In 1999 a group of Marlborough Golf Club members had an idea. A year later that idea became a reality and now, 21 years later, the product of their innovative thinking and drive is about to celebrate a notable milestone.
The Allan Scott Family Wines Women’s Golf Tournament, which has been staged at the Fairhall-based club since 2000, will this year cater for over 200 female golfers from throughout the country from March 16-18.
The idea of running a women’s tournament in Marlborough was sparked by a visit to Wanaka by members of the original organising committee. The Central Otago club were hosting a women-only event and the Marlborough women liked what they saw, quickly realising the potential for something similar in the top of the south.
The inaugural committee, which comprised Ann Rutledge, Wendy Batchelor, Jo Grigg, Mary-Ann Jacobson and Anne Preston, did some networking, booked a date then went looking for a sponsor. Fortunately, they attracted the interest of Marlborough wine pioneer Allan Scott and his family who pledged their support and have remained the event’s main sponsor ever since.
From small beginnings the event quickly grew, word spreading throughout the country, and abroad, of a Marlborough tournament offering top prizes and three days of fun in the sun.
Two hundred and six golfers, “from Kerikeri to Wanaka” have signed up for the 21st edition, with a waiting list in place, making it “probably one of the largest ladies-only tournaments in the country” according to Rutledge, a former tournament winner.
“People seem to love the overall feel of the tournament, which is very friendly,” suggested Grigg.
“There is a country atmosphere, but the hospitality and the fact the tournament is so well run means people have just kept coming. Some have been to every one of the tournaments and have made great friends here over the years,” added Rutledge.
The original organisers also feel the event has had a major spin-off effect on the local retail community, bringing much-needed business to town for three days, or more.
Rutledge was quick to stress the “great relationship” the event has with Allan Scott Wines. “We have worked really well as a team … it’s quite unique for a sponsor to be involved at that level for so long.”
While aspects of the event have changed dramatically over the years, including the scoring which is now fully-computerised after previously being collated in a tent in front of the clubhouse, the original advocates feel the current format is sound and the event has a “very bright future”.
“The current committee are not complacent. They realise they have to keep working to keep the [event’s] name out there … they are always looking at ways to improve the experience,” said Rutledge.
A feature of the format that has made it so attractive to visiting players over the past two decades is the fact it offers three different competitions (a stableford on the first day, a four-ball-best-ball on day two and a gross nett competition on the final day) and caters for golfers of widely contrasting abilities.
Several holes-in-one have been recorded at the various tournaments, including one to Marlborough member Diana Pye in the inaugural event. She aced the par three fifth hole but, unfortunately for her, the car which local company Blenheim Toyota had staked for those registering a hole-in-one was positioned on the 16th hole.
Rarangi player and long-time rep selector Margaret Tapp was the inaugural winner, claiming the gross on the final day in 2000, while the most recent victor was Chris Brodie from Charteris Bay who picked up her third title in 2019. Russley’s Jeanette Ross, with four, has won the most titles.
Winners of the gross trophy at the Allan Scott Marlborough Golf Tournament: 2000 Margaret Tapp (Rarangi); 2001 Ann Rutledge (Marlborough); 2002 Chris Brodie (Charteris Bay); 2003 Jeanette Ross (Russley); 2004 Jeanette Ross (Russley); 2005 Mary Hoare (North Otago); 2006 Mary Hoare (North Otago); 2007 Chris Brodie (Charteris Bay); 2008 Serena Brailsford (Marlborough); 2009 Helen Hames (Waimate); 2010 Suzanne Ewing (Wanaka); 2011 Jeanette Ross (Russley); 2012 Jeanette Ross (Russley); 2013 Andrea Thomas (Auckland); 2014 Sue Murray (Awatere); 2015 Julie Nicole (Marlborough); 2016 Chrissie Mackie (Kaikoura); 2017 Emily Stenhouse (Marlborough); 2018 Suzette Eastwood (Omaha Beach); 2019 Chris Brodie (Charteris Bay).
The current committee members are Pru Jensen, Marion Tripe, Tessa Sutherland, Jane Anderson-Bay, Gloria Rogers, Leslie Corbett and Helen Lissaman.