Obituary: Phyllis Wylie, Curtis Cup Golfer
Born: 12 August, 1911 in Essex. Died: 3 October, 2012 in Troon, aged 101
PHYLLIS Wylie was the oldest surviving golfer to have competed in the Curtis Cup, the biennial golf competition for women held between teams from the US and Great Britain and Ireland.
Wylie was a member of the British team in 1938 in the fourth competition held at the Essex County Club, Massachusetts – the home club of the Curtis sisters, who had donated the trophy. Wylie had made her debut for England in the home internationals in 1934 and represented England in the following five competitions bar 1937, when the sudden death of a competitor the day before the competition at Turnberry led to the event being cancelled.
Wylie, a popular and respected woman, was much revered in golfing circles and was called golf’s Grand Old Lady.
Phyllis Wylie (nee Wade), always known as Phil, although born in Essex spent much of her life in Scotland and was a great lover of links golf. In 1939, she married a Scot, Surgeon-Captain JI Wylie, an officer in the Royal Navy, and they settled in Troon where she lived for many years across the road from the short 17th on the Royal Troon championship links.
Wylie had played golf from her youth and had been a member of Parkstone Golf Club near Bournemouth. She was a fine striker of the ball and competed in two English women’s amateur championship finals – winning the first in 1934, but two years later she lost at Hayling Island. She was Hampshire county champion on four occasions in the Thirties. In 1936, she was a member of the only ladies golf team to represent Great Britain throughout Australia.
In 1938, the Curtis Cup ties, foursomes and singles, were all played over 36 holes. The British team led 2½-½ at the end of the first-day foursomes, but the American team rallied to win five of the six singles on the second day to claim the Cup 5½-3½.
Some splendid golf was played by both sides and it was a spectacularly close-fought match. All the singles were decided at least on the 17th hole and it proved an exciting day of match-play golf. The captain of the British team that year was the Scot RH Wallace-Williamson.
“The United States won the match,” Wylie recalled years later, “but my abiding memory is how happy I was to be playing in a Curtis Cup match and what great fun we had. I think that’s the biggest difference between players of then and now. We all enjoyed ourselves, win or lose, and we weren’t afraid to show it.”
Wylie was a well-known figure on many courses in the west of Scotland. She was a member of Royal Troon Ladies and a member of the Ayrshire Women’s County team for many years after the war. She won the Ayrshire County title in 1954, beating the famous Helen Hom in the final. She was Ladies captain of Royal Troon Ladies and was made an honorary member of the club. A decade ago, she was made the Honorary President of the Ayrshire Ladies County Golf Association. It was fitting that the celebrations to mark her 100th birthday were organised by her friends at the course. The lunch, held at the Lochgreen Hotel in Troon, was a wonderful coming together of long-established friends and Wylie’s family.
In June, it had been hoped that Wylie would have been the centre of the celebrations when the Curtis Cup was held at Nairn. Unfortunately, Wylie had a fall and was in the Biggart Hospital in Prestwick during the week of the event. However, the members at Troon took her daily reports on the games and the Ladies Golf Union presented her with Curtis Cup badges.
Travel to such events as the Curtis Cup or the tour of Australasia was both arduous and time-consuming. Wylie was away for six months and the journeys by ship crossings were challenging. Wylie recalled: “We went to Australia on the Strathaird, a wonderful ship. We practised on deck and I always remember that, to our surprise, the old golf balls we hit did not disappear into the sea, but used to bounce across the water.”
Wylie much enjoyed her visit to St Andrews as guest of honour when the Curtis Cup was held on the Old Course in 2008. There was a special lunch arranged in the club house for the past Curtis Cup players. With her fine sense of fun, Wylie said her biggest thrill was holding the Curtis Cup – “and entering the hallowed halls of the R&A clubhouse”
Wylie is survived by her only son, Ian.
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