The perfect day
Well, what a brilliant day for women’s golf. A perfect venue, perfect weather, and if you’re British, a perfect result.
Royal Lytham & St Annes really couldn’t have provided a better stage for the event. On some courses, the practice ground is an onerous trek away. At Lytham, it is in the centre of the main concourse. With no grandstands to distance you from the players, you could stand a few yards behind individuals as they went through a variety of warm up routines – stretching with ropes and bands, swinging weighted sticks, pitching with the left arm only, followed by the right, and hitting balls with gloves under both armpits. If you are ever short of ideas how to warm up, it is fascinating to watch how the other half do it.
Part of me was tempted to join the large group of spectators who had availed themselves of prime spots lounging on bean bags in front of a giant TV screen, especially as they were adjacent to the ice cream stands and drinks. However, sitting in the stands behind the 1st tee had its own rewards. Whilst it is unusual to start with a par 3, it was nice to be involved with the action throughout the hole. So, having watched Catriona Matthew tee off, I also had the pleasure of seeing her hole out for a 2 without moving a muscle.
So proud was I of my new vantage point, I remained there for another hour, revelling in the atmosphere and the wonderful sight of so many people at a ladies’ event. For a links course, Lytham is relatively flat, so as far as the eye could see there were people four and five deep lining the fairways, which was quite uplifting – as was the sight of so many young girls watching proceedings.
After the last players teed off, I emerged from my suntrap looking as though I had spent a week in the Mediterranean, but before I ventured out onto the course, I indulged in a spot of retail therapy. Despite a wardrobe bursting at the seams, I can’t resist a bargain, so duly added another top to my collection!
Free lessons for spectators at these events are nothing new, but it was lovely to see the women pros doing all the teaching. Men, women and children were lining up to avail themselves of the offer, but I bypassed the queues and headed for the 6 hole putting challenge instead. Alas, I failed miserably to beat my friend, so thought I would reap my revenge on the giant darts board. Velcro covered balls were pitched at the sticky board, where I kept narrowly missing treble 20 and hit the 1 instead!
It was extremely entertaining, and I am now looking at ways to recreate it back home. Or at least, it was entertaining until I lost there as well, so was desperate to find a long drive competition where I knew I couldn’t lose! Instead we found the golfing equivalent of a coconut shy, hitting chips and pitches to knock down boards. Another brilliant idea, and one which I am sure could be embellished for charity by posting the faces of the golf club board or committee to knock down.
As a golf tournament veteran, I have finally discovered the best position from which to view the action. Head for a tee and green in close proximity, and then stand just by the person holding the rope ready to create the exit for the players. From there you have uninterrupted views greenside, and as the walkway will be blocked off before the players leave to cross to the tee, you can amble over to the perfect position to watch the next shots since no-one else can cut across and spoil your view.
I actually sat on my stool immediately opposite the tee markers, and was fascinated from my waist high view of the players to appreciate the speed at which they turn through the ball, and how connected their arms and body are moving in sync – something which I am currently working on in my own swing. It is always good to have the specifics of what you have been told demonstrated perfectly by those who do it best.
My final hour of the denouement was spent at the side of the 18th green, torn between the approaching players and the giant TV screen covering the action behind. The excitement was building perceptibly as Georgia Hall and Pornanong Phatlum’s battle played out, until it was all but over on the 17th. I recalled how Georgia’s previous coach, Dan Frost, told me a number of years ago that he had someone very special, and that one day she would win a major. I considered letting him look over my lottery numbers to see if he thought there was any future potential in them!
It was a privilege to be there, witnessing the victory march onto the green, seeing the final putt drop and listening to the emotional speech from our new champion and national treasure.
Part of me thought, “The queen is dead, long live the queen”, but I couldn’t say it, because for me and my generation, the iconic Laura Davies is still the queen, and the day she finally hangs up her spikes, I shall dress in black and adopt a suitable period of mourning.
However, the next generation needs their own heroine – somebody more relevant, more current, to inspire them. And in Georgia, they have the perfect role model to do just that.