Triplet Thom­son is still one of a kind of course

A life in golf: Trailblazer Muriel is re­tir­ing after dis­tin­guished 45 years

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - SPORT - Dave Ed­wards re­ports

Through­out a sparkling am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional ca­reer in golf, Aber­do­nian Muriel Thom­son has al­ways been a trailblazer.

As the popular Portlethen pro pre­pares for re­tire­ment – 25 years after tak­ing up the post and just days after her 60th birth­day – she looked back fondly on a lifetime in the sport she loves.

Re­flect­ing on her in­tro­duc­tion into in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, triplet Thom­son said: “The high­light of my am­a­teur ca­reer as a ju­nior was when I was first se­lected at the age of 15 to play for the Scot­tish team in the ju­nior in­ter­na­tion­als. That was a won­der­ful thing for me as I had never even heard of the Scot­tish team be­fore that. My­self and Mary Kirk, from In­ver­ness, went on what was a big ad­ven­ture, all the way down to Wales by rail, chang­ing trains and go­ing over foot­bridges with our clubs, bags, holdalls and trol­leys.

“I re­mem­ber hav­ing a cut-down hick­ory driver at the time and I was still us­ing my cack-handed left-handed grip. As I was on the first tee warm­ing up, my Welsh op­po­nent and her twin sis­ter were stand­ing watch­ing me and gig­gling. But I had the last laugh as I beat her 6 and 5 – that was just the start of what has been a huge ad­ven­ture for me.”

Thom­son de­vel­oped into an even more promis­ing tal­ent in women’s am­a­teur golf.

Look­ing back on her time as a top-class am­a­teur, an emo­tional Thom­son added: “The un­doubted high­light of my time as an am­a­teur was play­ing in the Cur­tis Cup for Great Bri­tain in New York. Even think­ing about stand­ing there as the na­tional an­them was be­ing played at the open­ing cer­e­mony as they were rais­ing the flag still brings

“They were stand­ing there watch­ing me and gig­gling but I had the last laugh”

a tear to my eye. While at the Cur­tis Cup I heard I also had been se­lected to rep­re­sent Great Bri­tain and Ire­land at that year’s World Cup, played in Fiji a few months later. It was another amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as to travel the world and do some­thing you just loved was tremen­dous.

“I re­mem­ber my cad­die in Fiji was wear­ing a skirt. He was bare­foot and wore flow­ers in his hair. It was all quite surreal, re­ally.”

On her ground­break­ing pro­fes­sional ca­reer on the fledg­ling Ladies’ Euro­pean Tour, Thom­son said: “I took the decision to turn pro­fes­sional im­me­di­ately after the 1978 Scot­tish cham­pi­onship at Royal Dornoch, a tour­na­ment I had played in for many years. But that year I was beaten on the fi­nal green by Con­nie Lug­ton, a lovely woman, when she holed a 40-yard putt to beat me by one hole.

“I had played 110 holes at Dornoch that week and I hadn't missed a fair­way but lost by sheer bad luck, or in Con­nie’s case good for­tune. I thought I might never win a Scot­tish or Bri­tish am­a­teur ti­tle, so the fol­low­ing year I turned pro­fes­sional.

“Orig­i­nally, I was go­ing to go to Amer­ica but just after I turned pro the Euro­pean Tour came into be­ing, so I de­cided to get some ground­ing here and I just loved it.

“The Euro­pean Tour was brand new and I looked on it as just another big ad­ven­ture. We were all in it to­gether and ev­ery­one wanted every­body else to do well.”

Thom­son did try to break into the US tour but life on the other side of the pond just was not for her.

She said: “It was such great fun trav­el­ling all over Europe, do­ing what you loved do­ing, but I also had spells in Amer­ica. I went out that first win­ter to play in the ‘ mini-tour’ and I went over a cou­ple of times to qual­ify.

“I qual­i­fied for the US tour in 1983 and went back for the start of the tour at the be­gin­ning of Jan­uary but on the plane over I re­alised that I was only go­ing there be­cause it was what ev­ery­one ex­pected.

“As I sat on the plane I told my­self that I wasn't go­ing to en­joy it and I was prob­a­bly in the wrong frame of mind. Un­for­tu­nately, at that time they had Mon­day qual­i­fy­ing, and even though I had fin­ished 12th in the qual­i­fy­ing school, which would prob­a­bly have guar­an­teed me en­try into most of the tour­na­ments, they had just changed the sys­tem and I had still to try to qual­ify for tour­na­ments on Mon­days. It re­ally was a lot of mess­ing around and I didn’t en­joy it at all. I stayed for four months be­fore I came home.

“I con­tin­ued to play on the Euro­pean Tour un­til 1989. There­after I had a short spell help­ing out Frank Coutts at Dee­side with some teach­ing.

“To be hon­est, I had been play­ing com­pet­i­tive golf since I was 15 with­out a break and I think I re­ally had burned my­self out.

“While I was teach­ing at Dee­side 25 years ago the op­por­tu­nity to be­come pro­fes­sional at Portlethen came up. It looked like a good chal­lenge and I’ve been there ever since.”

GRACE AND DED­I­CA­TION: Muriel Thom­son has been the pro­fes­sional at Portlethen

Power and glory: Muriel in ac­tion in 1995

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