Obituary: Joan Lawrence MBE, talented Scottish lady amateur golfer
Joan Lawrence, who has died shortly before her 90th birthday, was a champion lady amateur golfer at the forefront of the game in both Scotland and Britain over a long period who also made her mark on the sport’s administrative side. Scottish amateur champion three years in succession between 1962 and ’64, she represented Great Britain and Ireland in the biennial Curtis Cup against the United States in 1964.
Among many other playing honours she was a member of Scotland’s team in the Home International series for 12 seasons between 1959 and 1970, represented Scotland in the World and European Team Championships and twice played for Britain and Ireland against Europe in the Vagliano Trophy. In a non-playing capacity she was vice captain of the Curtis Cup team in the United States in 1970, while in the following year she captained the British and Irish team to success in New Zealand in the Commonwealth Championship, now the Astor Trophy.
At domestic level she won multiple East of Scotland championships, Fife County titles and club championships at Dunfermline, Aberdour and Canmore, and innumerable open competitions.
As an official she held numerous prestigious positions in the game including Chairwoman of the (British) Ladies Golf Union in 1989/90 and President of the Scottish Ladies’ Golf Association between 1994 and ’97, having previously been Treasurer.
A British international selector for eight years, she chaired the selection committee between 1986 and ’88, during which time Britain won two Curtis Cups, one here and the other in the States. She was also President of Fife County Ladies’ Golf Association and is understood to have become the first female captain of a Scottish club when she assumed that role at Aberdour in 1997, later becoming captain of Canmore.
For her services to golf she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1999.
While small in stature, she was lion hearted and a formidable opponent once described in a press report of a match as “treating adversity like an imposter”.
Although well known for her straight talking and direct manner, her abilities and characterful personality won her much respect and affection throughout the game, including from those south of the Border who may have struggled occasionally with her broad Fife accent.
Joan Barrie Lawrence was born in Cupar, where she was brought up with her younger brother John by their parents, also John, and Joan, first attending Castlehill Primary School before going on to Bell Baxter Secondary.
Father John was the local golf course greenkeeper and as the family lived next to the course she began playing as a youngster.
Her early promise led to selection for the Scottish Girls’ team to play their English counterparts in 1949 at Beaconsfield and in the same year she reached the semi-finals of the British Girls’ Championship.
She won the first of her 15 Fife County titles in 1953 and would win her final one in 1990, aged 60. Her excellent form saw her make her debut for Scotland in the Home Internationals in 1959, while three years later at Royal Dornoch she won the first of her three consecutive Scottish titles, defeating former champion Mrs C Draper of Gullane by 5 and 4, it being noted that she played with “calm resolution”, a trademark characteristic. At Old Troon a year later she beat Belle Robertson, later Scotland’s most decorated amateur, by 2 and 1 in a final watched by a large crowd. She completed her “treble” in 1964, winning at Gullane 5 and 4 against fellow international Mrs SM Reid of Cardross, to equal the record of three successive titles held by Mrs C Beddows and Mrs I Wright.
Next year at Nairn her attempt to set a record of “four in a row” was thwarted by Belle Robertson, who defeated her by 5 and 4 to clinch her first of seven Scottish titles.
She recalled: “Joan was a formidable competitor but always gracious in acknowledging an opponent’s good play.
“You had to be at your best to have a chance against her. Although not long off the tee she had a very strong short game and regularly sank several 30ft putts every round.”
She enjoyed success in the 1963 Vagliano Trophy while in the 1964 Curtis Cup at Royal Porthcawl, the only non-English team member, she faced two very strong opponents in singles, British and US amateur champion Barbara McIntire, who beat her 4 and 2, and teenage sensation Peggy Conley, to whom she lost by 1 hole.
In the same year she represented Scotland in the inaugural World Team Championship in Paris, where she was introduced to the Duke of Windsor, while in 1965,’67 and ’69 she played for Scotland in the European Team Championship, securing second place in the Hague in 1965.
Her enthusiasm, knowledge of the game’s infrastructure throughout Britain and organisational skills served her well in her various administrative roles for which her contribution received much credit. Her sense of humour also eased the efficient discharge of her duties while endearing her to many.
Although no longer playing at the top level she was still an excellent golfer, winning the Scottish Veterans Ladies title in 1982, ’83 and ’84, while aged 60 she had a 2 handicap and regularly won club prizes. Latterly she also enjoyed playing bowls.
Away from golf she was Principal Officer for Domiciliary Care with Fife Regional Council, a post from which she retired in 1990.
She lived most of her life in Dunfermline near Canmore Golf Club, sharing a house with companion Babs Crichton, who predeceased her some years ago. She became very close friends with the Crombie family thereafter, for whom she was an “unofficial grandmother” to children Olivia and Elliot, who adored her, as did the whole family.
She is survived by them and nephew Robert.
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