Somerset Golf Union

History

Somerset Golf Union - the first 100 years

The Birth of the Union

Seven intrepid and farsighted gentlemen golfers met at the Castle Hotel in Taunton on March 21st 1907 at 2pm to form the Somerset Golf Union.  Mr T Holt of Burnham & Berrow proposed, “that a Golf Union for the County of Somerset be formed”; the proposal was seconded by Mr H J Andrews of Saltford.  Col Ricketts (Bath), Rev J Utten-Todd (Minehead), Capt Fox (Pickeridge), Mr G W Richardson (Weston-super-Mare) and Mr C H Alison (Burnham & Berrow) all voted in favour and the proposal was carried unanimously.

At a further meeting on May 2nd Mr W H Fowler was elected President.  Three other clubs, Bladud, Mid Somerset and Lansdown, joined the Union and a further two clubs, Clevedon and Portishead indicated they would be joining as soon as they had held a meeting to approve such an action. The “general Regulations” of the Union were agreed and published and covered such items as elected officers, meetings and subscriptions; many of those regulations, or slightly modified versions are still in existence today.  Clubs with less than 100 members were entitled to one representative on the Council, between 100 and 200 they were entitled to two and over 200 members they had three members on Council. A similar situation exists today with clubs with less than 300 members having two votes on Council and those with more than 300 have three votes. Subscriptions were set at one guinea for each entitled member on Council.

One guinea in 1907 would be the equivalent of £22.70 in 2007 – just as well subscriptions have not risen in line with inflation.

At the July meeting Mr Alison resigned as Secretary to take up an appointment in Ireland and he was instructed to invite Mr Heathcote to become Hon Sec or “to try and find an efficient substitute”. 

At the same meeting it was agreed to arrange matches with other counties, hold an individual championship with scratch and handicap prizes and an inter club match play championship.

After what seemed like a successful year the attendance at the first AGM was a big disappointment and the meeting was cancelled through lack of a quorum. Very cleverly the officers of the Union decided the meeting would subsequently be held at Burnham in April and would incorporate a medal round competition with a prize of £3 for the best scratch and handicap scores; not surprisingly this AGM was well attended.

It was agreed that a 3 day meeting would be held on Burnham Links in August 1908 and to invite the counties of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall to join in an inter-county competition.

A 36 hole individual medal round would be held on the first day with the inter-county matches played on the last two days.

Although South West Week records are not available prior to 1924 this was probably the catalyst for the current competition.

At the end of 1908 the Treasurer reported that the Union had a balance of just over £13.

During the next 5 years the Union developed competitive golf with fixtures arranged with Gloucester and Worcester.  Inter club competitions thrived and the winner of the individual 36 hole medal competition was officially called the Champion Golfer of Somerset.

A prominent member of the Union during the early days was Bob Riddell who joined the executive Committee in Feb 1909 and served for 30Bob Riddell years until war broke out for the second time in 1939. He was also an excellent golfer winning the County Championship three times and was the first winner of the West of England Championship. He went on to win the South West Counties Championship and played many matches for both the County and the South West teams. Bob became Secretary of Weston super Mare golf club in 1905 and remained in office for 40 years. Another stalwart in the early days was Col Ricketts who served as Vice President and appeared to chair most of the meetings but was never elected to the Presidency.

Membership however was stagnant and every effort to persuade unaffiliated clubs in Somerset to join the Union met with little success, in fact numbers were decreasing with Saltford resigning due to their finances not being “coleur de rose”.  At this point the desirability of continuing as a Union was debated with only six out of a possible thirty clubs being affiliated.  Officers were determined that the Union would continue and they agreed they would exert their personal influence to try and persuade more clubs to affiliate.

At the same time Long Ashton and Failand had requested to join Gloucester Golf Union although at the time they resided geographically in Somerset.  This matter was referred to the Golfing Union Committee but was still unresolved when war broke out and all Union activities were suspended.

Between the Wars

A meeting was held at Weston-super-Mare clubhouse on the 25th November 1920 to revive the Union. The meeting was chaired by Col Temple Cole and elected Mr T Holt as President. Each club was invited to nominate a member to the Executive Committee and send the appropriate numbers of Council members to a Council meeting to be held in Feb 1921. At the Council meeting Mr Holt was confirmed as President and Mr D W Smith as secretary – the Union was up and running. 

The Champion Golfer of Somerset and Champion Club competitions were to be played at Burnham links on May 4th and matches were arranged with Gloucestershire and Devon. A request to clubs for a donation of 2 guineas for the purchase of trophies for the Champion Golfer and Champion Club was met with a poor response and a further request for half a guinea per 100 members was made; since the trophies exist it must be assumed that this request had the desired effect. 

The accounts for 1924 show that the Union had a deficit of £4-3s-4½d that was owed to the Secretary/Treasurer, needlessly to say the accounts were unanimously adopted.

On the 8th December 1923 the President and 7 Executive members attended a meeting in Exeter to form the South Western Counties Golf Association. 

In 1924 Mr Buckley and Mr Riddell represented the Union at a meeting in Manchester to form the English Golf Union. 

At the next Executive meeting in March the Committee “Resolved that the Somerset Golf Union apply for affiliation to the English Golf Union forthwith and the Secretary be instructed to comply with the formalities necessary for such affiliation”. 

Of historical interest is that the meeting resolved to invite clubs to contribute 10/- for each 50 gentlemen member towards the Walker Cup expenses.

Dorset proposed that inter-county matches should be 8 a’side, singles only and all counties play in the same week on the same course, definitely the forerunner of South West Week. 

The executive were against such an idea and the Secretary was instructed to write and advise Dorset that “The charm of the matches as at present played is that the counties meet with each other in friendly rivalry spread over the golf season, without any meretricious idea of a league system being introduced”. 

A really strong rebuttal but eloquently stated, however the minutes clearly show that by 1928 the matches were all played in the same week at the same venue. 

Another controversial decision that was quickly rescinded was the resolution to hold the Champion Golfer of Somerset alternately at Burnham & Berrow and Weston-super-Mare.

Matches against Oxford and Cambridge Universities were played at Weston-super-Mare followed by dinner and a “Smoking Concert” at the Grand Atlantic Hotel. 

Thanks to the generosity of Weston members no expense accrued to the Union.

In 1927 the secretary advised the Executive meeting that Long Ashton, Failand and Knowle had not affiliated to the Union. 

The Union “Recommended, for the consideration of the South Western Counties Golf Association, that all clubs situated geographically in a county should belong to the Union of that County”. 

Not surprisingly all three clubs are still affiliated to Gloucestershire and Lansdown has also changed affiliation.

Other decisions made during this period were that players who qualified by birth could play in the County Championship but, unless affiliated to a club in Somerset, would only receive the replica cup. 

They also decided not to co-operate in promoting mixed matches at inter-county level.

In 1934 a new Scratch Score system was introduced but no further details are to be found in the Somerset Golf Union minute records. 

At the English Golf Union meeting several counties objected to the “exorbitant demands” for increased affiliation fees resulting in the increase being limited to 10/- from a previous fee of 5/-. 

The Union, obviously in excellent shape financially, agreed to pay the increase for all Somerset clubs.  In addition they agreed to waive the previous years affiliation fee for Saltford Golf Club who once again was in financial difficulties.

The dominant club during this period was Weston-super-Mare whose members won 8 County Championships consecutively and their star player was Stanley Dickinson who won 5 County Championships between 1921 and 1929 and three Weston-super-Mare Championships in 1927, 1928 and 1930. 

He was the Somerset Captain in 1930 and 1935 and Captain of Weston-super-Mare for four years between 1923 and 1929. 

He first played for Somerset at South West Week in 1927 and went on to make a further 74 appearances over the next twenty five years winning just over half of his matches.  He was elected President of the Union in 1948.

In 1935 the English Golf Union proposed, once again, to seek approval for an increase in affiliation fees at their Council meeting.  The Union were so strongly opposed to any increase they decided that, if necessary, they would secede from the English Golf Union. 

This battle to raise affiliation fees continued for the next two years before they were eventually increased.

In 1937 a scheme, clearly a forerunner of the current County Card system, to allow any player belonging to a club in the Union to play for one day on all courses on payment to the Union of 5/- was discussed and a decision deferred. 

Mr Buckley and Mr Bate were charged with discussing the system with Surrey and Devon who operated such a scheme and reporting back to the Executive. The scheme was rejected in 1938.

Mr Bate, the Union secretary, obtained £15 sponsorship from a local firm of printers and produced a ‘Handbook of Golf in Somerset’ that was universally accepted as the way forward for communicating information to other counties. 

The English Golf Union congratulated Mr Bate and recommended all Unions to produce a similar book.  It is refreshing to learn that even in the early days Somerset Golf Union was both innovative and forward thinking, a characteristic for which the current Union is well known.

Many golf clubs had artisan clubs and the question as to whether they should be allowed to play in the County Championship was discussed at considerable length.

Since competition conditions required players to be amateur members of clubs affiliated to the Union it was decided that they could not enter until the condition had been met or rescinded.  This clearly occurred at some future stage as our records show that artisans from Burnham & Berrow Golf Club went on to win the County Championship.

In 1939 the inter-county South West Week championships were held at Burnham & Berrow before golfing activity was once again suspended due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

After the war

At a special meeting at Burnham on the 8th December 1946, attended by 19 members representing 10 clubs, the Somerset Golf Union was “resuscitated”.  Mr W L Bate was elected President, Mr A T Laws Secretary, and the County Championship was arranged for April at Burnham.  Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire had also been revived and the South West Counties Championship was to be held in 1947 at Ferndown. The meeting agreed that it would be classified as a special meeting and all decisions would need to be ratified at the Annual General Meeting to be held in Feb 1947. Interestingly the following championship was initially arranged to be played at Bath, who had made major improvements to their course, but was relocated to Burnham because of difficulties in travelling all the way to Bath. The accounts showed £100 invested and £39 in the bank. Two of the 14 clubs affiliated to the Union could not afford to pay their subscriptions so the committee generously waived them and also paid their English Golf Union subscription.

The 1949 AGM agreed some fundamental propositions. The constitution would comprise those clubs located in Somerset or Bristol who wished to be affiliated and would conform to the Union’s rules. The qualification requirements for entering county events were laid down and remain much the same to this day. Artisan sections affiliated to clubs were considered to be affiliated to the Union and artisans with club handicaps would be allowed to enter competitions. A County Card scheme was discussed again but this time there was an air of optimism that it could be introduced with some minor restrictions at weekends.

Just before the outbreak of the war a young Neville Jutsum, also of Weston-super-Mare, burst on to the County scene winning the first of his 11 Championships in 1938.  His domination continued after the war with three straight championship wins until Jack Payne finally beat him. Jutsum won his last championship in 1969, 31 years after his first. Jutsum was not to know that his record of 11 wins would remain intact throughout the twentieth century finally being beaten in 2007 when England International Colin Edwards claimed his 12th Championship.

This was a golden era for golf at Weston-super-Mare as their members won, or tied, 17 of the first 20 championships after the war. Jutsum went on to captain the county on two occasions and Jack Payne represented England in the Home Internationals in 1950 and 1951. It was also Weston-super-Mare who, with the permission of the Union, instigated the County Junior Championship in 1951 that was won by W Meredith of Minehead the first three years.

By 1952 the forerunner of the County Card scheme, with 178 members, was providing most of the income of the Union and much discussion ensued about increasing the number of members to provide more income to the Union; these discussions continue to this day. The committee were sufficiently satisfied with this regular income that they allocated a sum of £60 for team expenses and accommodation at South West Week.

There was unrest amongst clubs that the County Championship and Champion Club was only played at Weston-super-Mare and Burnham & Berrow and a proposal at the Annual General Meeting of Council in 1958 to play at Saltford was approved by a small majority, interestingly it was subsequently changed back to Weston-super-Mare. However at the same time the committee instigated a handicap individual and team championship that would be played at each affiliated club in turn providing they had the facilities to stage the event; these are the current Presidents Trophy and Trounson Trophy.  Another attempt to include other clubs on the rota for the County Championship in 1959 and again in 1960 was defeated. Finally E M Trounson, at the third attempt, persuaded the Council to approve a resolution that the 1962 County Championship would be held at Bath Golf Club.

In 1953 George Irlam won the County Championship for the first time and subsequently on three more occasions. He won 16 club championships at Weston-super-Mare, 5 at Burnham & Berrow and the West of England Championship. He played 238 matches for Somerset at South West Week alone winning 138 and of course he played many other county matches during an illustrious career. He has also played more times than anyone else for South West Counties against the Midlands notching up 11 wins out of 34 appearances.

George also took an active interest in the administration of golf serving for many years on club committees and the Somerset Golf Union executive committee. He is the only person known to have been Captain of both Weston-super-Mare and Burnham & Berrow golf clubs; he was also captain of Somerset Golf Union and South West Counties. He was President of Weston-super-Mare on two occasions, and also President of Somerset Golf Union and South West Counties.

Mention must be made at this point of the Laws’ family, Thurlow Laws retired after 16 years as Hon Secretary and Treasurer of the Union to accept the position as President for 1963. His son Charles was immediately elected to the post relinquished by his father and served the Union for 7 years.

John Hill, after being county vice captain and captain turned his attention to promoting junior golf and his invaluable contribution laid the foundations for a thriving junior section feeding good golfers into the county teams.  He sponsored the Junior Championship with the J O M Hill cup in 1951 and followed with organising a Colts Championship in 1960. He became President in 1957 and was elected President of the EGU in 1968.  His son Tony joined the Executive Committee in 1967 and served for 30 years in many roles.

Tony Hill was an accomplished golfer winning four club championships at Burnham & Berrow and the County Championship in 1976.  He played over 100 matches at South West Week and also became County Captain and President.  He represented the Union on the EGU Council from 1967 until he was elected President of the EGU in 1990; 22 years after his father had been President. As a member of the R & A he has served on the Championship Committee and was Chairman of the Amateur Status Committee. A renowned referee he has officiated in 6 Open Championships and 4 US Masters plus many other championships around the world. Both Tony and his father have been outstanding ambassadors for Somerset Golf Union.

South West Week

Although there were some inter county matches before the South West Counties Golf Association was formed in 1924 there are precious few records, however since then meticulous records have been kept.  Somerset have had mixed fortunes with the Matchplay Championship throughout the years winning it 11 times during the first 40 years but only 3 times since with the 1997 victory being the first win in 33 years.  In 1924 the championship was played between Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset with teams of four; it was won by Devon.  In 1927 all six counties competed with teams of ten players using the same format that is played to this day.

Two Somerset players who have already been mentioned, Neville Jutsum and George Irlam, both played more than 200 matches and both recorded more than 100 victories.  In addition several players have recorded more than 50 victories including “Jock” Millar who was head greenkeeper at Burnham for many years and an artisan for much of his career.

Somerset Championships

In 1953 E M Trounson of Bath Golf Club provided a shield for an inter county handicap competition with teams of three all competing on the same day; Weston-super-Mare were the first winners and not surprisingly George Irlam was one of the first names on the trophy.  Later in 1970 the Presidents provided a trophy for the best individual score in the Trounson Trophy.  Clevedon Golf Club objected to the requirement that team members should hold a County Card since they had already paid their affiliation fee.  The result was that the Trounson Trophy would have that condition rescinded but the Presidents Trophy would be played on a different day and competitors would need to hold a County Card.  By 1975 the two competitions were realigned and the need for a County Card removed.  In 1983 the team size was increased to four.  In 1972 Len Fisher of Windwhistle Golf Club sponsored a cup for the highest placed visiting team in the Trounson Trophy. Today that trophy is awarded to the runner up in the Trounson Trophy.

The scratch foursomes competition, which was introduced in 1965, was won by Kinnersley and Pensabene of Enmore Park and is still competed for annually.  Similarly in 1983 a Seniors Championship was introduced with the first winner being once again by, a now somewhat older, Kinnersley.

A cup found at Weston-super-Mare was offered to the Union for an inter club handicap knockout competition but, with the agreement of Weston-super-Mare it was sold and the proceeds put towards the current Somerset Bowl.  The Bowl is competed for with teams of ten playing foursomes and the draw has traditionally been done at the Annual Dinner.  Many hours have been spent discussing Bowl venues and different methods have been used to determine them from tossing a coin to first out of the hat is the home club. Today the Bowl draw is still announced at the Dinner with neutral venues for all rounds.  In 2001, after much lobbying from the more mature members of the Union a Seniors Somerset Bowl was introduced with the same rules and format for golfers over the age of 55.

In 1983 the Union ruled that the 1.68’’ ball would be used in all competitions.

Suggestions that Category 1 golfers should not be allowed to play in the Trounson Trophy were firmly rejected but a scratch team knockout was gaining favour and in 2002 Taunton & Pickeridge Golf Club donated a crystal bowl for a new competition.  Teams of five play singles matchplay on a knock out basis with first winners being Tall Pines Golf Club who had joined the Union in 1991.  The trophy was finally won by Taunton & Pickeridge at the fifth attempt.

Also in 2002 a competition was held for the first time to find the Junior Champion Club with the winners, Bath Golf Club, representing Somerset at the English Golf Union Junior Champion Club competition.  Teams of four initially, but now reduced to three, could be made up of boys and girls under 18 years of age.  The growing junior golf scene resulted in the Union inaugurating an Under 14 Championship in 2004 for a Trophy donated by Charles Carr, a Past President and Secretary of the Union.  David Gregory, who was to win the Junior Order of Merit in 2007, was the first winner.  Finally in Centenary year a Mid Amateur Championship was held for the first time at Clevedon Golf Club and, although the number of entries was disappointing, it is expected to become a successful competition in the years ahead.  The Centenary President, Rick Metcalfe, presented a perpetual trophy of a beautiful Tantalus to be held by the winner.  Mark Wintersgill of Wells Golf Club is the first name on the Trophy.

Growth of the Union

Although the Union was formed by the six founder clubs, golf was also played at Clevedon, Wells and Enmore Park who joined later in the year.  The Mendip and Worlebury opened in 1908 and also became members of the Union.  Several clubs in the early days had artisan sections.  The Union remained at 11 clubs until joined by Windwhistle Golf Club in 1932 and a club formed at Vivary Park in 1966.  Golf had been played in Vivary Park since 1929 under the auspices of the local council as a pay and play course but many improvements have been made throughout the years.

In 1971 Fosseway opened as a 9 hole course followed in 1976 by Brean.  Many changes have been made to both courses but they still remain a challenge to golfers of all ability.

In 1985 Millfield public school opened a 9 hole course on the same land used for football, polo, cricket and athletics called Kingweston Golf Club and in the same year Entry Hill opened as a 9 hole course just a mile or so from the Bath Golf Club at Sham Castle.  Work started on Farrington Golf Club in 1989 and after some financial difficulties opened for play in 1993.

Throughout the 90s a further 13 golf clubs were opened and joined the Union such that at the turn of the century it comprised 31 clubs.  Long Sutton, Stockwood Vale, Tall Pines and Taunton Vale all opened in 1991 followed in 1992 by Isle of Wedmore and Mendip Spring.  In 1993 Oake Manor and Wheathill opened in the south of the county. Three 9 hole courses opened in 1994, one at Cannington agricultural college, one inside the racecourse at Wincanton and one just outside Clevedon at Tickenham.  Frome Golf Club opened in 1995 and the following year, after overcoming financial difficulties, a championship course designed by Brian Huggett opened at Orchardleigh.

In 1998 Somerset Golf Union launched its own web site on the internet thanks to the skill of John Gray of Stockwood Vale Golf Club.

Many changes have been made to improve and update the site by the current webmaster, Dennis Longden, but the basic structure John created exists to this day.

Champion of Champions

The History of Somerset Golf Union would not be complete without a record of the most successful golfers produced by this small county.

Brian Barnes was a member at Burnham & Berrow Golf Club and won the British Youths Championship in 1964 before turning professional.  His top finish in the Open was 5th in 1972 and he played in 6 Ryder Cups.  Jack Payne, Peter Green, David Haines, John Morgan, David Dixon and Lee Corfield all played for England with Green and Haines finishing as  runner up in the Boys Amateur Championship and Corfield runner up in the Amateur at St Andrews in 2004.

Perhaps the most successful golfer from Somerset is Colin Edwards of Bath Golf Club with an astonishing playing record which started as a 17 year old winning the Somerset Junior Championship and in our Centenary year setting a new record of 12 County Championships.  The bit in between is also pretty spectacular as he was promoted to the first team at 17 and played his first South West Week match the following year; he was to play in over 120 more matches at South West Week and that record is still being written.  He won the first of his three Colts Championships as well as becoming the South West Champion in 1983.  The following year he won the County Championship and represented the South West Counties against the Midlands Counties and two years later he won both the Colts and County Championship in the same year. His domination of the championship started in earnest in 1988 with the first of seven straight Championship wins taking his total to nine. Number ten came in 2001, number eleven in 2003 and the record breaking number 12, in appalling conditions at Weston super Mare Golf Club, in centenary year.

Colin Edwards Colin received national recognition in 1991 when he played in the Home Internationals in County Sligo and the following year he played against France at Royal Lytham.  An ever present in the England team during the 90s he travelled to Australia and won the team championship for England with his partner Warren Bennett and the following year returned with his golfing colleague and friend Gary Wolstenholme to defend the title. In the 1996 Home Internationals at Ashburnham he won 6 out of 6 matches.  He also represented Europe against Asia and Pacific in Japan beating the reigning Japanese Amateur Champion by 1 up in the final singles.  He won his 50th cap against France in 1996 with Luke Donald, a current Ryder Cup player, also in the team; he has so far accumulated 86 caps.

Colin has also won many other championships both locally and nationally and is currently credited with ten Bath Golf Club Championships, several Channel League and South West Counties championships. He has won the Bowood Bowl, Hawkins Trophy, Hampshire Hog, Burnham and Berrow Salver and the West of England Championship to name just a few. Nationally he has been joint winner of the Brabazon and the Berkshire Trophy and in 2007 he won the Logan Trophy. One of his treasured memories is caddying for Gary Wolstenholme at The Masters in Atlanta in 2004. At 43 years of age who would bet against Colin adding further honours to an already illustrious career.

The Future

Towards the end of the first 100 years Somerset were once again experiencing some success. In 1997 County Captain Bob Davis won the South West Counties Matchplay Team Championships for the first time in 33 years.  This was followed by Captain Adrian Deakins in 2000 who won both the matchplay and strokeplay championships taking the team to Little Aston for the National County Finals.  In a thrilling finish Somerset came runners up to Surrey despite beating them and Warwickshire but losing out to Yorkshire.  In 2005 and 2006 Somerset won the Channel League under the Captaincy of Shaun Palmer of Wells Golf Club.  In our Centenary year Somerset won the South West Counties Boys Championship and went on to represent South West Counties in the national finals at Royal Cromer Golf Club.

Derek Hughes selected the same seven players to represent the South West at Royal Cromer and, although not entirely successful, the team enjoyed the experience and learned many lessons.  Most of them will be expected to break through into the first team as regular members in 2008.

Playing the eventual winners Surrey Jack Palmer and Curtis Edwards beat two junior internationals in the morning foursomes and Max Brittan and Sam Day both won their singles. After a good morning against Lancashire with two wins and a half, the northeners came out fighting in the afternoon and did sufficient to win the match by 5 points to 4; with once again Sam Day turning in an outstanding performance by beating the 2006 British Boys Champion by one hole. On the final day, with both Somerset and Worcestershire looking at the wooden spoon, Somerset were down after the morning foursomes but with good wins from Curtis Edwards, David Gregory, Matt Kippen and Sam Day the boys sealed a 5 points to 4 victory which left them in third place. Their experience at national level is a good for the future of Somerset golf and all are looking foreward to South West Week in 2008 at Royal North Devon.

Derek Hanson (South West President), Rick Metcalfe (President), Graham Yates (Vice President), Alan King (Secretary) and Elizabeth Sloman (Assisstant Secretary) along with several parents all made the trip to Norfolk to support the boys.

Somerset has always taken pride in their forward thinking ideas with other counties learning from our innovations. Currently there are 9 individual championships and 6 team events throughout the year as well as an order of merit, the Sumara Salver, and a Junior Order of Merit.  Matches are played at under 14, under 16, under 18 as well as first and second team level.

In 2008 Graham Yates, a member of the Board of Directors of the English Golf Union, will take on the Presidency in what will be an extremely busy year for all the Executive Committee.  The first 100 years has been an undoubted success and Somerset Golf Union is in good shape and looking forward to the next 100 years.





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