From the Archives

Notable events at Roehampton Club 100 years ago

As the Club looks forward to the reopening of its sports and social activities, several significant events which took place in 1921 are deserving of special attention. Over the course of the next few weeks, the Recorder will highlight a variety of sporting occasions and key personalities marking the centenary of our Club shortly after the First World War and the ravages of the Spanish Flu epidemic which had taken many millions of lives around the world. It seems fitting to reflect on the freedom and liberation of this period in our history to recognise the people, places, and events during a similar time of hope and expectation for the future. These written accounts will be interspersed with extracts from the Club archives and the British newspapers at the time to reinforce the heritage of Roehampton Club.

In this first article, it is the game of golf which captured the interest of the newspapers in April with the announcement of the first professional golf tournament of the season at Roehampton Club attracting many of the leading players of the day including Arnaud Massey from France and Angel de la Torre, the young Spanish Champion. The other international players included J Douglas Edgar who had won the Canadian Open Championship on two occasions and Ted Ray of Oxhey Golf Club, present holder of the American Open Championship.

The field also included the current Open Champion, George Duncan, and several other past champions such as Harry Vardon, James Braid, JH Taylor, and Alex Herd. The format of the competition involved 36-hole stroke play on the first day with the four best scores qualifying for the match play competition on the second day. Despite the difficulties of a high wind and a hard ground, the play was sensational as the leading players put the course record in the shade.

The old competition record of 71 had been achieved the previous year by Ted Ray and Alex Herd but no less than three players achieved a score of 70 in the morning and two players went even better in the afternoon with a score of 69. Of these, the best achievement was that of James Ockenden from Raynes Park Golf Club who was within the old record figures for each round with scores of 70 and 69 respectively making a total of 139 which gave him an advantage of four strokes over his nearest rival. Fred Leach from Northwood Golf Club was tied for second place with 143 and had a score of 69 in the afternoon to share the course record. Leach tied with two other players namely Frank Ball from Langley Park Golf Club and JH Taylor, Head Professional at nearby Mid-Surrey Golf Club in Richmond. The draw for the semi-final match play stage of the competition pitched Frank Ball against James Ockenden and Fred Leach against JH Taylor resulting in the final match between James Ockenden and JH Taylor and it was the veteran five times Open Champion from Mid-Surrey who won the tournament. The total prize money for the players was £200 which is equivalent to more than £10,000 in today’s money with the winner taking home £50 equivalent to £2,500. The newspapers reported JH Taylor’s success as a ‘victory for the old ‘uns’ with his grim determination which had always been a characteristic of his play beating his opponent 5&4.

Meanwhile, in ladies’ golf, the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News carried a feature in May, 1921 for the winner of the 36-hole stroke competition at Roehampton Club won by Miss Eleanor Helme returning a record score of 78 in a field of 150 players. The report confirms the rich vein of form for the winner as a result of lessons from Ernest Jones, the teaching professional at Chislehurst Golf Club. At the start of her round in the competition it seemed that the LGU score of 76 would be beaten comfortably but it was her great effort on the back nine with four threes in succession coming home in 36 which cemented her victory.


Steve Riedlinger | Club Archivist