The Commonwealth Tournament

The Lucifer Golfing Society Commonwealth Tournament 1928 to date

The Society, formed by Walton Heath members in 1921, established its annual tournament in 1928 with the aim and aspiration of “welcoming and returning hospitality for golfers from the Commonwealth when visiting the United Kingdom”. It has now held 81 such events, the tournament having been suspended during the years 1940-48 during World War II and its aftermath.

Since the tournament’s inception we have been able to entertain some 7500 golfers from all parts of the Commonwealth. The primary event is the two-day Commonwealth Tournament at West Hill and Walton Heath GCs. In addition, there are two other regular meetings, respectively at The Berkshire GC, where the Lucifers take on the Australians, and at Woking GC where the Lucifers play against participants from the rest of the Commonwealth.  In addition, there are other informal meetings arranged at Rye, Royal Porthcawl, Hankley Common and Ashridge which have also become popular occasions. There is no shortage of golf for those keen to be involved!

 

The Lucifer Golfing Society Commonwealth Tournament-2019

In Summary:

  • This was the 83rd Annual Commonwealth Tournament organised by the Lucifers, the event having its inauguration in 1928 at Sunningdale, no tournaments having been held during the war years and their aftermath, 1940-1948.
  • This year we had 97 overseas players from Canada (40 ), Australia ( 38) Bermuda (2 ) Malaysia ( 2) , New Zealand (5 ), with some 120 players including Lucifers playing at West Hill and Walton Heath.
  • The concluding official event was the celebratory black tie dinner in the Lancaster Room at The Savoy Hotel which was attended by our Commonwealth visitors, many accompanied by wives or partners, as well as Lucifer members mostly accompanied by their wives, and comprising some 215 people in toto.
  • The winner of the Douglas Bader Trophy, being for the best combined score at the two courses by a Commonwealth or Lucifer golfer aged over 75, (after a countback) was Robert Rome of Royal Melbourne GC with 65 points.
  • The winner of the Lucifer Commonwealth Tournament was Iain McLean of Victoria GC, British Columbia, Canada with an aggregate score of 74 points, the runner–up being Philip Rostron from the Royal Woodbine Club in Toronto, Canada with Hong Nung Wong of Royal Selangor GC , Malaysia, in third place -71 points.
  • Next year’s Tournament dates are Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th July followed by The Savoy Dinner on Wednesday 8th.

The above is designed for those with limited time to read longer reports . There follows a Letter from the Lucifers outlining in more detail some history of the event (not quoted in the two previous reports in this genre) and a fuller description of some of the highlights of this year’s tournament and other organised games, matches and events.

 

Letter from the Lucifers:  August,  2019

Dear Commonwealth Contestant in 2019 and/or potential contestant in 2020,

Writing in 1942, probably one of the bleakest times for Britain in WW2, then Lucifer historian and celebrated golf writer, Bernard Darwin, published his brief history of the Society. Darwin, who had been Captain of the R&A in 1934, opened his history thus:

The Lucifer Golfing Society was founded in 1921, so it comes of age this year. This is no time for celebrations; some of its activities have of necessity become dormant in wartime, but its spirit is still very much alive…It is in some way an unique record which has assured the Society its niche not only in golfing history, but in the history of the Empire. The Society has become, in the late Lord Reading’s words, ‘an important link in the great chain of Empire brotherhood and understanding’ and this is a chain which is more vital and more enduring than ever before.”

The chief part of the Lucifer story is concerned with the annual golf competition for our kinsmen from overseas and of the annual dinner that has followed it”….

Darwin went on to say:

“Many of the members had travelled in different parts of the Empire and been struck by two things: the endless hospitality and friendliness with which those of the Mother country were always received in the golf clubs overseas, and the extreme difficulty of repaying such kindness adequately or at all. Could not some collective effort be made to welcome these kind hosts from all the different parts of the Empire when they come home on leave and to give that word “home” the warmest and most friendly significance?  This was clearly a notion amongst notions and it was at once accepted and acted on.  A letter was sent to some of the leading clubs in the Empire overseas saying that the Society would be glad to welcome any resident British subjects, members of those clubs, when they came home, at a golf meeting and a dinner.”

These sentiments continue to have the same relevance today, more than three-quarters of a century on, the only difference being that from 1965 all references to “Empire” were replaced with “Commonwealth”, including both continuing and former member countries. Moreover, the invitation has widened to all golfing members within the Commonwealth (as so defined) by way of thanks for their hospitality to Lucifer members on tour in their countries, which is now happening in one part or other of the Commonwealth at least every other year.

In July 2019 we enjoyed unfailing good weather for the whole tournament and surrounding events. The official golfing events of the Tournament, now in its 83rd year, were:

Friday 5th July- the Lucifers v. the Australians at The Berkshire (Red Course) involving a large number of the Australian contingent, 35 to be precise, the Sydney Bridge trophy yet again being carried away by the Australians despite several of their countrymen playing for the Lucifers!

Monday 8th & Tuesday 9th July-the Commonwealth tournament played at West Hill and the Old Course at Walton Heath with 120 players in all, this year for the first time the Canadians outnumbering the Australians. Some 20 overseas and Lucifer members played for the Douglas Bader trophy for over-75 year olds.

Friday 12th July– the Lucifers v. the Commonwealth golfers (from Canada, New Zealand, Bermuda, Jersey with two from Australia, numbering 45 Commonwealth players  in total) at Woking where the match was drawn.

With all the intensity of playing one’s own ball and keeping individual scores during the Tournament, these other matches with the Lucifers and various Commonwealth teams during the week, are much more relaxing; the competitive edge being between teams rather than individuals.

A similar spirit is engendered in a multiplicity of other games informally organised by Lucifers at their own clubs for smaller groups of overseas players consisting of between 10 and 25 Canadians or Australians (unless otherwise indicated); the Canadians often fielding a few wives in addition. Amongst these were games at The Berkshire; at Ashridge in Hertfordshire;. at Sunningdale; at Rye (a group of some 17 Australians from Royal Melbourne ); at Royal St. George’s and at Royal Ashdown As if this was not enough golf for most of the participants, a match between the Australians and the Canadians  was organised at New Zealand GC on the day of the Savoy dinner, and Charlie Jamieson, our Captain,  hosted a game at Muirfield involving some of our Malaysian visitors. At each of these games the hosts were members of the relevant clubs although, in several cases, the guests took over the mantle as hosts with generous contributions towards (if not total discharge of) bar and luncheon bills. There were probably some other informal games played but the Hon. Scribe could glean no further details from the succession of exhausted Lucifer hosts and competitors he has endeavoured to cross-examine. He also presents his apologies to the organisers whose individual contributions are not recorded, in the interests of brevity. The Society and, to judge from the tenor of their post-Tournament communications, the overseas participants are nonetheless exceedingly grateful to the organisers of these fixtures enhancing, as they do, the scope and complementing the enjoyment of the Tournament.

Whilst their Commonwealth menfolk were trying to acquit themselves with individual respectability at West Hill, a group of 18 ladies led by Nicola Dumas were led on foot round the City of London by an expert guide over a period of 3 hours exploring historic locations and listening to stories of love, death and destruction involving St. Paul’s Cathedral, Paternoster Square, Christchurch/Greyfriars, the Old Bailey, St. Sepulchre Church, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Smithfield and the Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, the Charterhouse, Barbican,  the Ironmongers and Goldsmiths Halls and finally the Guildhall. One can only speculate how all this can have been undertaken in a mere 3 hours. They must have completed their itinerary on the run and doubtless covered much more ground than their menfolk over their golf rounds! That they fully deserved their lunch at the rooftop restaurant, the Madison, with its brilliant view over St. Paul’s, seen at its very best on a fine day, there can be no doubt.

On Tuesday 8th July, Andi Scott organised a Ladies’ golf day at New Zealand GC assisted by Sue Jamieson. The day involved 11 Commonwealth ladies and 10 Lucifer ladies. In teams of three they played a game known as “the Waltz”. This put nobody under unreasonable pressure to perform but nonetheless generated a strong team spirit. The winners, with a very creditable 74 stableford points, were Barbara Fitzgerald, Liz Cooper and Rosie Shotton.

Various stories arising out of this year’s tournament have found their way to the Hon.Scribe:

  • Richard Halinda from Cherry Hill GC, Toronto, playing with the Hon. Scribe (and later to make a movingly eloquent speech at the Savoy dinner) found himself a frequent visitor of the West Hill rough. On the 18th hole having already recorded, over his previous 17 holes, five blobs (or “strikes” in his parlance), he drove a long ball perilously close to the rough on the left side. From there he struck a perfect long iron into the green and holed his putt for a superb 3 shots in toto and 4 points, giving him a 30 points total; a wonderful means of earning redemption.
  • Another example of redemption was experienced by Colin Thorniley of Lake Karrinyup GC of Perth. Driving towards the par three 17th hole on the Old Course at Walton Heath his score to that point was in the low 20s. His tee off shot rose high and true, a perfect strike in fact as it made its way directly into the hole, giving him a hole in one- an eagle and 5 points. Supercharged by that experience, he managed a 3 on the last hole, a par four, giving him a monumental 9 points on those last two holes which caused him to comment, in gratification, that these made his overall score “a respectable 30”. The word “monumental” is particularly apposite as his name has now been recorded on a splendid solid silver model of a sailing junk presented to the Lucifers by The Royal Hong Kong GC in 1953 and now inscribed with the name of any player who achieves a hole in one during the Commonwealth Tournament. Colin is the third person to achieve that distinction in the past 60 or so years of the tournament -see the attached photograph of the trophy (amongst the full Lucifer collection displayed each year at the Savoy dinner and now available to view in its splendour on our website).
  • A couple of Canadian players, after a game of golf and a barbecue at the house of a Lucifer, asked if in a week’s time they might be permitted to watch the final day of the Open Golf Championship at Royal Portrush on their television. The host gave his apologies as he and his wife were going abroad and would not be returning until late on the Sunday in question. Doubtless from long acquaintance over a period of years at the Commonwealth Tournament, one of the Canadians, quick as a flash, responded: “But don’t worry about that, we know where you keep your house keys!” The hosts returned to their house to find the two Canadians revelling in the conclusion of the Open Championship. I have added in this story as it exemplifies thecamaraderie between participants generated by the Commonwealth Tournament which could just as readily been the case had a couple of Lucifer members on tour to Canada, without access to a television there, made a similar request of their hosts at their home.

The culmination of the Commonwealth Tournament is a formal dinner at The Savoy Hotel, London for all participants and, if accompanied here, their spouses and partners . The total number of diners this year was 215 with overseas guests representing Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Jersey, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The dinner was presided over by the Lucifer  President, Air Marshal Sir Ian Macfadyen, K.C.V.O., C.B., O.B.E and Captain, Charlie Jamieson.

Richard Halinda, from Cherry Hill GC, Niagara,  rose to toast the health of The Lucifer Golfing Society. In his moving speech, he described his visits in 2011 to the battlefields of Vimy Ridge near Arras, Pas de Calais and Juno Beach, Normandy to plant the Canadian flag at the gravesides of those men from his hometown who had enlisted to fight in both World Wars and had died in combat there. He described the cemeteries he visited as being no ordinary cemeteries but: “they were and are something special….and those fallen heroes  from the Commonwealth countries are laid there together in unison, sharing the camaraderie that they developed when they arrived in England in preparation for their entrance into the European theatre”. He continued, in describing his first experience of the Commonwealth Tournament in 2013, linking it to his visits to plant the Canadian flag at the battlefield cemeteries and echoing the sentiments of Bernard Darwin expressed in 1942 (and quoted earlier in this report):“It helped me understand what the Commonwealth was all about. It helped answer my question as to why those young men in WW1 and WW2 would come over here, what it is to be part of the British Empire. Why they may have been willing to give their lives for it”.

Charlie Jamieson, the Lucifer Captain responded with a toast to the Overseas Golfers and their Guests. In another excellent speech he announced that Nigel Turner would take over the captaincy of the Society for 2020/21 followed by Bertie Shotton as our centenary captain for the year of 2022. He went on to describe the “universally acclaimed job” undertaken by Mark and Nicola Dumas as “our Commonwealth team” an accolade we would all echo and to welcome the appointment of Chris Bonsall as Commonwealth Scribe for 2020/21. We would not, he said, be entirely losing Mark from his Commonwealth-orientated work; he will take over from Nicholas Hayes as Commonwealth Relations Scribe. Nicholas he congratulated on having done “a great job, developing relationships between the Society and our Commonwealth friends” and so say all of us!   Now was not the occasion to thank Charlie for his enormous efforts in making a great success of his term of captaincy, as a number of months’ duties remain to be discharged, his successor taking over the captaincy on 1st January, 2020.

The results of the 2019 Lucifer Commonwealth Tournament were then announced by Mark Dumas, the Hon. Commonwealth Scribe, with either Lucifer trophies awarded or specific cups as follows:

  • The best score by a Commonwealth competitor at West Hill GC was returned by Dr.Malcolm Moore from Capilano Club, Canada, with 38 points.
  • The winning scores by a Commonwealth or Lucifer player over 75, competing in the Douglas Bader competition at West Hill was Nicholas Allen from Royal Sydney GC with 36 points and at Walton Heath it was Geoffrey Dove, a Lucifer from Tandridge GC, with 34 points.
  • The winner of the Douglas Bader trophy, being for the best combined score at the two courses by a Commonwealth or Lucifer golfer aged over 75, on a countback, was Robert Rome of Royal Melbourne GC with 65 points.
  • The Lucifer winner at West Hill and recipient of the Webb Cup was James Davis, having also the highest score of any participant that day- 39 points, and winner at Walton Heath and recipient of the Victoria Cup was Ed Pickard with 34 points.
  • The overall winner at Walton Heath with 39 points and runner-up for the 2019 Commonwealth Tournament, with 73 points, was Philip Rostron from the Royal Woodbine Club in Toronto, Canada and in third place for that tournament was Hung Nong Wong of Royal Selangor GC, Malaysia, with 71 points.
  • The outright winner of the 2019 Commonwealth Tournament and the Commonwealth Cup, with 74 points was Iain McLean of Victoria GC, British Columbia, Canada.

 

The prize-giving being concluded, our evening at The Savoy was given a rousing send-off with musical entertainment from Gareth Morris of the Welsh National Opera, accompanied by Kevin Lim culminating in their playing for all to sing the first two verses of “Pack up your Troubles”, a WW1 favourite song including the allusion to having “a lucifer to light your fag” and the finale: the refrains from Land of Hope and Glory which echoed sonorously round the Ballroom floor and beyond.

The Commonwealth Scribe has received some heart-warming messages of thanks again this year but one particular one typifies the appeal which the Tournament and surrounding events bring to those attending. This was from Chris Cook, from Mississaugua Golf & Country Club,  Canada who wrote:

“I want to clearly state my overly positive takeaways from my first Lucifer adventure.

I’m in my early 40’s, my dad his mid-70’s.  He asked me to join him on an England golf trip that was organized by a proper British golf society and that concluded with a black-tie affair at The Savoy Hotel.  This painted some pretty concrete opinions on what I was in for if I accepted.  I knew I would be the youngest participant, I knew I would play some incredible golf courses and I was sort of sure that 8 days with my father was a good idea.  Oh, and I also knew that I was not going to have the proper length golf socks.

So I accepted the invite because of the above and figured everything else would be secondary.  However, as it turns out everything else was not secondary.  

Our trip was all about the people.  And meeting as many as we could.  Other Canadians, Commonwealthers (not sure that’s a term) and the Lucifers themselves.  Golf was just a means to get the conversation started.

The Lucifers and their event(s) extend an invitation to acknowledge the Commonwealth’s collaborative past, but maybe more so, a means to look forward.  A reminder and reason to engage with the people we’re going forward with.  Age doesn’t matter, patriotism not really either.  Golf is a bridge.  Fellowship the outcome. 

I’ve been home for a week and I’m already hard at work with my wife to ensure my early July calendar can accommodate many more Lucifer adventures in the years to come.  It’s not too early to start thinking about my son joining me in 2050 is it?

Thanks again Mark to you and your fellow Lucifers.  It was so much more than I expected.”

Our new Hon. Commonwealth Scribe, for 2020/21, Chris Bonsall (pictured below- please open the Bonsall attachment) looks forward to orchestrating Commonwealth tournaments which elicit similar messages of goodwill and thanks.  He took up golf in Hong Kong whilst a lawyer there for 20 years. Now playing off a handicap of 12, he still retains his membership of The  Royal Hong Kong Golf Club. In addition to being a Lucifer, he is a member of the China and Elders Golfing Societies. In the UK, where he lives most of the year, he is a member of Royal St. George’s and the R&A. In Australia, where he has also has a home, he is a member of The Australian and the New South Wales Golf Clubs in Sydney. He and his wife, Sue, (who plays her golf at The Royal Cinque Ports GC and the Australian) have been on recent Lucifer tours to South Africa, Bermuda and Canada. Chris would be delighted to hear from intending participants for next year’s Commonwealth Tournament, scheduled for 6-8th July 2020, via his email: chrisbonsall.lcs@gmail.com.

 


Venue’s for the 2019 Commonwealth Tournament:

Day One – 06/07/2020 – West Hill Golf Club  – Commonwealth Tournament

Day Two – 07/07/2020 – Walton Heath Golf Club  – Commonwealth Tournament

Day Three – 08/07/2020 – Savoy – Commonwealth Dinner at World-class Venue Savoy London