Triplet Thomson is still one of a kind of course
A life in golf: Trailblazer Muriel is retiring after distinguished 45 years
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