Royal Troon Golf Club was honoured to host the Women’s British Open Championship in 2020 – the first professional women’s major to be held at the club.
It follows, however, a long list of women’s amateur golf championships at Troon which began in 1904 with the Ladies British Amateur Championship.
In fact, the involvement of women in golf at Troon goes back to the inception of the club in 1878.
In 1882, The Ladies’ Golf Club, Troon was formed which exists to this day with members enjoying access to all three golf courses.
By 1897 the ladies’ clubhouse was constructed.
Of all the women players in Troon’s history, the most gifted was Helen Holm.
Holm played off a handicap of plus four. She was a most graceful swinger of the golf club and if anything was lacking in her career, it might have been the fact that she never won the Scottish on her own course at Troon. All her five Scottish Amateur Championship victories were away ones.
Perhaps more importantly in the amateur game, she was a joy to watch and to play with or against. She had the approval that mattered most, that of her sporting contemporaries.
Tall and slim, her preference for trousers when playing golf made her look much more modern than her contemporaries.
Only Joyce Wethered, was reported to have as graceful a swing.
Holm won her first two Scottish Championships playing out of Elie and Earlsferry, in Fife, but it is with Troon that she is indelibly associated.
She defeated Pam Barton 6&5 at Royal Porthcawl in the British Ladies final of 1934 – two years later Barton would be champion of the United States.
The Ladies’ Club presented Helen Holm with a diamond brooch and her car was towed through the streets of Troon to her home with railway fog signals serving as fireworks. These marks of favour would be in evidence again in 1938 when she beat Miss E. Corlett at Burnham.
In the 1936 Curtis Cup, Holm won both her singles and foursomes in the first match in which the British Isles had managed to draw with the United States. She defeated the highly-thought-of Patti Berg 4&3 and, partnered by the other wonderful Scottish golfer of the time, Jessie Anderson, (Mrs G. T. Valentine) the all-Scots combination defeated Mrs Hill and Miss Glutting 3&2.
She was severely ill in 1951 but recovered to play at championship level, as well as to help and encourage younger players.
Once a future England international, with whom she was competing in the British Women’s Golf Championship, asked her whether she had ever played in the event before.
“Yes”, replied Mrs. Holm.
“How far did you get?”.
“I won it twice,” she replied, before putting the blushing youngster at her ease.
Since her death in 1971 her memory has been kept alive by the tournament known as the Helen Holm Trophy, a most imaginative competition.
Holm’s family presented The Ladies’ Golf Club, Troon with her favourite club, a jigger, to which was attached her many championship medals.
From the outset this tournament, 54 holes of medal golf played over the Old Course and the Portland Course, has attracted a distinguished entry.
The inaugural competition, played in 1973 was won by Belle Robertson MBE – one of the greatest women golfers Scotland has ever produced. Robertson, who learned her golf at Dunaverty, was later a member and captain of The Ladies’ Golf Club, Troon.
She won the British Ladies Amateur in 1981 and was runner-up on a further three occasions. She represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup on nine occasions, twice as non-playing captain.
The competition is now known as the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open Championship and is competed for each April. It marks the start of the season for elite women amateurs in Britain.
The format sees Rounds 1 and 2 played over the Portland Course on Friday and Saturday, with the final round is played over the Old Course on Sunday.
Run by Scottish Golf, the competition attracts a significant international entry. Indeed, the 2019 winner, Slovenian Pia Babnik, went on to make her professional debut on the LET in February.
Over the years, it has been won by some of the finest young women players: including Alison Gemmill of Kilmarnock Barassie, Catriona Lambert (Matthew), Mhairi McKay of Turnberry, Melissa Reid (twice) and Leona Maguire.
A peer of Holm’s, Jean Anderson, said this of her: “She epitomised one’s ideal of a lady golfer. Her grace, charm, great sportsmanship, and keen sense of fun combined with her golfing prowess were admired and envied. Her sense of sportsmanship was outstanding.”
With huge thanks to Douglas McCreath, Club Historian of Royal Troon