First lady of women’s golf

JOAN Rothschild, champion of women’s amateur golf, and of disabled sport, has died at the age of 90.

JOAN Rothschild, champion of women’s amateur golf, and of disabled sport, has died at the age of 90.

Mrs Rothschild had a tremendous passion for the women’s amateur game at all levels.

She was president of the English Ladies’ Golf Association (ELGA) from 1986-88 and was one of the founders of the ELGA Trust, the charity for girls’ golf which has helped thousands of youngsters to start and enjoy the sport.

ELGA was succeeded by the English Women’s Golf Association and the charity continues today as the EWGA Trust.

Joan was particularly known for securing the sponsorship of Avia Watches for the Avia Foursomes Championship which, for many years, was one of the most significant golfing fixtures in the ladies’ amateur calendar.

She also organised the Woman Golfer of the Year Awards, sponsored by Avia Watches until 1989 and then by the Daily Telegraph. At international level, Joan always supported the Great Britain and Ireland teams in the Curtis Cup matches, the Commonwealth tournament and the Vagliano Trophy match against Europe.

When the Vagliano Trophy looked destined to discontinue due to lack of funds, she and her husband Del stepped in and financed it to continue.

Her passion for the game included her involvement with Surrey, of which she was an honorary vice-president. She was county captain in 1970-71 and county president from 1981-83.

She was particularly proud that Surrey won the English Counties’ Championship in both 1982 and ’83 when she was president.

Joan’s commitment to disabled sport is less well known. She was astonished by the low level of support received by disabled sporting stars. She felt the achievements of athletes, in the face of adversity, were incredible and should be recognised.

She was a regular visitor to Stoke Mandeville but would not donate money because she was wary of administration costs. Instead, for example, she would give a wheelchair which she knew would go straight to the needy person.

Every year she also organised a charity evening at the Players Theatre in London, persuading many famous sporting celebrities to attend, as well as many disabled sporting stars, and raised huge sums of money.

Joan, who was born in Cheshire, was a Wren during the war and earned the nickname of ‘bossy boots’ when she was a driver to one of the most senior Naval commanders, Chief of Naval Operations on Western Approaches.

Later, when she championed disabled sports she contacted the chairman of British Airways and told him in no uncertain terms that she expected BA to fly a whole plane of disabled sports stars to the Paralympic games at no cost.

Surrey’s Diane Bailey, who is GB&I’s most successful ever Curtis Cup captain, remarked: “No one, but no one, ever said no to Joan – hence the nickname of ‘bossy boots’. They were flown there and back, plus their families – quite a lady.”

Joan’s home club was Reigate Heath, Surrey, where she was ladies’ captain, a vice-president and an honorary life member. She was predeceased by her husband, Del, and her daughter, Ann. She is survived by her son-in-law, Douglas Miller, and her grandchildren, Sarah and Andrew.

A thanksgiving service for Joan Rothschild will be held at St Mary’s Church, Wimbledon, on Wednesday, December 1, at 11.30am.

 

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