Women in The Life of Maccauvlei

A feature of Maccauvlei’s history has been the strong representation by women at the Club since its inception. One of the earliest female enthusiasts was Sammy Marks’s daughter, Girlie Marks. She donated the Marks Cup to the Club in September 1930 in memory of her father and it is still played for by the ladies section today. In that same year, only four and half years after the opening of the Club, there were 1 004 members, 634 men and 370 (or 37%) women. Not long afterwards the Club membership reached a peak of 1200.

Significantly, the women’s membership was closed and a waiting list introduced, long before the men’s. Admission of new members to the men’s section only closed in January 1933, while the women’s membership, having exceeded the number as laid down in the constitution, was closed in November 1931.

Even during one of the Club’s darkest periods in the late fifties the women’s membership was comparatively large and at one stage even passed the 40 % mark. The records show that in January 1958 the total membership was 840, with the full breakdown being – local men 199, country 342, local woman 93, country 126.

One of the first overseas women’s golf teams ever to visit South Africa played at Maccauvlei during those glory years. Indeed the British ladies team stayed and played at Maccauvlei on the 9th and 10th of December 1933.

The following year the South African Ladies Open Championships were held at Maccauvlei on the 17th March 1934. The event was won by Mrs A Vernon. The South African Ladies’ Golf Union also held the national women’s championship at Maccauvlei in 1937. The event was again won by Mrs Vernon who defeated Mrs Withcrow in the final. Two further South African Ladies Open Championships were held at Maccauvlei. In 1949 the event was won by Mrs B. Pletz, and in April 1966 Miss Judy Angel emerged as the South African Ladies Champion in an event marked by a major upset when Maccauvlei’s Rita van der Vyver beat the Springbok, Jeanette Burd, in the first round of the knock-out stage.

No record of Maccauvlei would be complete without reference to Esther Cutler, who not only served the Club with distinction but went on to become an Executive Member of the South African Ladies Golf Union, serving as Vice President and then as Secretary for 27 years. She also served on the committee of the World Golf Tournament and on several occasions managed South African women’s golf teams including tours to Australia and the United States. Esther served on the Committee of the Maccauvlei Club for 15 years, several times as Captain, and is an Honorary Life Member of Maccauvlei. She also served on the ladies’ executive of the OFS, Basutoland & Northern Cape for 10 years, four as President. During this period she captained Free State and was awarded Provincial Colours. On her retirement from the SALGU she received a standing ovation and one tribute summed up her contribution: “She has been a tireless worker in the interests of the game she loved so passionately and she saw that every SALGU tournament she handled in those 27 years went off smoothly.”

One of the Club’s most successful members in recent years is Sanet Marais who was awarded her South African colours, and won the 1997 SA Strokeplay Championships. Sanet has also dominated the ladies Club Championships in the period from 1991 to 1998. Despite this she still has some way to go to equal Maurene Ahern’s record of 12 Championship titles between 1978 and 1991.

Another stalwart member of the Club is Peggy Dobbins who was presented with a special gift in 1997 to record 50 years of membership.

In addition to the famous lightning strike incident, women players have featured in the folklore of Maccauvlei in other ways – one of the more infamous anecdotes being recorded below.

Advice she could well do without
In the early years at Maccauvlei, the 17th hole was famous, or perhaps more accurately notorious, as the “railway sleeper bunker hole”. The sleepers in question guarded the face to the 17th green from a bunker – a somewhat intimidating prospect for golfers who possibly lacked Gary Player’s bunker skills. Many a ball played from the bunker hit the sleepers and rebounded further back than the point from which it had been struck – causing damage not only to morale as veteran member Allen Snijman recounts. On one occasion just such a rebound ball struck Mrs Varty, the wife of the Chief of Stewarts and Lloyds, in the eye. Her husband is reported to have remarked: “You do not have to keep your eye on the ball after you have hit it”. Epitomising a spirit of helpfulness that could easily get you killed and emphasising that while no good deed goes unpunished, some certainly merit that fate.