I pitched up at Woburn on Wednesday evening for the 1st edition of the AIG Women’s British Open (and the 43rd staging of what is becoming a venerable, veritable, viable championship) and wondered if an old doll like me, now more or less out of the circus-like loop that is professional golf, would still know anybody at all. And would you believe it! The first person I saw was Jo Morley, the pride of Sale, a former Solheim Cup player who is still out here caddying such is her devotion to the game. That made me feel better.
Woburn always makes me nostalgic, thinking of all the happy tournaments spent here with Dai in the days of Alex Hay; this is where most of us got our first sight of immense talents like Karrie Webb (the sublime swing caused immediate double takes) and Annika Sorenstam (with her Dad Tom on the bag); it’s where we yomped after Laura Davies in her pomp as she displayed her Tigeresque powers of recovery from the most unpromising positions: how wide was the gap? There wasn’t one…….or at least it was invisible to all but Laura. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many gaps for DLD (she’s a Dame now you know) in the first round of her 39th consecutive Open appearance yesterday.
I wandered out to have a look at Maria Fassi, one of the new talents, who is from Mexico, so is not eligible to play in the Solheim Cup despite her US college credentials. Thank goodness for that I thought, then relented and thought what a shame. Fashionable and feisty, with a habit of giving her colourful skorts/skirts a Palmer-like hitch before belting the ball miles, Fassi looks like very good news indeed.
The golf at Woburn is the sort of game I was once used to watching day in, day out, so I used to know a bit about it but it’s not a game I ever played. My current version of golf was on display (in public but not to too many people, thanks be) last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The courses deserved better but it was a delight to play Moortown and Alwoodley, close together, virtually in the middle of Leeds, both designed by Alister MacKenzie of Augusta National fame, for the first time, on our lady captain’s stayaway and Wrexham, for the umpteenth time, as a guest on lady captain’s day.
Moortown hosted the Ryder Cup in 1929 and Samuel Ryder presented George Duncan, the home captain, with the trophy. It’s unlikely they ever encountered anything quite like Whittington Heath’s Trolley Dollies, who brought the clubhouse down with their immaculately timed appearance and blew away any opposition in the best-turned-out team stakes.
There was another familiar face on the wall at Moortown, looking impossibly young after winning the British Women’s Amateur Strokeplay title in 1983. Four years later she won the Women’s British Open (sponsored by Weetabix) at St Mellion and ten years after that the US Women’s Open at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon with one of the finest performances by any European golfer anywhere, ever. Still. It was that good.
At Alwoodley, just down the road, which reminded me a bit of Formby with its heather and bunkers and looked sublime in the sunshine (the golf, sadly, was neither sublime nor shining), the honours board provided another chance to remember all our yesterdays and the exploits of old friends and acquaintances.
Honours boards, distinguished or otherwise, are at the heart of a club, documenting its history and should be cherished and celebrated. If I get a chance to get into the clubhouse, I love looking at them, wherever I go.
At Wrexham on Tuesday, we were lucky because the weather held off bar a bit of a plump as we were playing the 9th. That meant I had time to indulge in a double Pimms (small measures…) to convince myself that it was summer and that my partner and I could claw back the 3-hole deficit against Delamere Forest, represented by Mo and Ruth. Since Lesley and I were representing the Rest of the World, we really couldn’t go down to a club pair, however distinguished and, in the end, the match was an honourable half – or tie, as modern parlance would have it.We all hit quite a few good shots but the jaw-dropping effort of the day was Ruth’s putt on the 3rd, which was so long it was almost extra-terrestrial. “Oh, no!” I said unsportingly (but honestly) as it approached the hole dead on line at a perfect speed. And, oh yes, in it went. Dead solid perfect. Brilliant.