Fitting homage
for Dr Frank

What a weekend……. Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, Ernie Els winning The Open in a dramatic finish and The Glamorganshire beating Wallasey in the annual match to honour Dr Frank Stableford.
While the third of these happenings might lack the momentousness of the first two it is pretty big stuff at our club. We’ve been getting regular hammerings from our Merseyside mates in recent years so it was satisfying, and totally unexpected, for us to register a 5-1 victory.
As you might expect from gentlemanly clubs, there is never any bragging over the result. The main object of the match is not who wins but to pay homage to our hero.
Although, it has to be reported that when the captain of Wallasey, Mike O’Callaghan, at dinner on Sunday officially invited us back to Wallasey next year the Glamorganshire captain, Jim Corsi, replied: ‘ We’ve had a better offer from Holyake’.
Hoylake, aka Royal Liverpool, is the neighbouring club to Wallasey and, of course, we would no more think of going there than they would of inviting us. Wallasey is the club at which the good doctor perfected the idea that makes his contribution to golf so immeasurable.
It was from there in the early 1930s that the Stableford system of scoring was launched on a world that embraced it eagerly.
What, I hear you asking, has this got to do with Glamorganshire golf club? Well, when I was researching our records to write the club’s centenary history in 1990, I first discovered that Sir Frank was a member in the early days and then, from one dusty volume, a newspaper cutting fell out.
It was from the South Wales Daily News reporting on the club’s first autumn meeting on September 30, 1898, and, as a footnote to the scores in the bogey competition, it read:-
‘A special prize was given by Dr Stableford in connection with the foregoing event, the method of scoring being as follows. Each competitor plays against bogey level. If the hole is lost by one score only, the player scores one; if it is halved, the player scores two; if it won by one stroke, the player scores three; an if by two strokes the player scores five. To the score thus made, one third of the player’s medal handicap is added.’
And there it is — the original blueprint of the system. The prize was won by W. Hastings Watson with 42 points but, apparently, Dr Frank didn’t play. No record is available of what his fellow members thought of the system and no mention of it is ever recorded again.
He probably had other distractions for soon afterwards he was enlisted as an army surgeon and went off to the Boer War and thereafter to the campaign against the Mad Mullah of Somaliland
When he returned, he joined Royal Porthcawl where he played off plus-one, won the club championship and reached the semi final of the Welsh Amateur Championship.
He moved to Merseyside and joined Wallasey just before World War 1 and was promptly called up as a RAMC colonel serving in Italy and Malta.
When I wrote about my discovery in the Observer, it irked Wallasey who perceived it as a challenge to their claim to be the home of Stableford. It was nothing of the sort — we were just proud and delighted to have a connection with the great man and that we were at least the birthplace of his brainchild.
If he hadn’t re-introduce it at Wallasey in 1932, his system would never have come into existence and that old clipping would have been as meaningless as all the others I had to plough through.
And many other clubs would not have been as patient to allow him to experiment. In its first manifestation at Glamorganshire, the system was played off scratch with a third of the handicap added at the end.
When he introduced it at Wallasey, the whole handicap was added. But a severe gale made him aware that if players struggled to score, the high handicap players would have the advantage of a load of points before they even started.
He then made the telling decision that the handicap allowance be taken at each hole — an option that wasn’t available before the arrival of the stroke index.
From then on, the system spread like wildfire and Wallasey hold an annual tournament to celebrate its inception.
When Glamorganshire held a tournament in 1998 to mark the centenary of the original outing of the system, the R & A were among those who sent representatives to play in it. Wallasey sent two teams and by 5 am the following morning we created a mass hangover and a bond that exists to this day.
We exchange annual visits and in his honour we all wear a bow tie. A flamboyant character, Dr Frank drove a yellow Rolls Royce and was never without a bright bow tie. We’ve created one which incorporates the colours and crests of both clubs. Furthermore, two Wallasey members fashioned a bronze trophy of a bow-tie which we play for every year.
It hasn’t spent long in the Glamorganshire clubhouse but it is there now after our shock victory. When Wallasey visit us, they play on the first day at Royal Porthcawl, the doctor’s other club in South Wales.
As I am out of action following an operation, I wasn’t able to play this year but I was at Porthcawl last Saturday to have a drink with them and accompany them for the first four holes.
The rough at Porthcawl is pretty heavy and I offered to help them look for their balls and go back to the clubhouse for more if they ran out.
But they played very well — captain O’Callaghan had two birdies in the first four holes — and I returned to the bar convinced we were going to be murdered the following day. They came in with commendable scores, two of them having 35 points. The winner on count-back was John Overend who had 22 points on the back-nine.
They dined very heartily at Porthcawl that evening and shared a few bottles of port with former Glamorganshire captain Bob Edwards, a leading Stableford expert.
When they arrived to play the Glamorganshire on the Sunday, the shine had gone off them. They were heavily defeated 5-1 by a Glamorganshire team of supposedly lesser mortals including Roger Ellis, who has been off injured for the best part of two years, and Eirian Owens, who has had. two knee and three hip replacements.
In the only game they won, their pair included the aforementioned John Overend who dropped one shot in the first six holes of the back-nine. I understand his handicap of 17 is being scrutinised as I write.
Richard Jones, who has been Wallasey’s team organiser since the outset of these matches, knew I was going to write something about their visit and he asked if he could have right of reply.
I said that this column has a comment section and that he could add whatever comments he liked. He should also be aware that our members are already clamouring to be selected to be in the team to visit them next year.

6 thoughts on “Fitting homage
for Dr Frank

  1. Peter, I am still in shock! After a wonderful golfing day at Royal Porthcawl, when as usual, the weather was glorious ( I don’t recall any rain in all the years we have been down ) it was followed, as you say, by a wonderful meal made all the more enjoyable by the kind purchase by Bob of 2 decanters of Port.
    As you are aware, I usually decide on the pairings for The Match on Sunday but it appears that the pairings were made by committee hence our abysmal display (this will not happen again!). As you are aware we had a few new members playing this year and maybe they were overawed by the hospitality shown to them by members of Glamorganshire or it may have been the drink!
    As for next year be afraid, be very afraid.
    Once again thanks to the Captain and members of Glamorganshire and look forward to seeing you at Wallasey next year.

  2. Peter,
    What can I say. After an encouraging display by myself and my team on Saturday the Glamorganshire boys wore us down on Sunday. Richard and I were confident of victory early in the round but by the time we had climbed the hill to the 15th green Bob’s special reserve port was taking it’s toll and the writing was on the wall. Perhaps as Captain I should have led by example and politely accepted only one small glass of port but alas I am weak willed. However, the weekend was another great success and we look forward to next year

  3. If it becomes obvious that you can’t beat the Wallasey lads by raw talent (something I’ve sadly learnt to The Glamorganshire’s cost over the past few years) then you are encouraged to stoop to embark on less honourable means to secure success, even though it means sacrificing yourself for the sake of the team. Supping with the Wallasey contingent the night before the big match was both a great joy and a window of opportunity to indulge in that gentlemanly passtime of heavy port drinking. It seems to have done the trick though I’m sure the boys won’t fall for it next year!
    As I flew over Wallasey the other day, on my way to indulge in my passion of single malt drinking in Inverness, I swear I could see a black flag flying outside the golf club. It’s a scene that we’ve become accustomed to at The Glamorganshire for some years now. My advice to Wallasey is keep off the port next year and join me in a couple of bottles of Glenlivit.

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