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THOUGHT PROVOKING THOUGHTS
Vivien has been contemplating asking the Law Society to fund her for a research PhD into whether boring people become solicitors or solicitors become boring people. Many solicitors who are asked this question find it thought provoking.
Come to think of it - the R and A dishes out money for research projects - do boring people become golf referees or do golf referees become boring people? Actually that isn't fair. It is far harder to qualify to be an R and A rules referee than to be a Solicitor of the Supreme Court. The rules of golf are truly fascinating and thought provoking.
One of the rules of golf which is quite fascinating (and upon which I assume some recipient of an R and A bursary will do an MA at St Andrews or Loughborough) is the one about what constitutes a loose impediment or moveable obstruction. The thrilling significance is that you can move the moveable obstruction from a bunker, but not the loose impediment. For the uninitiated, the loose impediment is something natural and the moveable obstruction man-made (which includes, for the avoidance of doubt, woman made). A recent decision has deemed a banana skin to be a loose impediment - natural - even if you find it in a bunker in the UK. You can't move it. The fascinating question, of course, is whether the label on the banana skin (being man made) can be removed from the bunker, thus dragging the banana skin with it. Oh, that I were a young thing in my twenties and could apply for funding to research such thrilling subjects.
Sometimes on local rules there is a statement as to whether a specific THING is to be deemed as moveable or immoveable. For, what is moveable by one person, is immoveable by another. There was the extraordinary scenario of Tiger Woods and a group of his followers teaming up to move some vast rock - which to one normal mortal (or even Tiger on his own) would have been immoveable. Tournament organisers usually decide that TV cables for example are to be immoveable - move your ball away from them, rather than moveable - move the cables. All very logical until you come to the label on the banana skin.
Incidentally - this won't offend, because clearly any R and A qualified referee who enters this site will not, by definition be boring!!
Child protection is a serious issue. When I practised as a solicitor I specialised in family and wardship cases. Some were horrific and there is no doubt that many children are abused, mostly by men and frequently by family members. One of the missions of golf for the 21st century is to extend the opportunities to play golf to a whole new generation. In Surrey we are responsible for the development of golf in the London boroughs that are south of the Thames and west of Kent - Lambeth, Wandsworth, Sutton, Croydon and so on. Our women's county committee has done a fantastic audit of the golf shops and ranges, pitch and putt courses and other places where youngsters might start the game. Although Surrey is one of the wealthiest golfing counties in England it also has this development responsibility. In early 2005 the Children in Golf Strategy group - an amalgam of all the governing bodies in golf - advertised for a volunteer post to chair their four meetings. Sadly, but as predicted, my application, being a woman, didn't even get an acknowledgement and certainly not an interview. I guess 25 years qualified as a solicitor, 25 years as national coach for three of the four home countries and an OBE for services to the game counts for nothing. Anyway, more about that serious subject at a later date.
On a flippant note, children, it seems are potentially at risk on golf courses from water hazards. Most clubs have been told (by insurers or health and safety officers) to put handrails on all bridges, some have even been told to fence off their sand pits (aka bunkers) in case golfers fall in them. It really does seem that we must take steps lest a child should fall in a pond or ditch while retrieving a ball. Perhaps at junior county weeks we should take special care. With the message that ball spotters shouldn't talk to children and certainly not touch them, what precautions should we take? Each child should perhaps be given a spotted handkerchief of her county colours so that she can wave it if in difficulties in a water hazard. The volunteers are mostly of an age to have done Morse code or semaphore at Girl Guides and can no doubt communicate, if the child has similar skills, without speaking.
In anticipation of my role as Surrey Vice Captain I decided to get some training at the Anglian Water reservoir at Graffham, with the assistance of members of the English Ladies' Fly Fishing team. Armed with net, protective goggles, buoyancy jacket and rod I will volunteer to assist by ponds or ditches should my services be required. With confidence I should be able to retrieve a small child from a water hazard without fear of contact. I may not be quite up to the standards of the SAS but it's a start.
WHO RUNS GOLF?
There is an awful lot of money swimming around in golf these days. The England Golf Partnership has been nurtured into existence by the carrot of over £9 million pound of Lottery money for golf in England. Sport England and those who hand out the cash will only give it to a mixed organisation. They won't give money to ELGA, money to the EGU and money to the PGA (if they need it) but somehow assume it is good for all sports to be mixed. Hence the emergence of this extraordinary England Golf Partnership - a marriage of convenience, for money. The Partnership was formed in March 2005 as a limited liability partnership. For those not familiar with the concept (and who is) a limited liability partnership is a partnership which, by definition, has to be profit-making. It cannot be a non-profit making organisation like ELGA and the EGU themselves. So profit making it is - with all the ramifications that has for VAT and tax.
The formation of the England Golf Partnership was an oddly timed affair. Set up only three months after the ELGA AGM of 2004, the members were never asked for their approval. Although the formation of the England Golf Partnership clearly has commendable aims it required the consent of the members - and that wasn't even requested at the AGM. There was no mention of it. And very strangely, instead of the ELGA Executive committee naming ELGA's trading company - English Ladies' Golf Ltd - as the partner, the partnership is actually held personally in the name of the ELGA secretary/Chief Executive. Quite why, nobody knows. And again, the ELGA members (and probably the Executive Committee) were left fully in the dark.
ELGA members have never been privy to this arrangement and the way money has been distributed to the Partnership and from it. There are those, including me, who see the England Golf Partnership as a pot of money which must be very carefully preserved and spent wisely for the good of the game. There are those who are no doubt buzzing round this huge pot of money like bees round a honey pot. Sadly knowing the golf world there will be consultancies for this and that with the sole aim of getting their hot little paws on the dosh. The whole thing is very hush, hush. The PGA were very wary of signing an agreement with the other partners - both the partnership and the sponsorship agreement. In their view ELGA were not in a position to sign the agreements without the consent of their members. So what did they do - they signed the agreement. "You can't do it", said the PGA. So what happened, they did it. Again, no one is suggesting money going astray or wrong doing - but ELGA is an association of its members and they should have their say. At least get advice from the ELGA solicitor!
All this sort of thing is new to ELGA. There has never been a lot of money in the pot. But for those who have been involved with the PGA this sort of secrecy isn't new. When I had the honour of being the chairman of the WPGA, the PGA (the men's PGA!) sold the rights to our name to McDonalds for the WPGA McDonalds Championship at Gleneagles. We wanted whatever fee was received by the PGA for a few tournaments for the women clubs pros. But despite numerous requests to the PGA Chief Executive we never did find out what money the men had got for the use of the women's name. Disgraceful, but par for the course. The PGA just find pussycats for their board and committees to ensure they can do just as they please without reproach.
And the PGA members have tried to find out just where the PGA put the money generated when they sold the rights of the Ryder Cup. How much, who got it and so on? Millions and millions. Any member asking about the money from the Ryder Cup sale was firmly told not to ask if they wanted to retain their PGA membership. The problem with these associations is that the paid staff get stronger than the members - who employ them - and forget who the association should be run for. ELGA is in danger of falling into the same trap. PGA members pay hundreds of pounds for their membership fees to pay all these staff. At least the membership fees of ELGA, at £6, are a pittance. But no doubt many ELGA members would rather cough up £10 a year to avoid all the Government intervention and wave goodbye to the potential Lottery funding. At least they should have had the choice. But instead, ELGA, with its Mummy knows best attitude, has a spiralling payroll and administration costs. But presumably as the majority of women in English golf clubs have never heard of ELGA it is neither here nor there.
As a typical Alan Bennett character would probably announce when asked what she thought of ELGA "Awful, darling, - but nothing like as loathsome as Vaughan Williams."
(See Alan Bennett's play "The Old Country")
That's it, really!
Oh, but I am delighted to say that at least the Welsh know how to do things properly. The Welsh Ladies' Golf Union is joining forces with the Welsh men's union in April. They are holding a special general meeting for all members to attend, should they wish. Notice is given on the Welsh Ladies' Golf Union website, with details of the merger. And the two unions will correctly merge as a company limited by guarantee - the correct form for non-profit-making associations. The advantage the Welsh have over the English is that they, the Welsh, have consistently experienced people at the helm of the association - with a lifetime's interest in the game. There is more consistency. You only have to look at the names of the Welsh officials concerned and it looks right and secure. No hidden cloak and dagger nonsense like ELGA. The Welsh treat their members like intelligent people, who deserve to be consulted. And the Welsh positively encourage expertise where ELGA shuns expertise. I have no doubt that the Welsh Ladies' Golf Union has had invaluable help from Pam Valentine - one of their hard working councillors who is a solicitor. ELGA has embarked on its England Golf Partnership, signed various agreements, had a major re-write of their rules (which thankfully failed to get through the AGM) and pursued various other initiatives without reference to the ELGA solicitors. The ELGA top brass is fast becoming a secret society, totally forgetting that the interests and wishes of the ELGA members..
Perhaps ELGA should copy the professional approach of the WLGU and be open, transparent and democratic. Do look at the professionalism of the Welsh and wish them a happy union with their men.