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Time Line of Events and Championships

1810 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. 
1855 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 world.

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, Mlle Simone Thion de la Chaume and Mlle Manette le Blan won the British Championship in 1927 and 1928 respectively.


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 to 3½

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 Africa.

In 1959 the Vagliano Trophy became a biennial match between GB&I and the Continent of Europe.


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 declined.

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 calendar.


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 partners.

1990s 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. An Executive Council of seven, made up of a Chairman, one representative from each country, and two individuals appointed for their skills and experience, assumed 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 served as directors on the Board of LGUCL.

In January 2017, the LGU merged with the R&A. The LGUCL Board moved into the R&A group of companies, and 7 other women joined other committees within the R&A, to bring the total to 15 women with committee places.

In May 2018 the R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter, with a view to encourage women girls and families into golf.

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 to 2013.

GB&I won the Astor Trophy in 2011 at Fairhaven.

The 2012 Curtis Cup Team. led by Tegwen Matthews 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 1996.

In 2016, Elaine Farqharson-Black Captained an second winning team this decade, when GB&I won the Curtis Cup at Dun Laoghaire, Ireland by 11.5 matches to 8.5.

In 2018, Geeorgia Hall won the Ricoh Womens British Open at Royal Lytham St Annes, and became the first woman to win the British Girls, Brritish Ladies and British Open.




  This page published by Gillian Kirkwood