We meet the friends who played nine rounds of speed golf in one day for charity, and also managed to enlist some famous faces to help them. They tell us about their incredible experience.
Images: Mike Hughes
We reported a few weeks back that Cowdray Golf was hosting a charity event in aid of the Alzheimer's Society that saw Lady Captain Jo Fife and Vice Captain Hannah Ralph aim to complete nine rounds of speed golf in just one day.
Now, that in itself is an amazing thing to do, but when you throw golfing legends Dame Laura Davies and Trish Johnson into the mix for 18 holes, it takes it up to a whole different level of incredible.
No pressure either, right?
So, we just HAD to catch up with them and find out how it went.
Speaking a few days after the event, the pair tell me that they completed the rounds in plenty of time, have so far raised over £10,000 and that they loved everything about it from start to finish. In short, it was a tremendous success.
“I’ve been so emotional ever since, I don’t know why,” said Hannah
“It’s quite overwhelming really to see the total we've raised keep rising and that Laura and Trish took the time to come over to us at Cowdray and take part.”
Hannah knew Trish from her time playing on the Ladies European Tour, but still she was flattered that she agreed to take part in the event when she reached out to her. And even more pleased that she was happy to ask Laura if she wanted to come too.
“It was particularly special to me because Trish was always so welcoming and friendly to me when I was a rookie on the Tour. So to have the chance to play with them both again now was great.
“The best thing about them is that they’ve been there, done that and they don’t ever change despite all their achievements. Especially Laura, she met our head greenkeeper and said ‘hi, I’m Laura’ like he didn’t already know who she was. It’s lovely really.”
For Jo the experience was unlike anything she had done before.
“I went to the Solheim Cup last year and Laura drove past in a buggy,” she remembered.
“I was like ‘wow, there’s Laura Davies!’ and if I had known then that within six months I would be on the same putting green as this icon of golf...”
“Watching them play was utterly awe inspiring. The only thing that was worrying me was whether I would make a complete idiot of myself. Laura teed off first and then little old me had to get up there and I was just thinking ‘please don’t go in the wood, please go up the fairway’.”
But Hannah confirmed that Jo played brilliantly.
“I held my own and I kept focused so I didn’t do anything too horrific,” Jo admitted.
“Laura and Trish were so charming, gracious and encouraging – it was just fantastic to watch that calibre of a player at Cowdray. I keep looking back over the photos, it was an awesome experience.
“It’s made me want to get back onto the driving range with Hannah too. I sometimes struggle to shift my hips properly, so to watch both of these girls and the power they have through their shots from the way they pivot and turn was so insiring. The right hip just comes through at the right time and everything is so coordinated and you can hear it in the sound of the club hitting the ball. It’s such a relaxed finish and there’s nothing forced about it. I want to practice that now.”
Playing with the iconic golfers just topped off what was already a brilliant day.
“Laura and Trish weren’t intimidating. They kept in their own buggy, were respectful and polite and put no pressure on,” Hannah noted.
“They genuinely seemed really happy to be there, they had a great round and loved playing Cowdray. I’ve always had a lot of banter with Trish because she supports Arsenal and I support Spurs. Laura was on great form and really chatty, too. I do think they enjoyed it; it was something different for them as it was so relaxed and light hearted. They didn’t even hint at asking for an appearance fee or anything.”
Unfortunately, the event was held behind-closed doors meaning that none of the members could come and see them in action.
“Everyone was gutted that they couldn’t watch, but proud at the same time that such a brilliant event was happening at our club,” said Hannah.
“All the members love the course and the club; Jo has done a really great job of making it vibrant and friendly.”
“We knew we only had one chance to do it, and it’s so satisfying that we did. Some people were doubting if we could do it as it was the hottest day of the year and doubting Jo’s fitness. But she’s super fit. I wouldn’t say it was easy but it was straight forward. We had marshals, bunker rakers and caddies all helping us at a safe distance.”
The pair did it all with minimal breaks for stocking up on water, food and changing clothes. The longest was for about 20 minutes to allow them to welcome Laura and Trish and take some photos with them.
“We started at 4.15am finished the first round in an hour and four so we were on a roll right from the start and we just kept going all day. We didn’t take excessive breaks because I think that would have allowed the tiredness to kick in,” said Jo.
Her choice of charity is also an issue that’s particularly close to her heart.
“My mother suffered from Alzheimers towards the end of her life and my step mother also had Dementia; both were heartbreaking to watch,” said Jo.
“I also have friends who contracted it at an early age and I know one lady who died when she was 54. At the moment there are 520,000 people suffering with the two conditions in the UK and across the world someone is diagnosed every three minutes.”
“You can see that it’s struck a chord with people by how generous they have been with their donations,” Hannah said.
“A lot of the messages we’ve received on our Just Giving page from people who have been affected in some way or another. It’s something that affects so many of us.”
With Hannah due to take over as Lady Captain next year, who knows what outstanding charity event the club will hold next.
We’re so pleased for the pair and you can still donate and support them by visiting www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jo-hannah20.