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MORE ABOUT VIVIEN

Vivien was born in Sutton, Surrey on 24th November 1946 and educated at Nonsuch County High School, Cheam, Surrey - where she had the privilege of being Captain of the School. She keeps in touch with several old girls from the school who are golfers (and a few non-golfers) and would always like to hear from others. 

She started playing golf at the age of seven and was a junior international player for England and Great Britain. At the age of 19, while at the University of London, reading maths, she was runner-up in the British Amateur Championship to Liz Chadwick (now Liz Pook) at Ganton. She was then chosen to represent Great Britain in the Commonwealth Championships (which Great Britain won) to represent Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup at Royal County Down (which GB and I lost) and for England in the home internationals and in the European Championships - all of which England won. 

Vivien finished her degree at London University, graduating in psychology in 1969 - having decided that maths was definitely not her chosen career (!). Vivien was unusual in the world of golf in that a) she went to university and b) she had to work for a living after university. In fact she even had to sit part 1 of her university finals on the two days  before the Curtis Cup at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland and had to have her papers flown over to sit them at Queen's Belfast on the Wednesday, Thursday and then play against the Americans on the Friday and Saturday! 

She made the mistake in 1968 of asking a representative of Slazenger's what would be the prospects of being a professional golfer. He unfortunately told one of the golfing hierarchy of ladies' golf and Vivien's amateur status was whisked away from her at Christmas 1968. She then found herself to be a professional golfer while still at University. The rules of amateur status has fortunately changed from those archaic days. Just! Vivien had not been allowed to have a golf scholarship to an American University or to take up several jobs with any loose connection to golf.

Vivien became the first European to qualify for the LPGA Tour in 1969 and then played a few tournaments in 1970 and 1971, working her way into a good position in the rankings to permit her automatic entry to all LPGA tournaments. At the end of 1971 she had to return to the UK. Her mother was taken ill with a brain tumour and subsequently died. Vivien was unable to return to America in 1972, lost her rankings and exemptions and thought "Stuff it". She then played a few tournaments in Australia, and won several, played in Japan and won, played what was available outside America and won some and then decided to start a tour in the UK.

She decided to try to become a club professional but found the discrimination quite absurd. When the Sex Discrimination Act came into force on 31st December 1975 Vivien hoped her chances would change. She even took the London Borough of Richmond to an employment tribunal for discrimination. This case remains one of the leading cases under the Sex Discrimination Act. The councillors had asked many obviously discriminatory questions - could a woman do the job? Wouldn't it be long hours for a woman? Would a man go to a woman for lessons? In the tribunal they even said they had only interviewed her because of the new law. Eventually at the appeal the Town Clerk (a solicitor) said that the reason Vivien did not get a further interview was not from discrimination but was just an administrative error. They really had wanted her for the final interview but someone gave her a rejection instead of acceptance. It was just an administrative error. The judge accepted this. Never trust a solicitor or a judge with your future.

Vivien then decided that she would retrain and abandon golf as a bad job. Her mother had always warned her that solicitors were untrustworthy, wicked people - so Vivien decided to retrain to be a solicitor. She managed to pass her solicitors' exams with the help of books (but no lectures) and got distinction in the only things which interest a golfing solicitor - land law, commercial law, company law and tax law. However, the firm she trained with decided that women should do matrimonial law. She therefore finished up doing divorce and tax work. In the mean time she acquired a postgraduate diploma in management studies, an MSc - an MBA (and was told she had the highest marks of any student not given a distinction - but women weren't given distinction) and a PhD in sports psychology. Her book, "The Golfing Mind" was based on that work. It is currently out of print.

Vivien tries to keep up with some of the changes in the law. Well, not exactly 'some', more like a 'few' and embarked on an LLM  in sports law - specialising in the thrilling subject of tax law and sport. Good news. It is now finished and Vivien astonishingly managed to get a distinction!! Educational standards must be dropping!

One week, having been elevated to a partner in a large firm of solicitors, she had two clients commit suicide - both fed up with the delay by civil servants and the absurdly slow court officers and social workers. Vivien decided she had had enough of the law and decided to go back to her golf. Her golfers might get fed up with their golf but had never taken overdoses of paracetomol or flung themselves under a train. She looked for a large house with land at which she could teach golf and finished up with an entire golf course - the Eynesbury Hardwicke Golf Club in St. Neots. She renamed the course Abbotsley Golf and Squash Club. The club had a modest 18 hole course, 6 squash courts, a driving range, small manor house and a complex of farm buildings and barns. 

With Jenny Wisson - the lady captain of the club, who became managing director at Abbotsley - Abbotsley was transformed into a wonderful golf course - now almost 30 years old - with a 42 bedroomed hotel, another course - the Cromwell Course, plus a par 3 course. The club has played host to training sessions for England, Ireland and Wales, plus two England  Rosebud pro-ams, the English Intermediate Championship and a host of county and professional events. The Club complex is now leased to American Golf UK.  Vivien still lives on site at the golf course. 

Vivien can easily be spotted on the course - wearing shorts when it is too cold for shorts, and a bobble hat when it is too warm for a bobble hat! And playing much more quickly than anyone else - anywhere!  Her cat, Edward, usually accompanies her! (He does seriously walk the course - here on the 11th tee (men's of course!)

Vivien and Jenny bought another course in Cambridgeshire in 1993, The R and A's rules of amateur status preclude Vivien from being linked to the golf club she owns. So its identity must remain a secret! All we can say is that it is in Cambridge and sits astride the Meridian Line. Strangely enough R and A members and favourites are allowed to keep their amateur status and promote whatever golf clubs and courses they like -but there we are! Still that's the R and A and the rules of amateur status for you!

At Abbotsley Vivien ran a vast programme of golf schools while Jenny ran the club and generally took responsibility for the development of the site.  Jenny was nominated for the Businesswoman of the Year Award, but lost out to a lady who cultivated lobsters! Still, she was runner-up. Visitors from all over the world came to Abbotsley for Vivien's schools - with people literally flying in from as far away as South Africa just for the school. Pupils came from New Zealand, Australia and various far flung corners of the world.

In 1997 Vivien received the OBE for services to golf. She decided in 1999 that she would like the opportunity of enjoying her own golf, having spent the previous 30 years worrying about everyone else's games. There is no golf for women professionals other than the main European Tour or the LPGA and clearly that is of no interest to the more mature professional! Because of the archaic distinction of amateur and professional in golf, Vivien is unable to play in the English senior events or other county events - all of which are for amateurs. She would be unable to be a county captain, national or county selector etc. All very silly. She therefore had no option - in order to be able to enjoy playing golf - but to relinquish her professional status and fight for her amateur status again. She had to suffer a three year sentence which is finished in August 2003. The amateur/professional distinction is now thankfully a thing of the past in virtually all sports other than boxing (for the protection of youngsters) and golfers (for the protection of its blazered administrators). 

Having regained her amateur status Vivien was runner-up in her first amateur tournament - the English Seniors matchplay championship, and then won the English Senior Strokeplay Championship in 2004. She was selected to represent the English Seniors in the Senior Home Internationals in 2003 and 2004 and in the European Senior TeamChampionship in 2004 and 2005. She has had a run of 9 wins in 9 matches for the English Seniors. She was also selected for the Surrey 1st team after a gap of 36 years! And is now Surrey Vice-Captain, with a blazer, a badge and sensible shoes!

Vivien has a substantial programme of after dinner speaking and after lunch speaking - entertaining her audiences with the "Golfing Mind" - a light-hearted look at the psychology of golf. It will show you how others see you. Vivien also does golf clinics in aid of the Macmillan Fund. 

 

  • Curtis Cup player 1968
  • Runner-up British Amateur Champion 1966
  • Winning team Commonwealth Championships 1967
  • British Open Champion 1977
  • Winner British Car Auctions Championship
  • Winner Keighley Trophy
  • Winner four tournaments in Australia
  • Winner Avia Foursomes (twice)
  • National Coach English Ladies' Golf Association - 18 years
  • National Coach Welsh Ladies' Golf Union
  • National Coach Irish Ladies' Golf Union
  • Coached 32 County teams/squads
  • Coached Cambridge University men's team
  • Coached South African provincial Squads
  • Twice winner of the British Sports Coach of the Year Award
  • Editor of Lady Golfer for several years
  • Contributor to the Guardian and numerous golf and other publications
  • Commentator for Sky TV and BBC
  • BSc. and PhD psychology
  • MSc (MBA) Business Administration
  • Member of MENSA
  • Founder of the Women's Professional Golf Association and the European Women's Tour. Made honorary life member of PGA and Women's European Tour but had to resign from each to regain amateur status and play.
  • Previously on Executive Committee of PGA, Chairman Women's PGA
  • Council member of National Coaching Foundation 1993-7
  • Awarded the OBE for services to golf in 1997
  • Owner of Abbotsley Golf Hotel and Country Club
  • Chairman of the Association of Golf Course Owners
  • Vivien's pupils have included: Laura Davies, Alison Nicholas, Mhairi McKay, Suzanne Strudwick, Jill Thornhill, Peggy Conley, Karen Lunn, Janet Collingham, Helen Dobson, Julie Wade and 30 other winners of British Open, British Amateur and national championships - plus a host of Curtis Cup players and leading amateurs and professionals.

Vivien has also written a number of books and produced several videos:

  • The Complete Woman Golfer - English and French
  • Successful Golf - English and Dutch
  • Golf for Women
  • The Young Golfer - English and 3 other languages
  • The Complete Book of Golf Practice
  • With Bernhard Langer - Langer on Putting
  • With Nick Faldo - Golf, the Winning Formula
  • Advanced Golf
  • The Golfing Mind - (best seller in the USA)
  • The Golf Handbook (in 13 languages)
  • The Women's Golf Handbook
  • Videos
    • Tee to Green
    • The Vivien Saunders Golf Clinic:
      • Putting
      • Short Game
      • Long Game

 

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