The Auld Enemies Cup
When Ron Tomlinson picked up his telephone at his Woodford Green home in North East London in 1984 to be offered a game of golf he could little have realized what it would lead to.
The Scottish accent at the other end of the line was from Gerry Kelly, a blind golfer just like Ron. If the two of them could get a side together how did the idea of a match between their respective golfing societies, England and Wales Blind Golf (EWBG) and Blind Golf Scotland (BGS), sound?
The game would be played at Auchenharvie Golf Club in Ayshire on the West coast of Scotland. It comprises nine holes, built on a redundant coal mine and, since opening in 1981, is reckoned to be perfect for those starting out in the game as well as being ideal for the first international match between blind and visually impaired golfers from the United Kingdom.
Each side mustered eight players who played over two days with a day of four-ball better ball and the following day of singles. As was only proper for a first venture the result was a satisfactory half.
The format was considered worth doing again and in 1985 a similar number of players and their guides assembled at another nine- hole public course with a driving range, the Chessington golf centre in Surrey, sadly no longer there having closed in 2015 to be redeveloped as housing. Scotland showed no mercy to their hosts and romped home by eight points to four.
The event was proving so popular that it was felt that not only could the numbers of players be increased but also the standard of the venue which brings us to 1991 and another crushing Scots’ victory by 12.5 to 5.5 at the regular Open Championship venue of Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. It was the meeting at Lytham when it was decided to play for a trophy over three days instead of two and, with BGS unbeaten with just one halved match after five contests, it seemed appropriate to name the prize ‘The Auld Enemies Cup.’
Since then the standard of golf has gone from strength to strength and 35 years later is still being fiercely contested whilst also bringing good friends together and much spirited banter about the respective national weaknesses of the individuals involved.
Andy Gilford, a regular in the EWBG side, said, ‘I was always the last to be picked when we were choosing sides at school because my sight was bad. If you told me back then that I would play for my country and the rest of the world at golf I would never have believed it. Golf is the one thing that has helped me beat my disability since being a kid.’
It is overcoming their disability that makes golf so special to those taking part and events such as ‘The Auld Enemies Cup’ something to aspire to, to play in and to meet new people who suffer yet have triumphantly overcome blindness and severe visual impairment as their skills on the course bear ready testimony to.
This year the contest is being held in East Sussex on the West Course at Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club, rated by Golf World magazine the best course under 6,000 yards in the UK. John Eakin an eight-handicapper and former club captain of Royal Ashdown will be leading the EWBG side in an effort to not only retain the trophy but also bring the overall contest scores level.
The EWBG team is also welcoming a veteran, Danny Daniels, making his international debut at over 80 years of age. ‘Imagine what his grandchildren will make of that,’ says Gilford, ‘with their hero of a granddad playing for his country.’
The standard of golf played by both sides is invariably inspirational to all of those with 20:20 vision and hugely enjoyable for the players and guides taking part. This September’s contest in leafy East Sussex promises to be no less so than all the others.