History of WGM
Time Line of Events and Championships
||Minutes of the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club describe the prizes they put up for competition between the local fishwives. They were a new creel and skull (fishing basket) , and Barcelona Silk handkerchiefs.
||Mrs Wolfe-Murray of Cringlettie appeared regularly on the St Andrew Links with two clubs, and, it is said she was "totally indifferent to the unsolicited opinions gratuitously expressed, she thoroughly enjoyed her game"
The Ladies started a club to play over the Putting Green of St Andrews.
The Ladies Golf Union was founded in 1893. Issette Pearson's vision and drive were instrumental in
starting the LGU off, and the effort that she and other early women
golfers put into the organisation made it the envy of the golfing
The LGU organised the
first British Championship in 1893 at Royal Lytham St Anne's. Lady
Margaret Scott won the first three Championships.
British Ladies Championship at Littlestone
The early Championships
were played on short “Ladies courses”, but by the turn of the
century, the Championship was played on men's links.
The LGU system of
Scratch Score and Handicapping started.
The first International
match was played between Ireland and England after the 1895
Championship at Royal Portrush.
County Golf started.
International Matches between the four Home Nations started.
An unofficial match between England and the USA occurred before the 1905 British Championship at Cromer.
The guttie ball was replaced by the Haskell rubber-cored ball, which was livelier and went further.
Irish golfers May Hezlet and Rhona Adair won the British Championship five times between them
British Ladies Championship at St Andrews (won by Maud Titterton) Account of semi-final and final
Dorothy Campbell became the first woman to hold the British and American Championships
in the same year.
The Championship final
increased from 18 to 36 holes in 1913.
The dynamic and
hard-hitting Cecil Leitch played her first Championship in
1908, and was always considered the favourite, but only won her first
British title in 1914 at Hunstanton.
The Great War
intervened, and golf was put in abeyance. Many women golfers became
volunteers for the war effort.
Cecil Leitch continued where she left off... winning the British Championship in
1920 and 1921, and for a fourth time in 1926. Joyce Wethered was Cecil's greatest rival and between them they fought several of
the greatest golf games ever played by women. Joyce won the
Championship four times in the 1920s. These two players largely
inspired a considerable advancement in the quality of the golf
played. The 'boom' the game enjoyed provided steadily increasing
fields and more strenuous competition.
Champions were getting
younger. In 1927 the sum of the combined ages of the four
semi-finalists was less than that of the male referee in the final.
With the improvement in
travel, more foreign players came to play, and two French ladies,
The hickory shaft was
replaced by the steel shaft.
A 36 hole medal
qualifying test for 64 match-play places was introduced at the start
of the British Championship. The British Championship was
unquestionably the most coveted title during this era. Besides
attracting the leading players from the Commonwealth countries, it
drew the cream of Americans and Continentals.
A match between Great
Britain and France for the Vagliano Trophy was introduced in 1931.
The Curtis Cup started
in 1932. The first match was at Wentworth, between teams captained
by Joyce Wethered and Marion Hollings. The Americans won by 5½
The charismatic Miss Pamela Barton was runner-up in the British Championship in
1934 and 1935 and eventually won at Southport in 1936. That year she
also won the American Championship. She won the British again in
1939. Shortly afterwards all serious golf was abandoned because of
the war. Pam joined the WAAF and was tragically killed in an
aeroplane accident in 1943.
The period after the
Second World War was one of austerity. Food, clothing and petrol
were still rationed into the 50s, and so travel and golf were
curtailed. It took some time to build up to the standard that had
been the 1930s.
The 1947 British
Championship went to America for the first time. “Babe”
Zaharias won at Gullane, her prodigious power enabling her to
smash through the field with ease.
The Curtis Cup matches
resumed in 1948 and a member of the American team, Louise Suggs,
after a 36-hole struggle against Scotland's Jean Donald, brought off
the double by taking the British trophy back to the USA.
The Vagliano Trophy
match against France resumed in 1947 and a similar match for the
Wallace-Williamson Trophy was started against Belgium in 1949, when
the two matches became biennial.
The Vicomtesse de Saint
Sauveur (nee Vagliano and now Lally Segard) won the British at
Royal County Down in 1950. She had won the British Girls before the
war in 1937 and would go on to hold every championship of any
consequence in Europe.
Another to have come
through the war without losing any of her sparkling form was Jessie
Valentine. As Jessie Anderson she had won the British Girls in
1933, the British Ladies in 1937, and then with her married name she
added to her tally by winning the British Ladies again in 1955 and
1958. She had 7 Curtis Cup caps between 1936 and 1958.
Elizabeth Price and
Frances “Bunty” Smith were other stalwarts of the Curtis Cup team
in this decade, amassing six caps apiece.
Lady Astor was the
President of the LGU from 1939 to 1960. In 1959 she and the LGU
presented a trophy, then called the Commonwealth Trophy (now the
Astor Trophy) for a team competition held once every four years
between Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and South
In 1959 the Vagliano
Trophy became a biennial match between GB&I and the Continent of
Mrs Marley Spearman did not play golf until after she was married, and yet she went on to
win the British Championship twice in the early 60s, and play in the
Curtis Cup team three times.
Another prolific Curtis
Cup player of that era was Angela Bonallack, who played six
times in a row between 1956 and 1966, and was asked again in 1974 but
The Womens' World Team
Championship for the Espirito Santo Trophy started in France in
1964, ably organised by Lally Segard. The trophy was won by
the home team of Catherine Lacoste, Brigitte Varangot and Claudine
Cros, captained by the same Lally Segard.
Belle Robertson and Mary McKenna were two of the outstanding players of the
1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It's hard to know which decade to put them
into! Belle earned six Curtis Cup caps between 1960 and 1986,
while Mary has a record NINE caps between 1970 and 1986.
The LGU had been
running a British Ladies Amateur Stroke Play Championship, and in
1976 they opened it to both amateur and professional golfers, and
renamed it The Ladies British Open Championship, Miss Jenny
Lee-Smith, playing as an amateur, won the first tournament in this
format at Fulford, York, with a score of 299. Since then the
Championship has had title sponsorship from Colgate-Palmolive,
Weetabix and Ricoh. There have been many famous winners and it has
become one of the “Majors” on the womens' world professional
In 1984 a young,
prodigious hitter, called Laura Davies played in the GB&I
Curtis Cup side at Muirfield. She did not last in the amateur ranks
for long, but her record in professional golf is second to none.
She has recently been honoured by the Queen with a Dame-hood, and
is one of the first cohort of seven lady honorary members of the R&A.
1986 was an important
year for GB&I in Curtis Cup terms as it was the first time that
our GB&I side won in America. They beat the USA by 13 matches to
5 at Prairie Dunes, Kansas. Not only was it the first time for the
Curtis Cup GB&I side, it was the first time that ANY GB&I
side (i.e. Ryder, Walker or Curtis teams) had won. Our current LGU
President, Diane Bailey, was Captain of that team, and Belle
Robertson and Mary McKenna were unbeaten foursomes
||1986 saw the start of
fortunes changing for the GB&I Curtis Cup side, and they won five
times out of six between 1986 and 1996. Two of the outstanding
golfers of that period were Julie Hall (now Otto) and Catriona
Lambert (now Matthew). Julie played five times in a row between 1988 and 1996 and
Catriona played three times from 1990 to 1994. Julie won the
British title in 1990 and 1995 and Catriona won it in 1993. Julie
went on to work for the LGU and then on Rules with the R&A. She
is now a teaching professional at Elie. Catriona turned
professional and has had an illustrious career, including winning our
Ricoh Womens British Open in 2009, and being awarded several Solheim
Cup caps, although she is unlikely to break the record of 12 held
by Laura Davies.
The Millennium British
Championship was won by Rebecca Hudson, who went on to win it
again in 2002. She played in three Curtis Cups and turned
professional after the third. She has had a successful career on the
Ladies European Tour. Rebecca was the only GB&I player to win
the British in this decade. Five Spaniards and three Swedes took the
title on the eight other occasions.
The standard of amateur
golf has improved dramatically in the last twenty years. The
strength in depth of European players is outstanding. The result of
a Vagliano Trophy match, which was a foregone conclusion a few years
ago, now has a doubtful outcome. GB&I won every match bar two up
until 1993. Since then they have only won twice, in 2003 at Co Louth
and 2005 at Chantilly.
It can be said that it
is more difficult to win a Vagliano match against Europe than it is
to win against the Americans.
Changes to the
administrative structure of the LGU took place in 2010. Now an
Executive Council of seven, made up of a Chairman, one representative
from each country, and two individuals appointed for their skills and
experience, assume responsibility for safeguarding the assets of the
LGU. At the same time, operational activities transferred to a
subsidiary company LGU Championships Ltd (LGUCL) . The LGU
Councillors also serve as directors on the Board of LGUCL.
The present decade
started with a bang as far as the British Championship goes....
British players, Kelly Tidy, Lauren Taylor, Stephanie Meadow and Georgia Hall won the title four years in a row from 2010
GB&I won the Astor
Trophy in 2011 at Fairhaven.
The 2012 Curtis Cup Team pulled off a
remarkable victory at Nairn when they came from behind to win 10½
matches to 9½; the first time that the home side had won since