As might be expected, the Centennial Annual Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on 19 April 2008 was a splendid affair with 370 members and guests photographed before the Dinner. David Harrison, the Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews proposed the toast to the Society to which Derek Walkden, the Society Captain, responded. Derek then went on to toast “Our Guests” who included the Presidents of the Lancashire and Cheshire Golf Unions and representatives from the London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bolton Societies. Roy Case, President of the English Golf Union, responded on behalf of the guests and concluded with a presentation to the Society of an inscribed silver salver. Presentations by the Captains of the Societies from Bolton (inscribed cut glass golf ball), London (inscribed decanter), Edinburgh (lectern) and Manchester (Society flag) were graciously received and acknowledged by the Captain on behalf of the Society.
The Centenary Annual Competition was held at Haydock Park on 11 June 2008 and, unlike the first event one hundred years previously, the weather was perfect for golf. A shotgun start enabled 275 members to play and, after a three card tie on 41 points, Brian Fouracre of Gathurst was declared the winner of the Hayco Trophy. Brian Lutas, the reigning Captain of Haydock, took the Ben Spaven Trophy and also led the three man Haydock team to win the Leverhulme Salver. The Dinner was held at Haydock Park Racecourse where 312 members welcomed Eddie Williams of Southport & Ainsdale as the 2008 Centenary Captain. Derek Walkden’s final act before handing over to his successor was to propose the nomination as an Honorary Member of the Society of Geoffrey Leece - an honour that he was proud to accept.
In addition to the usual annual matches against the Manchester and the Bolton Societies there were two Centennial Tripartite Matches in 2008. On 27 June Woolton hosted a match with the London Society of Golf Captains and the Edinburgh & Lothian Golf Captains’ Society. Each Society entered a team of 32 players in a shotgun start and the competition was won by Liverpool with a total of 979 stableford points, followed by London with 968 points and Edinburgh with 948 points. The highest individual score was by Vin Jackson, the then Captain of Widnes, with 41 points. The participants received a small souvenir presented by the Woolton club and all speakers agreed that the format should be repeated perhaps every 5 or 10 years. On 7 August a match in identical format took place at Childwall with 32 players from each of the Liverpool, Manchester and Bolton Societies taking part. Liverpool again emerged as overall winners with 1,010 stableford points with Bolton & District on 980 points and Manchester & District on 937 points. The highest individual score was by Gerry Ferguson, the then Captain of Childwall, with 40 points. The golfers with the three highest scores were presented with a framed picture of the Childwall clubhouse, donated by the club. At the dinner which followed it was again recommended that the format should be repeated more frequently.
Perhaps it was too much to expect that the weather for the Autumn Meeting would match the conditions for the events played earlier that summer. From 17th to 21st August the rain descended on St Andrews every day when 294 golfers played on the Dukes, Ladybank and Crail Balcomie courses. Charles Abbott of Bromborough mastered the conditions better than anyone else and won the Benstead Trophy with 112 points. To mark the special occasion it had been planned to conclude the Autumn Meeting with a photograph of everyone in their red coats on the steps of the R & A clubhouse prior to a processional walk to dinner at the Old Course Hotel but the rain caused this to be cancelled. However, the Gala Dinner helped to revive the spirits under the Captaincy of Eddie Williams supported by some excellent speeches by the Provost of Fife, Councillor Mrs Frances Melville, and Graeme Simmers, a past-Captain of the R & A. The former made a very confident welcome speech before we sat down to dinner and the latter wound things up with a heartwarming appreciation of the finer aspects of sport. Graeme passed Geoffrey Leece a copy of his speech from the following is extracted:
“1908 was an interesting year in sport. England beat Australia in the test match. Wolves beat Newcastle in the cup final, James Braid beat Tom Ball to win the Open at Prestwick and at Wimbledon Arthur Gore won the mens’ title and Charlotte Sterry won the ladies’ singles - she also happened to be my Grandmother. But the most significant sporting event in 1908 was at the Woolton club with the coming together of 23 Merseyside Captains to participate in a competition, thereby creating the inception of your Society. Your Society for over 100 years has upheld the best traditions and etiquette of the game and for this I salute you. I wish you and your clubs every success in the future and would say to all golfers, at the end of the round, may you as well as your partner and indeed your opponents have enjoyed the whole experience. In recognition of your Society achieving 100 years of stewardship, friendship, and all that is good in the game of golf I would like to present you with this Plate to be placed among the many historic trophies in your cabinet.”
The superb new Echo Arena and Conference Centre was the venue for the final event of 2008. The Centennial Year Dinner and Dance on Saturday 29 November was a resounding success which was hugely enjoyed by the 370 participants, including Councillor Steve Rotherham and his wife Sandra, The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Liverpool. With no formal speeches it was a time for fun and relaxation and the music of The Lemon Tree Band ensured that the dance floor was never empty. The sight of a red-coated conga line cavorting around the floor was proof that Golf Captains and their Ladies know how to enjoy themselves when encouraged. The only complaint heard was that we had to wait 100 years to enjoy it!
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