'Golf helped me to recover my health'
Earlier this year, Jane Britton became the Ladies Champion of the UK National Public Course Championship.
She scored an impressive 40 points during the stableford competition on the Eden course at St Andrews, where many of her competitors had far more golfing experience.
Jane told me how after taking up golf only three years ago, she really got into the game while she was recovering from pneumonia…
Congratulations on becoming the Public Course Ladies Champion. How did it feel?
It was brilliant. I went up there as a reserve so I didn’t really expect to win it to be honest. But I was very excited.
I guess as it was a stableford competition, it wasn’t as difficult as some of the other formats but it was still tough.
A lot of it is a mental thing. We were out there for over five hours, which is a very long time to try and keep your mind completely focused.
What was it like playing at St Andrews?
It was an absolutely amazing experience.
It was perhaps even more special because the old course was in the throws of being done up with the leaderboards, grandstands and TV towers for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. So it was an exciting place to be competing.
It’s a very different experience when you’re playing with referees, marshals and with people calling out your name and things. I enjoyed it though.
Did that make you feel more nervous?
I used to be quite a high-level squash player, so I guess I’m lucky in that I’m quite used to playing big events. I’m not too bothered by people calling my name out and things like that. It’s also nice having a caddy because it feels like you have a mate with you.
The girl who won the competition last year was off six and she was playing in it this year as well. So I never really thought that I had a chance of getting near anyone like that.
I guess it was quite an unusual result really.
How did you first get into golf?
I first got the bug about three years ago, but then last year I fell ill with pneumonia.
After that I couldn’t really do anything that involved running around. I played a lot of tennis after I stopped playing squash but I had to give that up too.
But I found that I could just about play golf and walk around with a trolley. I just couldn’t run because my lungs and ribs hurt all the time.
Once the infection was gone I spent a lot of time playing golf and I improved quite a bit actually in a short space of time.
Do you think that golf helped you recover from your illness?
Yes, because it provided a nice environment in which I could improve my health. I was out in the fresh air walking around and I was still able to play a sport that I enjoyed.
Is your club very friendly?
Wimbledon Common is probably the friendliest club that you could hope to find and it’s a really social club.
They were very good to me when I was learning. Once you get a handicap or a reasonably realistic handicap, then you are accepted very quickly. There’s always lots of people who are willing to play with you.
The unusual thing about our club is that the men allow the women to integrate with them in a lot of the competitions.
This works really well. It gave me a good opportunity to get used to playing with good players so I’m not really frightened of that now.
You now have 80 lady members at Wimbledon Common, are they a mix of ages?
As we are on a common it’s hard to have many juniors because we can’t just send them out to practice because they need to be in a safe environment.
We tend to have members who are aged from their mid-twenties upwards. Our club president is over 100, I think he’s the oldest president in the country.
I’ve made lots of very good friends at the club. They are always very welcoming and supportive. When I won this event, I couldn’t believe how many texts and emails I got.
What do you enjoy about golf?
I like that you can play it as a team game but also be in competition with yourself.
You can play with people who are much better or worse than you, and even if you lose a match you can still recognise that you played quite well for your handicap.
You can always find a positive in everything you do. My goodness the camaraderie in the team when we play together is fantastic.
Does golf fit into your life easily?
I run a business, captain a tennis team and I’m also vice captain of the golf club, so it is busy at times.
But I take on these roles because I like to give something back to the sports that have given me so much. Sport has been a massive part of my life. I’ve always captained events and teams because I want to give back some of what I’ve got out of it.
Do you think golf is old fashioned?
I think it’s more modern than my perception of it was when I first started playing.
But I went to one club recently where I wasn’t allowed to change my shoes in the car park, which seemed crazy to me.
Our club is certainly not in the dark ages and we are very forward thinking. The old rules don’t apply and we can change our shoes wherever we like.
I think golf has to develop as a sport. One of the biggest problems is that is takes such a long time, so it’s difficult for young people, or for people with young children, to commit to it.