and generosity of spirit towards her fellow competitors. Her awareness of the bigger picture has always been one of her strengths and in 1979 she was one of a handful of pioneering players who turned professional, forming what is now a multi-million pound industry, the Ladies’ European Tour. This has inspired thousands of players, myself included, to strive to follow suit and has opened up for many global opportunities that didn’t exist forty years ago.With her serious playing days behind her Pam has continued to give back to golf, giving freely of her time and expertise. Over a number of years her roles have been many and varied and I have had the privilege of working alongside her in several of them. Appointed as manager, then selector, then captain of several of the international teams and squads she herself used to play on, Pam has had the perfect platform from which to pass on her knowledge, leading by example with her meticulous approach and preparation. Her friendliness and approachability have been paramount in her successful mentoring of all the teams and squads with which she has been entrusted. And it was always a given that were you a member of one of those teams you were in for a fun-filled time.
At this point I must draw attention to some dubious car driving/maintenance skills that saw her (according to my father) ruin the engine of his car, which he had kindly lent her to assist her in her role as manager of the Welsh Home International team at lovely Royal Dornoch in 1999. She claimed to be only using the vehicle for short hops, ferrying her players to the practice ground and for running errands. Whatever, the result was an unfixable breakdown for me and my folks on the way home and we ended up being driven 350 miles back to base on the back of a low-loader. Obviously, Dad never let her forget it!The most high profile of Pam’s administrative roles was undoubtedly her appointment as chairman of the Ladies’ Golf Union, the governing body for women’s golf in Great Britain and Ireland, in 2006. Back then her support and passion for the vision of one governing body in golf for both men and women was not universally popular but, to general acclaim, this is now where our sport finds itself in the UK and Ireland.
Boundless energy has meant Pam has managed to cram in enough activity for several lifetimes and when not prowling the fairways at various championships in her capacity as an R&A qualified Rules official she can be found either on the ski slopes, the tennis courts or on a saddle leading the way in the charity bike ride she organises around Cardiff each year in support of Velindre hospital. As an honorary life member of two clubs, Whitchurch (Cardiff) and Royal Porthcawl, her own set of sticks doesn’t normally have too much chance to get rusty, so it is wise to have your best game when you decide to take her on.
Golf seems to be blessed, sprinkled as it is with wonderful people who give selflessly to the sport. Wales is particularly fortunate in this regard and Pam joins a revered list of men and women from the Principality who have done golf proud. I didn’t realise all those years ago just what I was witnessing emerging from that North Berwick haar – a special person who would go on to be pioneering as a player, pioneering as an administrator……. and annoyingly difficult to take money from on the golf course!