This is a transcription of a conversation Kay had with Liz Borrow and Graham Lawrence on 23 January 2006.
We used to live in Waterlooville and played tennis. We always played some form of sport. My husband, George, and I bought a piece of land at Soberton in 1958. It took two years to organise everything and get the house built. During this time we spent our weekends in a caravan for fun. We got to know the Meon Valley, its people, members of the golf club and we were asked by several members if we played golf. I said I didn’t but George said he’d played once as a boy at Rowlands Castle. Frank Lindley, the secretary, asked George if he’d like to come up to the club and have a round one Sunday. So George went up and had a good round with Frank who asked if George would like to play on the following Sunday, which he did and nearly beat Frank. Frank said “Well done” to George, quickly followed by “Your handicap’s 18”. Handicaps were given on observation then. This was in about 1961.
I had to learn to play. George was a natural, he’d never had a lesson in his life. I had to learn every mortal thing. In the beginning there was no pro at Corhampton so Bert Dedman would come over from Winchester to give us lessons. I would also go to Winchester for extra lessons mainly because I was influenced by ‘Babe’ McNeil (she was a Silvester). She was a good player and encouraged me to have more lessons. Both her and her husband ‘Mac’ were good players. They used to take their dog round the course. The dog was called ‘Smudge’ and it would sit as quiet as anything when they teed off. You could take your dog round then. Later on I went to Pat Roberts at Rowlands Castle for lessons. He told me I’d never improve my handicap because my grip was all wrong. I also went to Southampton Municipal for a couple of lessons with the pro called Mason. Once I’d got my grip right I got down to 18.
When I joined there were about 25 ladies. When I was captain in 1969 there were forty ladies. It took me quite a long time to get a handicap but when I did, because there weren’t many ladies, I would get put into one of the teams. George played in a lot of matches. He got down to a 14 handicap. We weren’t limited to when we could play but we were decent types so we let the men play on Sunday mornings as they’d been working all week and the ladies would play their medal competitions on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
You stepped into the old club house and the bar was over to the left. The ladies room on the right of the door was about eight foot square with an Elsan toilet and little dressing table and a mirror. There was a water pump outside. In the main room of the clubhouse was a notice board, a box with cards in, another box for money. We used to play dominoes, cards and bingo in the clubhouse. When the last people left the clubhouse in the evening they had to jump over the door mat under which was a burglar alarm connected to Droxford police.
When I was asked to go on the committee in 1964, there was Eileen Banting who was secretary and Elizabeth West who was captain but we didn’t see much of her. We seemed to have lots of meetings without her for some reason. There was Jessy Lutman. Elizabeth West was very particular and exacting but helpful. She used to criticise the state of the ladies room because she thought it was not up to standard and we should have something better. I used to play with her daughter, Peggy, in the Knight Cup where we went round the county playing people in different clubs. I can still remember the exact spot at Winchester where we lost. We played well together, she was short about 14 and I was long. I always enjoyed playing with people, but particularly when I was playing with someone, male or female, who was much better than me. When I played with a better golfer it would bring out my best golf. I used to play my brother, George Michael Baker, who played off 10 at one time. He was a member at Waterlooville and Corhampton.
I played in mixed matches. I recently played with Mike Goodall in the mixed competitions. He used to play with Denham Jones who was a very good player. George used to play with Mike’s father, Len. There was a Sunday morning gang consisting of Fred Banting, Frank Lindley, Bob Linnell, Len Goodall, and A G P Lewis. I remember playing with Fred Banting at Salterns where there were lots of gullies where the water ran down. He put me in one of these gullies with about six inches of water in it. They thought I was quite crazy but I took a club and got the ball out. Those events were very social, one big laugh really. When we were visited by teams from Alresford and Waterlooville they always stayed after the matches and socialised. They felt they were part of us.
As a nine-hole course it was kept in good shape by Reggie Reeves and another person. The greens were much smaller. They used a gang mower to cut the fairways. I remember the third. It was all grown over. It was petrifying. If you did not get through the small gap in the trees you ended up in the bushes. It was only a par 3 then, not right back where it is now.. I used my faithful four wood to get to the green. I didn’t have a five wood until later on when they were introduced. My first set of clubs, a half set, cost £7.50. I bought them from Dedman. They were in a cream bag. I used a trolley. I wore slacks to play in. I was one of the first ladies to play in slacks that finished just below the knee. We had to wear men’s waterproofs because ladies’ versions weren’t available.
I was assistant secretary of the ladies section for years. I was assistant to Peggy Fletcher and one year when she was ill I took over from her. I did twelve years on the ladies committee. If we wanted Daphne Jacobs and Eileen Banting to play I had to pick them up. Daphne Jacobs lived in the middle of Meonstoke and would cycle up that long hill to the golf club. Eileen Junqua proposed me for captain. There were two sets of ladies tees, red for medal play and blue for tee of the day. We used to get confused because if we played off the blue tee in a medal we had to take three off the tee and play from the red tee.
We had some very good lady golfers, Eileen Banting, Peggy Linnell, Pat Jones, Norah Wilson to name but a few. Norah got down to a 5 handicap. They used to hold Open Meetings for outsiders to play the course. Usually they were very well attended but if they were short of players they asked the members to make up the numbers. They didn’t have grandiose prizes for these events.
Kay Smith, Lillian Dovey, Liz Ralls, 1983
Kay Smith on the first tee in 1963
When I was Captain, in 1969, I gave a putter for the first prize, a handbag for the second prize and a box of chocolates for the best long handicapper. For my captain’s day I shared it with the men’s captain. There were 80 men and 40 ladies playing during the day. It was a lovely day. We all had a tea together. The captain, Peter Dacombe, gave a prize for the ladies. I wore the safari dress I’d had made for me in Kenya. It was ideal for golf as it had no fitted waste. I wore it for years. There were not extravagant prizes for competitions in those days. I remember playing Highpost in an Open Meeting. First prize was a dozen golf balls, second prize was six and third was three. When you finished your captaincy you introduced your successor to the Society of Hampshire Lady Captains.
In the late sixties there was talk of buying the land to the south of the club including that farm. On the committee at the time were Alec Newbury, Dennis Pink, my George, Peter Dacombe and Frank Lindley. The land was for offer at about £19,500. The committee were all petrified they would not be able to raise the money. In those days it was very difficult to borrow money, unlike today. The clubhouse and course had to be improved from being nine holes, but, without borrowing money, it would be impossible. George was a surveyor and an estate agent so he knew about the value of land, its potential and the necessity to borrow money to invest. The land was not bought and many members were disappointed at a possible lost opportunity.
I went to several of the annual dances which were held in the Curzon Rooms in Waterlooville. They were quite well attended with additional support from members of Waterlooville Golf Club. I remember when I was Ladies Captain I had a green dress made and a pair of satin shoes dyed green to match the dress. We all dressed in our finery. The men wore dinner suits. There were a few speeches and sometimes the secretary would say a few words. I went to them for quite a while but eventually got fed up because my George didn’t dance and the noise got louder. I couldn’t hear him speak across the table so I told George I’d go back to them again when I was ninety.
When the new clubhouse was built we didn’t do the same things as we did in the old clubhouse like playing card games and dominoes. I think we went upmarket. Many new members joined and we’d left behind the cosy atmosphere of the old clubhouse.
In 1975 just after the course had 18 holes Beryl Green, the County Advisor came to play the course and assess the Standard Scratch score for the course. Peggy Fletcher, the ladies secretary, and myself, the assistant secretary, walked with her. Beryl had a tape recorder which was quite a novelty in those days. High tech has moved on since then . Coming up the eighteenth she had a second shot to try and pick it in two but fell just short. She laughed and said when the course settles down it should become a par 4 but it never did.
Before the bungalow was built there was a huge outcry about the cost of it. Ron Crockford was the first occupier of the bungalow. He was a lovely person and was always encouraging the ladies to play. He was very good with his irons.
We played the course backwards once when Bob Harvey was the captain. It was a hoot.