Standing amidst the opulence of Buckingham Palace, a far cry from the familiar greens of Woodbrook, but a Lancashire lass was living out her dreams.
Mary Anderson’s golf journey began in Plymouth where it took in a Women’s Captaincy before weaving through the executive ranks to the Chairperson of the Ladies’ Golf Union.
Amidst safeguarding the interests of women’s golf, she found herself at Buckingham Palace, with the Duke’s eyes curiously surveying the crowd. An unforgettable moment unfolded when the Duke met Kevin, one of the husbands standing beside Anderson and her Golf Union colleagues.
“What’s your claim to fame?” he asked. With a twinkle in his eye, Kevin retorted, “I’m just like yourself, I’m married to the boss.”
As laughter echoed in the grand ballroom, another exchange took place between Christy O’Connor Junior and the Queen, over a magnificent urn showcasing the unique blend of royalty and the world of golf.
Anderson’s remarkable journey traversing the greens of Woodbrook to the corridors of Buckingham Palace has spanned almost six decades and this week she has plenty to look forward as leading amateurs from around the world descend on the Garden of Ireland for the Flogas Irish Women’s and Girls’ Amateur Open Championship.
“It’s coming home to Woodbrook again now. It is a top golf course and very challenging. It seems as if we are getting back what we like to see being played on our golf course,” said Anderson.
She grew up in the North-West of England, Anderson’s father Charles O’Malley was an Irishman who moved across and had to change his name to Charles Melia in order to find work.
He was a great athlete and huge sports fan and so his large family played all of the games available to them with Anderson taking a particular interest in tennis and hockey.
Mary’s nephew would later go on to play Rugby League internationally with England and Great Britain, he has since gone on to take over as Head Coach at Super League outfit, St Helen’s. Another nephew Peter Melia would coach the Ireland U-18 rugby team.
But for Anderson she soon picked up golf after she got married, following her husband Robert Anderson into the game. And she grew to love it.
“I came from a large family and after the War there was nothing much to do, no television,” said Anderson.
“I played tennis and hockey and my father was a great athlete. He always encouraged us to play sport. That was the main outlet as long as we went to church.
“I never played golf until I got married and it was a case of if you can’t beat them join them.”
She was 28 when she first got involved and it would become a central theme for over half-a-century from there.
When Robert Anderson left the army he had a chance to play more golf, and he was good at it. He enticed her to pick up the game too and she started in Plymouth, where they had got married.
“I was left handed, when I began golf there weren’t many left handed golf clubs,” said Anderson.
“When we got married we went to Selsdon Park Hotel for our honeymoon. Harry Weetman was the pro there. He recommended that I didn’t get left-handed club. I would be disadvantaged on the tee and all my strength was in my left arm.”
But she persevered and went on to represent Devon County however when her husband was headhunted for a move to Dublin, she followed suit and left the game behind for a short while.
Anderson was already operating as a single-finger handicapper but she couldn’t find a club to call home until a Wicklow one welcomed her in.
“I eventually got into Woodbrook which was fabulous,” said Anderson.
“It was a very friendly club, you could come down at the weekend and there was a shoot on the first tee and you put the ball in the shoot. There were no time sheets or anything like that. You would be in the bar and you were told your ball was next on the tee.
“It was a very very friendly club and there was great social events on those days. Golf was a great game too and I got on well with the team atmosphere.
“It was a beautiful course. The first was a Par 4. The railway came into it a lot with the out of bounds and things like that and the course has seen quite a few changes since.”
Anderson’s favourite hole in Woodbrook is the old second, she had a hole-in-one with her trusty three iron there. She has had three aces in total on the course.
And even away from the lush greens and fairways, Anderson became a prominent figure in the clubhouse. She was made a committee member quite soon into her time at the club and by 1975 she was Women’s Captain.
Anderson even went as far as becoming Chairperson of the LGU in 1991 and Honorary Vice-President of the same organisation 11 years ago.
“You went to Curtis Cups, you were in charge of training. The executive consisted of elected representatives from the four home countries and overseas unions as well,” said Anderson.
“The same as the ILGU as well, they upheld the rules of the game and to safeguard the interest of women’s golf. I was on the various sub-committees, finance and general purposes. The rules and regulations committee which I was a chief selector to represent Great Britain and Ireland.
“There were social events, dinners and meetings. There were visits to the Open and Walker Cup and a visit to Buckingham Palace. The five home trophies were together in Great Britain and Ireland. Because of that the Eisenhower Trophy was there then.
“We all went to Buckingham Palace. It was a fabulous experience, five teams were there and it was great fun being present.”
But this weekend it’s back to what she knows best, as her wonderful Woodbrook hosts the Flogas Irish Women’s and Girls’ Amateur Open Championship.
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