Sto­ries of Old

A telling of the lives of mem­bers at Went­worth Club, by a long-time mem­ber and fan.

Golf Vacations (Malaysia) - - Journal - BY JOHN GIBB

Af­ter the end of the Sec­ond World War in 1947, my fa­ther ar­rived home from Egypt. He had fin­ished six years in North Africa with the Royal Den­tal Corps and spent two years deal­ing with the med­i­cal needs of Ital­ian pris­on­ers of war in Cairo.

He had also man­aged to spend much of his leave-time, sail­ing up and down the Nile and play­ing golf. There was a lot of good golf by the river, par­tic­u­larly in the North where the Nile reaches Alexan­dria and the Medit­era­nian.

He re­turned to Blighty in a troop ship and I can still re­mem­ber him march­ing up the gar­den path, brown as a conker when he ar­rived home in Bea­cons­field wear­ing his of­fi­cers’ uni­form.

In 1950, we moved to Vir­ginia Wa­ter and my Fa­ther joined Went­worth. It was his life’s am­bi­tion and to make it even more of a per­ma­nent and de­lib­er­ate move, he bought shares in the club. When I was eight, fa­ther paid for some lessons from Tom Hal­libur­ton.

There was no ques­tion but that I would be brought up by my fa­ther to play the game in those days, but coach­ing from a man like Tom was a gen­er­ous ges­ture and a gift I’ve never for­got­ten. He had spent the war in the RAF and this had prob­a­bly taken the edge off his game, but his el­e­gant style was some­thing I al­ways tried to copy.

Hal­libur­ton was a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Went­worth aris­toc­racy and he joined the so­cial scene on the es­tate. He was a Scot, but never a dour Scot. I can re­mem­ber him ar­riv­ing at a party in Welling­ton Av­enue wear­ing one of his wife’s frocks. The party was given by Tommy Caird who pub­lished a golf mag­a­zine called “Fair­way and Hazard.”

Among the guests was Peter Roscoe, who had been ap­pointed Sec­re­tary of the club and who was a man with a mis­sion. As the War dragged on to its end, the mem­bers and own­ers were look­ing for a way for the club to cel­e­brate its re­turn to cham­pi­onship golf and to cel­e­brate re­cov­ery from the ef­fects of the years at war. The club had al­ready played its part.

In 1944, a net­work of tun­nels had been dug be­neath the club­house and it was said that the ‘D-day’ land­ings were planned there. By 1950, both the West and East Cour­ses were back in prime play­ing con­di­tion and there was talk of play­ing the Ry­der Cup again, and this time at Went­worth.

The club was an ideal venue for tour­na­ment golf with its prox­im­ity to Lon­don and had all the space needed to run a big event. And so, it was de­cided to hold the Ry­der Cup there in 1953. Roscoe, as Sec­re­tary, would be in charge of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and it would be a mas­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Roscoe was pop­u­lar at Went­worth. A good golfer who knew what was re­quired to en­sure the wel­fare of the teams, I re­mem­ber him call­ing me dur­ing the days be­fore the prac­tis­ing had started. He said that some­one had un­ex­pect­edly ar­rived and would I look af­ter him?

“He wants to play the Burmah Road and would you play 18 holes with him? Of course, be­ing fas­ci­nated by what was go­ing on, I agreed. I went and saw Peter in his of­fice and he asked me to be on the first tee at 8.30 next morn­ing. I got there to find a hun­dred or so spec­ta­tors around the hole and a man called Max Faulkner stand­ing there smok­ing a cig­a­rette.

Roscoe said, “Max wants to go round in case he’s needed. He wants to see the pin po­si­tions and loosen up a bit.”

My trou­ble was that Max Faulkner had won The Open two years pre­vi­ously and I had never played in front of a gallery.

To Peter Roscoe, this meant noth­ing. I had a de­cent hand­i­cap although that means noth­ing when you’re a cal­low youth.

Max said noth­ing , just lit an­other cig­a­rette and drilled a three­wood 300 yards down the cen­tre of the hole. I can’t tell you what hap­pened to me. but I’ll never for­get his drive. Roscoe had no idea what I’d been through; “Thanks,” he said af­ter­wards, drinks are on me.”

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