1890-18991990- 19191920- 19491950- 19591960- 1988

Writing on January 10th, 1891, a lady correspondent informed the Times of Ceylon of the formation of a Ladies’ Golf Club in Nuwara Eliya. She wrote, “When the Club was first proposed, it was intended to have it managed by the ladies alone, but as nearly every member wanted to be on the Committee, it was resolved that the Commute of the Gentlemen’s Golf Club should take the management in hand; so, with Mrs G. A. Taylor and Dr Craib as joint Secretaries, the Club has made great progress, and when once we have learnt the names and uses of the different golf sticks, we are to have a grand tournament”. Later, ‘The Times’ reported that a meeting broke up in confusion owing to the difficulty of electing a lady to take the Chair! These are the first references we have found to ladies’ golf in
Nuwara Eliya.

We have to depend on ‘The Times’ available at the Archives for further isolated references to Ladies Golf in Nuwara Eliya.

At a Ladies’ AGM held in January 1894 in Nuwara Eliya, the colour adopted for the Club was blue with white bands and the annual subscription Rs. 10. In 1895, in June, a Golf tournament in Nuwara Eliya was won by Mrs Kennedy; in February, a tournament was held on the Racecourse links and in March, a Bogey Competition was held for the first time at the Ladies links when about 70 spectators watched play against “lady bogey”, the winner beating “lady bogey” by 1–up. In 1896, Miss Saunders won a gold bracelet of sapphires and pearls presented by Lady Ridgeway at the Nuwara Eliya Ladies Golf Club, and at the Christmas tournament, there were three competitions, the last one “sealed conditions”.

In 1897 the A.G.M. of the Ladies Golf Club was held on the 19th July. The Administration Report of Nuwara Eliya in 1897 mentions “… the Ladies golf links improved”.

The first reference to a team match was in 1898 when a match between the Colombo and Nuwara Eliya ladies was held on the golf course on the race course, while a poem appearing in the Ceylon Review of November 1898 seems to take the side of the lady “duffer” in Nuwara Eliya!

Finally, we are ideated to W.B. “Bill” Atkinson for sending us a rubbing of the inscription on a crocodile desk blotter, bound with silver corners which was won in a Mixed Foursome in 1899 by Laura, the daughter of H. W. Cave of Ceylon authorship and founder of the printing firm of that name.


Championships

The work “Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon” published in 1907 refers to a ladies championship which commenced in Colombo in 1895 and which was played there until 1904. It adds that the event was put on a firmer footing with the championship, which was held in Nuwara Eliya from that year, until 1909 when it was thereafter held alternately in Colombo and Nuwara Eliya.

The world’s oldest Ladies National Championship, the British, began only in 1893 and the winner of the first three championships was the immortal Lady Margaret Scott. It is of interest that she was the sister of the Hon. Michael Scott who was a planter in Ceylon until he immigrated to Australia to win fame on the golf courses there and in Europe. He was a member of the Nuwara
Eliya Golf Club and won the Gold Medal in 1899.

The first Ladies’ Championships in Colombo were dominated by the Misses Saunders and Mrs Elliot while Mrs F. S. Mitchell held the title in successive years 1906, 1907, 1908 when the Championships were held in Nuwara Eliya.

Ladies Course

The next reference to ladies golf in Nuwara Eliya that we have been able to trace is that in 1907, H.E. The Governor, Sir Henry Blake in his speech when presenting A. H. S. Clarke with the Championship Cup at the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club mentioned that “while he approved of the generosity of the Club in opening the links to the ladies, he saw the danger to the enthusiastic golfer who might probably fall into the temptation of forsaking the cups for the spoons!”

The Christmas Annual of The Times of Ceylon of 1909 in an article on the Easter Season in Nuwara Eliya says, “Now the ladies have their own links and this picture is a typical one”.

We have also come across the fact that in March 1912, Lady McCallum presented the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club with a silver cup as a prize for the Easter competition and that a Ladies’ golf pavilion was completed in Nuwara Eliya in 1915.

During this period, Mrs H. V. Greer won the Championships on three occasions, and when the championships were resumed after the war, won it again in 1921 in Nuwara Eliya.

With this scant information, we assume that the ladies originally played in Nuwara Eliya on the United Club course on the racecourse and a Ladies Club was formed there. We know that the Ladies Championship, when it was held for the first time in Nuwara Eliya in 1904 was held at the United Club course, and gather that a few years later, the ladies were allowed to play on the NEGC course, presumably under restricted conditions.


“Dickie” Thornton

The year 1922 was a significant one for another reason, as it was in that year that Mrs. C. G. “Dickie” Thornton won the first of her record seven Ceylon titles. Mrs. Thornton whose home club was the NEGC dominated Ceylon golf for the next 15 years and a newspaper article states “she would have won it on more occasions, but she stayed out to give the others an opportunity”. Her only defeat was in 1926 when she was beaten by Mrs Grant, who had been the Ladies Champion of India, and whom she had beaten the year before. In 1924, while home on furlough with her husband, she won the Irish
Championship. It would not be out of place here to reproduce an article which appeared in The Observer in 1961 by S. “Trooper” Muttukumaraswami who, among his several golf achievements was the first Ceylonese to play in the Burdett for Nuwara Eliya in 1939. In a golfing career that spanned over, 30 years he won the Havelock Golf Club championship in 1933 and again in 1960. His daughter, Mira, became the youngest to win the Ladies’ Championship of Ceylon when she won the title in 1962 in Nuwara Eliya.

Boslowick

Sometime after 1923 when “Boslowick” was purchased, the ladies were given a room in an outer building which also housed the Pro Shop and the office and record room, but their position in the Golf Club was rather vague. A system of handicapping them had been discussed by the Men’s Committee and they were allowed into the Men’s Pavilion during the tournaments.

Of interest is that in 1931 and 1932, the first Ceylonese lady golfer in Nuwara Eliya, Miss Constance Goonewardene competed in a handicap event at the Club partnering her father, A. F. Goonewardene who was one of the early members of the Club.

United Club merger

It was only in 1935 when the discussions regarding the merger between the N.E.G.C. and the United Club started taking place, that a Ladies’ Section of the Club was formed. At a Special General Meeting of the Club held on 18th May, the Rules were drawn up and Mrs Gresham Johnson was elected the first President with Mrs C. G. Thornton, the first Captain of the Ladies’ Section. Archie Aitken in his reminiscences recalling this period says “it was when the United Club closed its doors that the ladies joined in”.

Of interest is that in 1931 and 1932, the first Ceylonese lady golfer in Nuwara Eliya, Miss Constance Goonewardene competed in a handicap event at the Club partnering her father, A. F. Goonewardene who was one of the early members of the Club.

Puffin Cup

In 1936, C. M. “Puffin” Lushington, in recognition of this new status presented a Cup for the team matches that had hitherto been played between Nuwara Eliya and Colombo. The Cup was engraved with the words “Keep your head down – Don’t Press” and the competitions were played on the same lines as the Burdett. The first Puffin Cup was played in Nuwara Eliya and was won by Up-country. The matches were keenly contested. They were an important event in the ladies’ golfing calendar, with players from both Clubs striving for the honour of playing for their team.

The last match before the war was in 1939 and ended with Upcountry winning three of the four competitions played in that period. The series was resumed in 1948 when it was held at the Royal Colombo for the first time (the previous matches being played at the Lady Ashmore course when the event was held in Colombo). Colombo won, but when it was held in Nuwara Eliya the next year, Nuwara Eliya swamped Colombo, winning all 12 matches.

Mixed Bar

In 1950, after the office building was burnt down in the fire, the Mixed Bar came into existence. Ray Beadon was the prime mover in this venture “which might have been so frowned upon by the old brigade of conservative golfers” as prior to that, “there sat the men in their large comfortless and sparse–looking bar, such stalwarts as Ceddy Thornton. Gordon Windus, Chris Elliot, “Puffin” and of course “Algie”, to mention just a few in a preserve so exclusive and sacrosanct, whilst their loving wives shivered on the verandah and hoped that sooner or later their men would finish playing their matches in retrospect, aided by the local brew”.

Perhaps in celebration of the event, Up-country beat Colombo by 8 matches to 4 in the “Puffin”. Including the tournament in 1951, Up-country had now won four years in a row.

In time, the Ladies’ Section became affiliated to the Ladies’ Golf Union and an LGU Standard Scratch
Score was allotted. Regular LGU Monthly Medals were played for and other competitions were arranged.

Representatives of the Ladies’ Section with representatives from the Royal Colombo Golf Club formed the Championship Control Committee and the Nuwara Eliya Ladies were in charge of the Ceylon Championship when it was played on the NEGC course. The Club could boast of several good players, outstanding among them being Helen Adams, a longstanding member who won the Ceylon title in 1952 and 1956, and was runner-up on several occasions.

Molly Wright (a tennis player of repute) – later Richardson – was another stalwart from Upcountry who was never to win the Ceylon title but was in the final on three occasions.

In 1958, Mrs. Maureen King, the wife of the recently appointed Manager of the National Bank won both the Ceylon Championship and the Nuwara Eliya Club Championship.

The Club still held its own in the Puffin Cup, winning it in 1957 and 1958.

But it was from the 50s that the social side became a feature of Club life. Dances were held at Easter and Christmas, Children’s parties, regular Bridge Drives, Tombola, etc. These events were mainly organised by the ladies. Most of them were wives of planters in the District and had to put up with several hours of travel before they reached the Club.

The British Leave

With the exodus of the British, the number of resident lady members dwindled to one or two and any ladies’ competitions that were held thereafter were supported by the Colombo members who were members of the Royal Colombo Golf Club.

According to the Boards that hang in the Ladies’ Room, Mrs Beacon was elected Captain in 1958. The years 1959 – 1976 bear the legend “Not elected”, but the names of the winners of the Captain’s Cup appear during this period against the years 1959 – 1962, suggesting some discrepancy.
Even the Minutes of the A.G.Ms of NEGC shed no light on whether or not a Lady Captain existed, but refers to a “Ladies’ House Committee convener” during those years.

The last Puffin Cup was held in 1961, and in the 18 , matches played in the series, each Club won an equal number of times. An attempt to revive it was made in 1974 when those with holiday homes in Nuwara Eliya played for Nuwara Eliya, but interest in the event waned, and the competition was abandoned. The Cup now lies, unpolished and un-played for, in the Store Room of the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club, a reminder of the glorious team matches of the past.

Ladies’ Championships

The Ceylon Ladies’ Championships, except for the years 1968 and 1970, was held and continues to be held in Nuwara Eliya on alternate years. It is now run by the Sri Lanka Ladies’ Golf Union, and held at the same time as the Men’s Championship.

The first Sri Lanka Ladies’ Stroke Play Championship was held in Nuwara Eliya in 1975, when Tiru Fernando outclassed the other competitors to bring in a record score of 220 for 54 holes.

The Club Championship was not played for in 1959 and 1960 and has been held sporadically since then – in fact, only eight times in the last 30 years. The last time it was played for was in 1983.

There was a minor revival in the early 1980s when, for a few years, the wives of golfers from Skanska and Balfour Beatty companies, who were engaged in the Mahaveli Projects, made a fortnightly trip on weekends to the Club. There were only one or two competent golfers amongst them, but what they lacked in golfing ability was made up by their keenness, and a Ladies’ Committee was formed with Lalini Fonseka as the Captain.

An innovation in the 1980s has been the Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship of Nuwara Eliya, which has been held regularly, despite the poor entries in some years. The first winner was Mrs S. Selvaratnam.

Ladies Golf Union

The Club still maintains its affiliation with the Ladies’ Golf Union through the Sri Lanka Ladies’
Golf Union. After the holding of the Queen Sirikit Cup, it was decided to retain some of the new-tees; thus lengthening the course which remains at LGU Standard Scratch 72. In the absence of a Ladies’ Committee and of any records, we continue this report through the memories of some of its members, past and present.

Queen Sirikit Cup

Ladies golf in Sri Lanka reached its climax with the holding of the Asian Amateur Team Championship for the Queen Sirikit Cup. This event was held in Nuwara Eliya in 1982. The course was lengthened by the construction of new tees at some holes, while at others, play was from the Men’s tees. Teams of three from nine countries took part.