This club is famous for… the ‘one club’ golfer who dared to wear trousersApril 26, 2017
Meet the trendsetting golfer who changed the women's game forever...
What caused more scandal when Gloria Minoprio stepped out of a limousine and strode onto the first tee in a whirl of controversy?
The cleek she was carrying, or her clothing?
You may never have heard of her exploits before but, in 1933, Miss Minoprio caused a sensation – and changed women’s golf forever.
Her sporting story begins at a club in Henley-on-Thames.
Huntercombe have had their fair share of celebrities pitch up for a round down the decades.
Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was a member for 32 years until his death in 1964.
Bond’s famous match with Goldfinger may have been dramatised at Stoke Park for the movie-goers but, in the literary version, our famous spy tells his arch rival he plays off nine at Huntercombe.
Henry Longhurst, the legendary golf writer, spent four years at the club in the 1950s.
And it’s where Minoprio, in the early 1930s, first took lessons from long-standing club professional Jim Morris.
Huntercombe’s website reveals she lived in ‘Bleak Villa’, a house which backed on to the stunning course.
She would later become renowned as a conjuror and a magician but, on October 3, 1933, at the Women’s Golf Union Championship at Westward Ho! in Devon she put a spell on the field.
The rumours had whizzed round during the practice rounds. Minoprio had been using only one club.
A cleek is today’s equivalent of a 1- or 2-iron. I couldn’t get one off the ground even with all our modern technology, never mind play an entire round with it.
Yet this is what Minoprio did for the better part of half a decade.
But if that was shocking, what the 25-year-old was wearing threatened to bring down the establishment.
She looks pretty smart in the picture, doesn’t she? Longhurst once said she was the ‘best dressed women golfer I ever saw’.
This day in October, though, was the first time a female competitor had ever competed in trousers.
And boy did it light the touch paper.
Minoprio lost the match against Nancy Halstead comfortably but the controversy afterwards was not about the game, or even her one-club wonders.
The LGU issued a statement that ‘deplored any change from the traditional golfing attire’.
In an excellent report, Rhod McEwan, who recounts her exploits in stunning detail, reveals she faced some opposition from fellow players.
“One veteran threatened to challenge Minoprio dressed in crinolines and a poke bonnet,” he writes.
But trousers weren’t going away and Helen Holm, in whose name an elite amateur tournament is now staged every year at Royal Troon, won the Ladies Championship in them at Royal Porthcawl the following year.
If you’re ever up in St Andrews, make sure to have a look in the British Golf Museum.
There, you can see Minoprio’s trousers for yourself and wonder just what all the fuss was about.