Very sad to part with Sandy Herd’s wonderful Open gold medal for winning the 1902 Open. He is the left figure in the black and white photo, alongside his buddy James Braid. His win was notable for being the first winner to use a Haskell ball, a ball he took on at the last minute as he was fed up with the the way he was hitting the gutty. A unique item.
Ex Solheim Cup Captain, Curtis Cup player and founder member of the Ladies European Tour Mickey Walker reminisces about her early life
My Golfing Beginnings
Having a Father who was Scottish, it was inevitable that he played golf. My Father – Julian James Barlow Walker, to give him his full name, was passionate about sport and in particular golf and football. I imagine that if he’d been born today or even within the last fifty years, he would have tried to pursue one of his passions professionally, but when he was growing up earning your living from playing sport was something that only working men did and it certainly wasn’t a viable way to earn a living. Instead my Father moved from his childhood town of Banff in North Eastern Scotland, attended Liverpool university where he successfully qualified to be a dentist and then got his first job in Kent where I was to spend my childhood.
My earliest recollections of golf were caddying for my Father at Faversham Golf Club on Sunday mornings, which along with shoe cleaning duties was to provide my pocket money for my early teenage years and the means by which I paid for sports equipment, whether it was a tennis racket or money for riding lessons. Unbeknown to me at the time, my Father had a good golf swing, which I imitated when I occasionally picked up a golf club. At his lowest my Father was a two handicapper – he had a powerful, rhythmical swing, was an inconsistent putter and always fiercely competitive.
As a consequence of my Father’s love of golf, my Mother took up the game and although her lack of length meant that she would never be a low handicapper – she was 18 handicap at her best, she was the ideal foil for my Father in mixed competitions, since she seldom missed a fairway, had a steady short game and was an excellent putter. My parents often featured in the prizes of mixed opens and club competitions.
All of my childhood memories of holidays involved golf. The first ever formal golf lesson that I had was from the professional at Trevose – Cyril Pennington, during a family holiday to Cornwall. Mr Pennington told my Father that I had potential! I duly started to play golf and in a short time, instead of having to put up with my parents playing golf every day on holiday, they were soon taking me away, at home and abroad to play in competitions, firstly as a junior and after that in adult competitions. At various times in my teens I played in tournaments in Spain, France, Holland, Portugal and then my international amateur career took me to such faraway places as Fiji, Singapore, Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then known, New Zealand, Argentina, Kenya, Belgium and of course America.
Early on in my amateur career I was fortunate to have met and been influenced by some extraordinary golfers. I was extremely lucky to meet and play a few holes at Faversham with Wanda Morgan, who golf historians will remember as one of the best British female golfers of the 1930’s. Wanda won just about everything that it was possible to win during her career as well as having played in an exhibition match with the American Bobby Jones during one of his visits to the UK. There is an iconic photo of Wanda, Bobby Jones, Joyce Wethered and one other playing in front of enormous crowds in 1931. I can vividly remember Wanda’s golf swing as being the most rhythmical that I had ever seen then and probably since. I also remember having a wager of sixpence on the five holes that we played and winning the bet!
Another iconic figure in women’s golf that I played with and who gave me enormous encouragement was Scotland’s Jessie Valentine. We met when my Father and I were playing in the family foursomes at Burhill and we were drawn together to play in the consolation event having both been knocked out in the first round of the main event. As a shy fifteen year old I can remember being awestruck at not only meeting but actually playing golf with Jessie Valentine whose Dunlop clubs I had started to play with and still used at the time. I couldn’t believe it when Jessie invited my Father and me to be her guests at the forthcoming Dunlop Masters tournament at Sunningdale!
Looking back, I wish that I’d had the foresight and been bold enough to ask Wanda and Jessie some of the questions that I now have in my mind. Some year’s later I was in the company of Joyce Wethered, who many people, including Bobby Jones, considered to have the best swing, male or female of all time. How I’d love to have the opportunity to turn back time and ask them all hundreds of questions, but at least I have my memories of being in their company.
Perhaps one of the biggest influences of my career was Elsie Corlett, a former English amateur champion from Lancashire who became an English selector. I can remember Elsie telling me during an English Girl’s championship played at Hawkestone Park in the late 1060’s that I would never really be a top player unless I changed my strong right hand grip to a more neutral position. I can remember Elsie having endless patience as I hit shot after shot with my “new” grip and watching the resulting sliced drives. We spent hours on the practice ground during which I was a very reluctant student, since it took some time before the results started to improve and it was only with better results that I was convinced that “this old lady” knew what she was talking about!
I was also lucky enough to become a friend of the then chief golf writer for the Daily Telegraph – Leonard Crawley. Leonard was a former Walker Cup
player as well as a top class cricketer. I met Leonard through an annual match played at Royal Worlington, between a top women’s team and a team representing Cambridge University, past and present. On one occasion when the possibility that UK golfers might have to start using the American, larger 1.68 diameter golf ball rather than the 1.62 diameter ball that was being used in the UK, Leonard had recently returned from a trip to the U.S.A. and had brought some of the 1.68 diameter balls made by Titleist back with him. Leonard was convinced that it was only a matter of time until golfers throughout the world had to play with the larger ball, and very generously presented me with a dozen Titleist ball of the larger size with the instruction to get used to playing with them and thus have an advantage over my compatriots. I can still remember how privileged I felt to be given such a box of treasure!
Looking back, I was very fortunate with the people that I met early on in my career and of course because my parents were in a position to help me pursue my dream of reaching my golfing potential. After achieving much success as an amateur both in the UK and abroad, the next logical step for me was to become a professional and try my luck in America. I couldn’t believe it when I was contacted by Mark McCormack, the manager of “The Big Three” Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, wanting to meet and discuss what his company International Management Group (IMG) could do for me! That was in the summer of 1973 and by the end of that year I duly signed a contract to be managed by IMG and embarked on my professional career in golf. Now that’s another story!
[To be continued]
The derivation of the word Duffer, from Golf Illustrated 1901.
“The history of the word ‘duffer’, now a common synonym for any kind of incompetent person, is rather curious. It was, at first, simply another name for a pedlar or hawker. As the country got opened up and shops grew commoner, the packman felt the stress of competition, and gradually became less honest in his dealings. Amongst other things he bought inferior or imitation goods at low prices, and sold them at high figures under the pretence that they were smuggled. To this he added fortune telling and all other kinds of chicanery. In course of time so unprincipled did he become that the ‘duffer’ was only another name for a cheat and swindler. The word is now applied by a process familiar to philologists, to those who are easily cheated or bamboozled and more particularly, as at Golf, to those who betray great ineptitude at whatever they may be engaged.
The word is still a term of opprobrium, but it no longer conveys any suggestion of moral turpitude. It is possible to be a cheat without being a ‘duffer’, and to be a ‘duffer’ without being a cheat. To be both is surely the lowest depth of degradation.”
John Garner’s Teaching Philosophy
Part 1. THE SWING.
The Grip – “controls a square club face.” — hits the ball forward !!
The Posture/Stance – “helps your Direction & the first part of The Swing.”
Ball Position – “is the bottom of The Arc.”
Pro – Basics – “is the use of your body in the correct order which controls the arc.”
- a) Turn your shoulders behind the ball approx. 90 degrees.
- b) slide/turn your hips across to your forward leg keeping your head behind the ball
- c) Use your hands & arms past your body – over & out towards the target
Ben Hogan – said, “that it is the intention of every good golfer to approach the ball from the inside.”
Vital Ingredients of a good golf swing :
- a) HEAD STEADY b) SLOW BACK c) BRUSH the TURF d) HOLD YOUR BALANCE
Part 2. Course Management V Technique !!!
I believe that most Golfers think too much about the swing rather than concentrating on scoring
The Aim should be :
The Driver & long fairway shots – “get the ball onto – The Fairway.” ( 30 metre width/corridor )
Rescue & Irons – “ get the ball onto – The Green.” ( 20 metre width/corridor )
Wedge Play – “ get the ball around The Flag.” ( 10 metre width/corridor )
Chipping – “ get the ball close to The Hole.” ( 5 metre width/corridor )
Putting – “ get the ball into The Hole.” ( 1 metre circle )
When practising try to group your balls & measure each club by pacing the distance & write it down.
Learn one shape of safe shot, either left to right or right to left. You’ll need it on the 18TH TEE !!!
Work on YOUR routines, they will get you through THE PRESSURE !!!
Learn to HOLD YOUR NERVE, particularly on THE SHORT PUTTS !!!
Nick Pitt, Sports correspondent of the Sunday Times, concludes his fascinating story of Gloria Minoprio
Nothing was heard from Minoprio in public until a year later, when she entered the 1934 English championship, held at Seacroft, Lincolnshire.
This time, the press corps was even larger and several photographers had been dispatched from Fleet Street. Once again, her arrival was theatrical.
Moving silently over the dunes from the direction of the sea, a tall, solitary figure appeared in silhouette. Slowly, the figure grew larger and more distinct as it approached, walking upright, head erect, carrying a single club. Once again, on her arrival, Minoprio approached her opponent, Betty Sommerville, held out a white-gloved right hand and said “How do you do?” and once again, having the honour, she tapped the ground to indicate where her caddie should tee up, and began her strange swishing preliminaries with her eyes fixed on the ball.
“Her match was the sensation of the day,” The Star reported. “Skegness was all agog. Had she been Gloria Swanson come to shoot a scene in a film, she could not have stirred more deeply the emotions of the spectators, who all with one accord tripped after her. A large band of stewards were present — there was a battery of camera-men at the side, the eyes of the populace were focused on her. She looked as destitute of emotion as a Frigidaire.”
If Minoprio was enjoying herself, Sommerville was not. An engaging, snub-nosed girl from the Faversham club in Kent, she was making her championship debut aged nineteen, and was petrified. “When I saw the draw in the paper, I nearly had a fit,” she said. “It was like playing a supernatural being. She was not a bit friendly. She never spoke.”
Minoprio hit a fine shot and a good approach, a nice long putt and a tap-in to win the hole. Having taken an early lead, Minoprio did not relinquish it, and concluded the match on the seventeenth green to become the first person to win a championship match using one club.
In the second round, Minoprio faced Mary Johnson, an England international who had been the runner-up at Westward Ho! and would again reach the final at Seacroft. Johnson won comfortably, though The Times reported that “Miss Minoprio, with the swing one would expect from so graceful a figure, did prodigies with her one club.”
Once more, Henry Longhurst was at hand. “Crowds flocked to walk round with her, workmen dropped their tools to watch her pass, her picture was in every newspaper, her name upon every lip,” he wrote. “It is difficult to think of this lady as a golfer, and yet there is no doubt that she is a most accomplished player, handicapped only by her refusal to use those instruments which make the game most easy.”
Evidently, Longhurst had more than a professional interest in Minoprio. After the events at Westward Ho! they had exchanged letters. But when Longhurst took the plunge at Seacroft, introducing himself to Minoprio as “your correspondent” she stared vaguely over his shoulder, said “Oh yes,” and walked away.
Having established herself as a golfing exotic and eccentric, Minoprio took up magic. ‘Uncle’ Gavin and Minoprio spared no expense – they were spending Weld’s money, after all. They bought tuition from four of the most famous practitioners of the day. Minoprio practised her card tricks and sleight of hand in front of a mirror for hours at a time. Gavin hatched a plan for Minoprio to travel to India to perform for the maharajahs. A fabulous brochure advertising her skills was produced at great expense. Housed in a silk slip-case, it was limited to an edition of 100. (And is now one of the rarest items of magic memorabilia.)
Minoprio and Gavin sailed to India in November 1936 but the adventure was a disaster because Gavin fell ill. Minoprio did perform for a maharajah on the voyage and secured a donation for the Medical Research Council. They soon returned to Europe.
By endless practice, Minoprio managed to achieve an exceptional standard in magic, specialising in card tricks and sleights of hand. But she did not entirely neglect golf. She won another first-round match in the 1936 English championship at Hayling Island, watched again by Longhurst, and produced two fine stroke-play rounds to qualify for the match-play rounds of the British Open championship at Southport & Ainsdale that same year.
One last golfing achievement remained for Minoprio, at the 1938 British Ladies Championship at Burnham and Berrow, Somerset. She prepared well, qualified after the stroke-play rounds, had a first-round bye and was drawn to play Wain Winter, a member of a South African ladies team that was touring Britain. Among those who watched the match was Bernard Darwin, the leading golf writer of the day.
“Another South African, Miss Wain Winter, was beaten by Miss Gloria Minoprio, and there is something pathetic in travelling so far to be beaten by a player with one club,” Darwin wrote for The Times. “All possible praise, however, is due to Miss Minoprio. Her mono-cleek and putter juggling act has lost something of novelty and as a rule she finds her self-imposed handicap too great, but this time she gave a remarkable exhibition of strategic and skilful play.
“Miss Winter has a fine free-flowing swing. When she reached the foot of the green at the long fourth in two, it seemed that the writing was on the wall for Miss Minoprio, since these distances were beyond her. In fact, Miss Winter was two up on the fifth. But Miss Minoprio proceeded to play very well. Her adversary began to feel the strain. Miss Minoprio went on with an imperial and distracted air, playing one accurate shot after another, and keeping out of bunkers. She won by four and three.” In June 1939, Minoprio played in the last ladies championship before the outbreak of war, at Royal Portrush. She was beaten in the first round by Peggy Edwards, a young star from Lancashire, but had found a degree of friendship with the other players, who she entertained with conjuring tricks. Minoprio donated her cleek and outfit to the Ladies Golf Museum, who later donated them to the British Golf Museum in St Andrews. She never played again.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM…
Died in the London Clinic in 1935, aged 83. His executors discovered that much of the family fortune had ended up in the hands of Gavin and Minoprio, and threatened legal action. Counsel’s advice was that he had willingly given it all away. Weld was interred in the family vault beneath the chapel at Lulworth Castle.
Around the outset of the war, he and Minoprio separated. She later claimed that he had tried to kill her. He died in his flat in Gray’s Inn Road, London, in 1948 aged 81 with assets of less than a thousand pounds.
Once she had left Gavin and the money had run out, she spent part of the war with an elderly Hungarian named M J K Jakabos, producing cheese from sheep’s milk on a farm in Northamptonshire until Jakabos was interned. Minoprio subsequently married Stefan Godlewski, a Pole who had fought in the British Army. He changed his name to Caroll. He was a restaurant manager and she worked as a laundry mistress in hotels. All the Weld money was long gone. Minoprio contracted septicaemia and died in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1958, aged 50.
In the second of three parts, Sunday Times Sports correspondent Nick Pitt explores the enduring mystery of this lady golfer.
According to the only substantial interview she ever gave, Minoprio began golf when she was recovering from the Lulworth Castle fire. “During my convalescence I picked up an old cleek and started knocking a golf ball about,” she told the Sunday Express. “I found that I could use it in many ways that it was not adapted for.”
She was to receive a strange and expensive golfing education. The identity of her first teacher is not known. It may have been ‘Uncle’ Gavin, who had a keen interest in the game. His first wife, Margaret Gavin, from whom he had recently been divorced, was an England international who had three times been runner-up in the US Women’s Open.
Once Minoprio had the basics, she began to practise assiduously, hitting balls into a net erected on the roof of her flat at 169 Piccadilly. The roof area, which is reached by an iron fire-escape, is six floors up and on the Jermyn Street side of Piccadilly so it is quite possible, though unrecorded, that balls might have escaped the net and caused some consternation below.
She also made excursions to Ashdown Forest in Sussex where she played with Alf Padgham, a leading professional of the day. Padgham, who won the Open championship in 1936, once revealed that he had “played with Miss Minoprio a lot at Ashdown Forest”. It was said that their swings were remarkably similar.
Minoprio also took formal lessons from Jim Morris, the club professional at Huntercombe, Oxfordshire. When Minoprio presented herself at the professional’s shop, Morris was expecting her, for he had already had a visit from Gavin who had told him that his ‘niece’ had taken up golf and was anxious to improve. Morris was engaged at well above his usual rates to teach and play rounds with her, daily and for the duration of the summer.
Many years later, Morris remembered Gloria as “a good-looking woman”. He felt sorry for her because her uncle made her practise and play so much, and he thought them both crazy. “How could you get the ball to hold on a green like the seventeenth with only a cleek?” he muttered.
Over the summer of 1930, Gavin rented a cottage with the forbidding name of Bleak Villa. It adjoined what was then the fourth fairway at Huntercombe, so that as well as her daily rounds with Morris, Gloria could practise as much as she liked by playing the fourth and third holes, which ran in parallel.
But what she really needed was bunker practice. Even at this early stage in Minoprio’s golfing progress, we can be sure that she and Gavin were planning for her to play in championships and realised that her greatest problem would be escaping from bunkers on seaside courses with her straight-faced cleek. Gavin made a request to the club that the rough sand in the bunkers on the seventh and seventeenth holes be replaced by fine sea-sand, at his expense. He was turned down.
Undaunted, Gavin had a bunker built in the garden of Bleak Villa, and filled it with a lorry-load of sea-sand specially brought up from the coast. Morris recalled that he often used to see Minoprio in the garden, practising bunker shots with her cleek for hours on end.
But of course the peculiarities of links golf, and its differences from inland golf, are by no means limited to bunkers. Minoprio needed to graduate to links courses and if she was to enter championships she had to join a club.
Minoprio joined Littlestone Golf Club in Kent in 1931. The subscription was six guineas. She never entered the ladies clubhouse (and certainly not the main clubhouse, from which women were excluded); nor did she play any club or county competitions. Yet she was given a handicap of four, comfortably inside the limit of nine laid down by the Ladies Golf Union for participating in national championships.
Why Kent? Because by far the greatest number of links courses within easy reach of London were in the county, mostly within a 25-mile radius of Canterbury. Littlestone, an authentic and charming links course, was the perfect base.
Weld, whose money was funding Minoprio’s golf and lifestyle, as well as Gavin’s, used to visit them down in Kent. Minoprio and Weld were spotted one day in the summer of 1933 by Joan Lauchlan (née Tassell), a member of the Canterbury Club who had a single-figure handicap for thirty years.
“We were playing a ladies’ medal competition on a Tuesday,” Lauchlan recalled more than seventy years later. “My pair was first to tee off. As we came up the second hole, I noticed a car parked in a lay-by. As we went to the third tee, two people got out. There was an elderly man carrying a canvas bag, and a much younger, distinctive woman, who was tall and wearing a skirt. She strode towards the third tee. When we appeared, she saw us and started to walk away. Her companion went back to the car and she followed. They drove down the lane. We were walking down the third when I saw them again, on the fourth tee. She was about to tee off. But she must have realised we would soon be on the third green. She left the tee and went back to the car again. They drove off. A few weeks later, I saw her picture in the paper and realised I had seen Gloria Minoprio.” It was a glimpse of Minoprio shortly before she made her championship debut.
We now return to Westward Ho!, where Minoprio has made her dramatic entrance. Gavin, the orchestrator of the whole business, was present. He stayed at the same hotel as Minoprio and was probably the driver of the limousine in which she arrived.
Also on the links that day was their benefactor, Weld. He was staying at the Cliff Hotel in Ilfracombe from where he wrote Minoprio a letter:
I could not keep away from the scene of the action so I am mingling with the crowd tomorrow (with a false beard and a red wig). Drive as I love you and you will overdrive the green every hole from the tee. What a desolate looking swamp. The course is enough to give the champion the blues.
The letter reveals the depth of Weld’s infatuation as well as his limited knowledge of golf.
On the eve of the championship, doubtless under the direction of Gavin, Minoprio made her only visit to the ladies’ clubhouse and addressed her fellow-competitors with an impromptu speech in which she declared that she would indeed compete using only one club for all strokes, including putting. Greeted by stupefaction, Minoprio strode from the room. About trousers, she said not a word.
News of Miss Minoprio’s intentions soon spread to the golfing press. Ladies championships were assiduously covered in those days and every national daily paper and many regionals were represented.
Once Minoprio had teed off on the first, to applause, Nancy Halsted took her turn. She was a scratch player of high reputation and her drive, like Minoprio’s, found the centre of the fairway.
Minoprio’s approach was short of the green but Halsted, with a splendid brassie shot, found the green and she won the hole.
All those who ever played against Minoprio testified that the experience was unnerving. She never spoke and showed no emotion. She never looked to left or right as she walked. She would play a shot, observe the result dispassionately, walk on and repeat the process. But her etiquette was beyond reproach. She played strictly in turn and stood like a statue when opponents played their strokes.
Halsted was not overly distracted. On the second, Minoprio pulled her drive left into a small clump of sea-rushes. She lost that hole and the third as well. Against all expectation, Minoprio won the fourth hole despite going into a bunker.
By the fifteenth hole, Gloria was four down and when Halsted laid a putt dead it was over. Minoprio stepped forward, offered her gloved right hand and said, “Thank you”. They were the first words she had spoken since she said, “How do you do?” on the first tee. The limousine was on hand on a nearby track. Minoprio walked across to it, climbed in and was driven away.
Minoprio had lost a match but achieved a triumph in publicity. The papers were full of it. “Miss Gloria Minoprio opened a sensational new chapter in women’s golf,” ran the report in the Daily Express, which was typical. “She is the first player (either man or woman) to play in a championship round with one club only, and no woman has ever before defied convention by playing in trousers.”
The Ladies Golf Union was not amused. Their chairman issued a statement in which she “deplored any change from the traditional golfing attire”. At a meeting of the competitors, one veteran threatened to challenge Minoprio dressed in crinolines and a poke bonnet, or alternatively to play her using a full set of clubs, each to be used in strict rotation.
But some of Minoprio’s fellow-players supported her. “There was a furore over what she wore,” said Elizabeth Borradaile, née Powell-Williams. “But many of us thought she was awfully brave. She had a very nice swing and was a very good player. I admired her, and she made her name. But to choose Westward Ho! for her debut with one club was ridiculous.”
Minoprio and ‘Uncle’ Gavin left Westward Ho! for Porthcawl and further practice. Weld, who was unwittingly funding them, wrote again to Minoprio.
“It added five years to my life when I saw you get into those outrageous bunkers, though the way you got out of them would beat a champion armed with all the niblicks and spoons that were ever invented. What idiots those women were who took exception to your dress. I expect their annoyance was due to jealousy – I heard a woman in the crowd say “Hasn’t she a lovely figure!”
In the first of three parts, Sunday Times sports correspondent Nick Pitt unravels the enduring mystery of this lady golfer.
The opening episode in the weirdest and most mystifying episode in the history of championship golf unfolded on a bright autumn day in 1933 when Gloria Minoprio, hitherto unknown, caused a double sensation by competing with only one club and wearing what no lady golfer had ever worn in competition – trousers.
Henry Longhurst, the legendary writer and broadcaster, was an eye-witness. He had no doubt that history was made that day at Westward Ho! “Miss Gloria Minoprio will go down to posterity with an immortality that is denied to kings and bishops, generals and statesmen, as ‘the lady who played in trousers’,” he wrote.
In fact she turned out to be a passing comet. For six years, Minoprio competed in trousers and with her single club, only playing in championships and with limited success. She said hardly a word, but left behind a whiff of her times, a host of rumours and an enduring mystery. Who was she? Why did she do it? Was she really a magician and did she perform for the princes and maharajahs in India? And what became of her?
The truth is stranger and more scandalous than anyone, even Longhurst, could have imagined.
At four minutes past noon on Tuesday 3 October 1933, a limousine thundered down the lane that runs alongside the clubhouse of the Royal North Devon Golf Club at Westward Ho!. It rattled over a cattle-grid and swerved left in front of the hump-back bridge that leads on to the flat expanse of the links and beyond to the sea, and came to a halt in a swirl of dust. The back door swung open and a tall, dark-haired, 25-year-old woman emerged. She was carrying a cleek, a long-handled club equivalent to a modern one- or two-iron.
Her name was Gloria Minoprio.
Miss Minoprio began to walk in measured strides towards the first tee some two hundred yards away. A crowd had gathered around the first tee, and in the clubhouse members moved to the big window in the bar that overlooked the course. All eyes were turned to Miss Minoprio. She was expected.
The reason for such interest was hardly the occasion, which was a second-round match in the English Women’s Golf Championship, Miss G Minoprio (Littlestone) versus Miss N Halsted (Banstead Downs), scheduled for 12.05pm. Rather, it was curiosity. Before the championship, nobody had heard of Miss Minoprio. Yet mystery and notoriety had already attached themselves to her exotic name. A ridiculous rumour following the practice rounds had drawn the crowd: Miss Minoprio intended to attempt the perverse and near-impossible – she would compete using only a cleek for all her shots.
It was no wonder that Minoprio was unknown. She had never before played any golf competition, let alone a championship, and had only taken up the game three years earlier. But quite apart from her lack of competitive play and the madness of using only one club, she was about to administer an even greater shock. On the first tee, the next realisation began with a murmur. As Minoprio drew closer, this realisation took hold. Never mind trying to compete with one club; this was an absolute affront: the woman was wearing trousers.
So shocking was this trouser-realisation that nobody managed speech. Communication was mostly by elbow. Minoprio wore make-up, thick white powder and bright-red lipstick. As well as her trousers, she wore a scarlet, waist-length jacket, which she removed, handing it to her caddie.
Minoprio approached her opponent. She held out her gloved right hand and said, “How do you do?” Her caddie, a local fellow named Shangle Taylor, carried her jacket, and held a spare cleek (for use if the other one broke), a bag of balls, a yellow duster to polish Minoprio’s cleek between strokes, and a cone-shaped rubber contrivance on which her ball was to be teed up. This accessory was attached to a red silk tassel, to facilitate its retrieval.
It was Minoprio’s honour. She stepped forward and touched a spot on the ground with the blade of her cleek to indicate where she wanted the ball teed up for her opening drive. Her caddie set down the rubber contrivance and placed on it a new Silver King ball.
Now Minoprio had to swing her cleek and strike the ball well, and do it, for the first time, in public. Anything other than a good shot would bring ridicule. A stream ran across the first fairway some fifty yards from the tee. If she topped the ball, a watery humiliation was certain. Instead of a practice swing, Minoprio took her stance and waved her cleek back and forth in a swishing motion, fixing her eyes on the ball as if imparting a spell. At last she was satisfied. She then held the blade of the cleek still, just off the ground, behind the ball. Minoprio swung the cleek. If she had silently prayed for a good one, the prayer was answered. She held her position in perfect balance at the conclusion of her stroke, her head high as if looking out to sea, and watched the ball fly straight and far, well beyond the stream, to the centre of the fairway.
Thus with a triumphant stroke did Gloria Minoprio conclude her entrance at Westward Ho! and initiate her enduring mystery.
Before describing the rest of her round and her subsequent golfing career, let us immediately shine some light on some elements of the mystery. Dorothy Minoprio (‘Gloria’ was a later addition) was born into a family of Italian origin who were wealthy Liverpool merchants. Her father died from TB when she was a baby, her mother suffered a mental breakdown and she and her sister were brought up by a grandmother and two aunts near Hampton Court. It was an all-female household, which might be significant, for none of the men in her life were exactly suitable.
The first and most influential was William Gavin, a gentleman chancer and West End confidence trickster who employed Minoprio as a secretary when she completed finishing school in Paris. Gavin presented himself as Minoprio’s uncle. In fact, they were married in Paris in 1929, when she was 21 and he was 64.
Unravelling Gavin’s chequered business and affairs is close to impossible. Perhaps the best summary is provided by his entry in Who’s Who?. Submitted by himself, it was lengthy, impressive and almost entirely fictitious. Like many such rogues, Gavin had a powerful, winning personality and members of Minoprio’s family believed he exerted a Svengali-like control over her.
Gavin’s primary scam in the late 1920s involved the building of cheap housing for the masses using concrete. His chief backer – and dupe – was Herbert Weld, a member of one of England’s oldest and wealthiest Roman Catholic families. Very few houses were built, but over several years a fortune was transferred from Weld to Gavin and Minoprio.
Weld, who was the second substitute father-figure in Minoprio’s life, was the owner of Lulworth Castle, a magnificent 17th Century edifice in Dorset. An amiable but gullible man in his late seventies, Weld suffered two terrible blows as the 1920s came to a close. First, in December 1928, his wife, Theodora, died at the age of 27. Secondly, the following August, the castle was destroyed by fire. After his wife died, Weld employed Minoprio as his private secretary. She was staying at the castle when the fire broke out and made a dramatic escape from the flames. By that time, Weld had become besotted with Minoprio. He took her to the best London restaurants such as Quaglino’s and to dancing clubs; he even escorted her on a cruise and tour of Spain and France. And kept ignorant of the fact that she was already married to Gavin, he proposed to her.
Minoprio refused Weld’s hand in marriage but she did not decline his generosity. This included two gifts of shares in a Manchester brewery, which Minoprio and Gavin soon sold. The proceeds, in today’s values, were well in excess of £2 million and were used to fund Minoprio’s adventures in golf and magic and a lavish lifestyle for Gavin and Minoprio.
It was at this juncture, with Minoprio, aged 22, married to an old man pretending to be her uncle, and with a fortune donated by an even older admirer, that she took up golf.
Legendary bookseller Rhod McEwan gets closed out of the R&A’s corporate Open | Golf.com Posted Aug 1 2013
This is the worst Open Championship ever.
Oh, the Muirfield links is a delight, unless you’re allergic to airborne dust. The shotmaking has been excellent: lots of under-the-wind, bump-and-runny strokes on firm, fast fairways. Nothing wrong with the leaderboard, either. You’ve had Tiger, Phil, Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker, and Dustin Johnson, to name a few. But I knew this Open was a dud the minute I spotted Rhod McEwan sitting with his family on a patch of grass near the ninth fairway.
A slender, pale and bespectacled man with an inviting smile and a corona of sandy hair, McEwan is rarely seen in sunlight, and certainly not at an Open Championship. For years he has operated a corner bookstall in the Open’s giant merchandise tent, dispensing golf tomes to an international clientele. To read McEwan’s catalog or visit his antiquarian bookshop in Aberdeenshire is to recognize him as the game’s foremost bookman.
He broke the news to me as gently as he could: He’s not exhibiting this year.
Not believing him, I hustled across several fairways to the tented village and plunged into the big merchandise tent. In the far right corner, beyond slick displays of newly minted, brightly colored and appropriately licensed Open Championship sweaters, polo shirts, caps, balls and divot-repair tools was … nothing. The area where McEwan’s tall bookshelves and curio cabinets once stood is now a carpeted exit for merchandise-laden vict — er, customers.
I should have seen it coming. In the 1990s, before the Open fell into the hands of soulless corporations, the merchandise tent was a hive of untrammeled mercantilism. Local vendors and artists peddled stuff that might otherwise be seen only in a car-boot sale: hickory-shafted floor lamps, kangaroo-hide shag bags, knitted shawls, wool sport coats, golf periscopes, paintings of the Old Course at sunset, busts of Bobby Jones, cut-rate board games and, yes, books. The first time I wandered into McEwan’s bookstall I walked out with two copies of the 1950s classic, Out of the Bunker and Into the Trees — one for myself (a backup copy) and one for my SI colleague, Rick Reilly, who within minutes was laughing out loud in the press tent.
Everything changed in 2001, when the R&A handed operation of the tent over to International Management Group, Mark McCormack’s burgeoning sports and entertainment empire. IMG promptly hustled most of the small-time merchants out of the tent, promising the R&A that royalties on licensed Open merchandise would generate far more income. And, of course, IMG was right about that. That’s how the tent — rebranded as “The Open Store” — became dust-free, odor free, and congenial for corporate brands such as Rolex and Polo Ralph Lauren.
Somehow, McEwan retained his book-lined corner. If you wanted a first-edition Bernard Darwin, signed by the author, he had it. If you wanted a spanking-new copy of Dan Jenkins’s You Gotta Play Hurt, he had that, too — and if you were lucky, his own self would be there to sign it for you. (“Fairways and Greens, Dan Jenkins”.) All the prominent golf authors, from both sides of the Atlantic, signed books and held court at McEwan’s bookstall.
I don’t write this as a disinterested observer. I fondly recall signing sessions for my own books, including Tiger 2.0, Tour Tempo, and Ancestral Links. The typist to my right, Michael Bamberger, inscribed copies of To the Linksland and This Golfing Life. The cheeky lad to his right put his Alan Shipnuck on Bud, Sweat and Tees and The Battle for Augusta National. We were all humbled by the fact that we were signing at the Open Championship, surrounded by Rhod’s magnificent collection and tournament golf’s most magnificent challenge.
Gone, all gone. McEwan’s rent for the week was raised to the point that he could no longer operate at a modest profit. Understandably disappointed, he spent only a day or two at Muirfield before returning to his shop, where my humble output gets to share the shelves with the great (and not-so-great) chronicles of our crazy game.
The missing bookstall did not escape notice. Alex Micelli raised the subject with R&A secretary Peter Dawson at a Wednesday press conference. “Back in the day,” Alex said in his preface, “it wasn’t a merchandise tent, it was a golf show.” And Alex wondered if the R&A might want to reconsider that development.
“Well, I think you’re right,” Dawson replied. “We have lost a certain charm of the marketplace — the soul, if you like — of historical artifacts and things.” But the secretary reminded Alex that the Open “had to be” — those were his exact words — a financial success to keep up with the other majors.
“All of the majors, especially in the United States, make a good deal of profit from merchandising. We were not doing that, and so it’s natural that we would try to put in a merchandising option, which we have done, and it is generally very popular,” etc., etc. Dawson held out a slim hope that golf’s heritage might get more space at some future Open, “although that might not involve going back to exactly what we had before.”
And so it goes. When I left McEwan yesterday, he was keeping to the shade of one of those big white tents. It was the wrong side of the canvas for a bookman.
Lousy Open, don’t you think?
by John Garrity golf.com
Being asked by my friend Rhod to write a few words for his forthcoming web page is a pleasure especially as, after counting up, being a Professional Golfer for 51 years, people tend to have forgotten you!! My playing days took me to 58 countries and I can honestly say every week was a great adventure, not always profitable but the thrill of competing was ever present.
My golfing life started slowly in 1960, I remember watching Kel Nagle win The Open from Arnold Palmer on TV. I was 13 and not very interested in football, rugby or cricket, but anything with a handle seemed to appeal and school was way down the list. I’ve always thought of myself as a professional because from the start I got paid 3/6 for caddying at the Swinton Park Golf Club, near Manchester, for Mr. Tom Scholes. I never realised how far 18 holes of golf is nor how heavy that golf bag would be, coming up the 18th fairway. The clubhouse looked like a palace! Anyway 3/6 was not to be sniffed at and basically that was me hooked for life.
I made friends with the other caddies and some of us practised round the back of the caddy shed when the Members weren’t watching, Jimmy Wilson, Barry Nichols, Colin Smith and Dave Bentham. Dave was older than us and was already a Junior Member. We all saved our caddy fees and bought our first clubs, mostly hickory shafted with the old leather or suede grips from the Professional Alan Gillies. He was a great guy, a very good player and an enormous hitter of the ball, winning many long driving competitions, so we were always trying to copy his style and method. We joined the club as junior members for one Guinea, wow, we thought that a fortune which in those days it was!
Now this is where ‘old man fate’ takes a hand. We were five young ‘rising stars’, but only four balls were allowed on the course; because I lived in a different part of town I became the odd man out, so I practised. Now looking back, all those hours on the practice area made me into the golfer I was to become. The area wasn’t very long so I practised the wedge mostly, not realising at the time how important the wedge was or would become. Fate, luck, call it what you will but being the odd man out got me well and truly started into the game.
Young keen golfers read all the golfing magazines and any available books to try and improve their games. I came across an article in the Golf World written by my now friend John Jacobs, the famous Ryder Cup player and world famous coach. He said “any young player wanting to improve should go to this year’s Open Championship and watch someone of similar stature”. Well, in 1963, it was at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s, less than two hours away, so persuading my dear Dad to take me, I chose the great Australian Peter Thomson. Mr Thomson had already won the Claret Jug four times so I thought he could teach me a thing or two! I was not disappointed. ATTITUDE, always stay calm, take everything on the chin and above all NEVER GIVE UP. He chipped and putted beautifully so there was another tip, learn everything I could about CHIPPING and PUTTING. Last thing I learned on this wonderful day was that you don’t have to play a Driver from every par 4 or par 5 hole, the importance is to “keep the B……ball in play. “ Use the Brassie or Spoon, lose distance but KEEP the BALL IN PLAY!!!
Now that wasn’t a wasted day was it – even my Dad enjoyed it and got an insight into his son’s ambition, turning PRO! Yes!!!
The next big leap in learning came from playing in South Africa at Bloemfontein in 1968, when I was drawn to play with the legendary Mr Bobby Locke. He came to the tee immaculately dressed in grey plus fours, white hat & shoes, wearing a shirt and tie. The temperature was in the 90’s but he looked as cool as a cucumber, a Gentleman Golfer! I can honestly say from that moment my own game took on a totally different approach. He hooked everything, never pushed, never cut the ball, never sliced, a draw or hook all day long. Even his putting action seemed to deliver a right to left action. I was to shoot a 66 that day and Mr Locke spoke only four words to me all the way round, he said “good shot ” – twice! At the end of the game he came across, congratulated me and said “it’s 3.00pm and I always have a cup of tea at this time , would you care to join me “? Well, the first question I asked the great man was “why do you draw the ball as much as you do, cos you obviously do it for good reason?” Master, (he called everyone Master, like Max
Faulkner called everyone Governor, a mark of endearment you might say) my father taught me to play golf and he said it was a very difficult game, so to make it a little easier you double the hitting area”. Quite simply if you teach yourself to always hit a right to left shot you can aim 1 yard inside the right edge of any 30 yard fairway & produce a 28 yard hook, you would still be on the fairway!! Now, at that time I was trying to hit the ball straight, sometimes going a little left and sometimes a little right, and without realising it had cut my hitting area down to 14 yards either way. I’d made the game difficult. Mr Locke had twice the size to hit at providing his method always produced a hook or draw. So this method, if you approach the ball with a square club face, with an in-to-out swing path, was his secret, A RIGHT TO LEFT FLIGHT! Now many top professionals prefer to play left to right, it is your choice, but you now have a SAFE SHOT to play on the 18TH TEE. Hand on heart and hand on wallet STUFF!
That conversation changed my life, I went away with a fresh new picture in my mind and hit thousands and thousands of balls over the next 12 month. In 1969 I had 7 second places and finished the year 13th in the Order of Merit, all thanks to Mr Bobby Locke. I might also say that when he first went to America he won five out his first six tournaments. That also impressed me sufficiently to re-think my then present method.
I made the Ryder Cup Team twice and won three tournaments, became National Coach to four different countries and gave lessons to four world No 1’s, and I’ve had a very enjoyable life playing and teaching this great Game of Golf.
A tremendous amount of THANKS must go to Mr John Jacobs for the first vital information and much more to follow, Mr Peter Thomson for ATTITUDE and COURSE MANAGEMENT, CHIPPING and PUTTING, and to Mr Bobby Locke for The Method.
So many people have helped me on my way and I try hard every day to give back to those who want to learn. It is a helluva game and all we ask is to hit “that well struck ball once in a while !!”.
Golf magazine was first published 125 years ago. It seems appropriate, while celebrating my own launch, that I quote Golf magazine’s short editorial to their first issue in 1890.
Surely no apology is necessary for bringing before the public a weekly journal devoted to the doings and sayings of golfers, both past and present. The extension of what has been justly termed the National Game of Scotland has made such rapid strides in the last few years, that there is hardly a place of any notoriety in the British Islands, and in India and many of the Colonies, that does not boast of its Golfing Green, either in its immediate vicinity, or, within easy reach; and yet, although it is a game in which more interest is taken than in any other pastime, with the exception perhaps of Cricket and Football, there is at present no journal in existence which makes the “Royal and Ancient” and now popular Game its principal subject of attention.
Our object is to supply this great want. As we cannot possibly clash with any other interest, and as we have been promised the support of many of the “learned and witty” of our golfing brethren, we boldly and unhesitatingly launch our “bonny bark” on that “happy sea” which is now crowded by sailors whose distinguishing feature has been, and we trust may long continue to be, that of “GOOD FELLOWSHIP”.