Flight Officer Kathleen Garnham

Flight Officer Kathleen Garnham

Flight Officer Kathleen Garnham

Image Obtained Through The Illustrated London News Group

This is the story of Kathleen Garnham who in the 1920’s was a World Champion Golfer at a time when few women played the game or were even allowed in male-dominated golf clubs. There are not many people who know that there was a Links Golf Course on The Naze north of the iconic Naze Tower, at Walton on the Naze, Essex an area prone to erosion by the North Sea.

The land occupied by the golf course has been lost to the sea. But probably even fewer know that the Golf Club which was established there in 1925 was home to Kathleen Garnham. The story of this remarkable lady begins when It was reported in January 1925 that 120 acres of land had been purchased at the end of the Naze for a golf course. The area was being tilled in preparation for sowing in the spring. Mr E E Alexander M.P. for Leyton, bought the land and offered it for purchase outright to the promoters of the golf club at a cost of £5,500 over a period of 10 years.

The cost of laying out the course would amount to about £3,500. Additional cost would be the clubhouse which would be built on “palatial lines” It was hoped the course would be ready for play in early 1926. The 18-hole course was designed by James Braid a five-times Open champion who created over 20 courses around Britain. The Naze golf club was officially inaugurated in 1928.

Kathleen Garnham learned to play golf in her teens at the Naze course, a classic seaside links course facing the North Sea on one side and the Backwaters estuary and marshes on the other side. As her game developed she began winning local and Essex championships while still only a teenager. In the late 1920’s she was recognised as one of Britain’s leading amateur golfers. Her family were founding members of the Naze Golf Club where her father was Chairman and Mother Ladies Captain. She was born in 1904 and by the time she was 27 years old named golfer of the year in 1931 by fellow women English golfers.

In that same year she featured as one of the country’s leading Amateur Ladies Golfers in a special edition of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News magazine. She played tournaments all over the country taking on other leading women golfers in singles matches and doubles. She was a member of the successful British team which toured the United States in 1933 where she won that year’s Florida State Championship, the Sedgefield Medal Tournament and reached the final of the South Atlantic Tournament.

The Naze Golf Club, Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex. A great reception for Kathleen Garnham in 1933.

Kathleen Garnham was a member of the English Ladies Golf Union team which won the International matches played at Ranelagh Golf Club, West London in 1934 and 1935. She also won the French Open in 1937. On Sunday 6th August 1939 Kathleen Garnham won the Belgium women’s championship beating Mme J de Meulemeester (Belgium) by 5&4 in the 36-hole final. This would prove to be an auspicious occasion because a few weeks later World War Two began after Germany invaded Belgium. She was also an accomplished painter of children’s portraits and landscapes hosting her own one-woman shows in London. Her golfing and her painting were interrupted by World War II service as a war substantive section officer in 1943 in the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in a photo interpretation unit that served the U.S. Army Air Forces as well as the Royal Air Force. She was credited with identifying the German missile factories at Peenemunde that built the V-1 and V-2 rockets that were used against England.

From The Sketch Wednesday 2nd August 1933. Image © Illustrated London News Group. Originally Reported by The Tatler & Bystander Oct 1st 1947

Like most service personnel she was awarded two campaign medals. The Naze Golf course was occupied by the military during World War Two due to its strategic location near to the port of Harwich and as an invasion defence. Pill boxes and anti-aircraft installations ruined the course and after the war it was not viable to play so the Naze Golf Club ceased to exist. Kathleen then moved to Baltimore, USA in 1948 and married architect Charles M Nes Jnr who she had met in the US Air Force in England. She continued to play golf and was a member of the Green Spring Valley Golf Club, Maryland, where she won the club championship in 1972 at the age of 68. She also won the US Women’s Golf Association Senior Championships (70 years and over class) five of the first six years she was eligible. She sadly died after a car crash in the US in 1990 at the age of 86.

Source: Wikipedia Under License CC-BY-SA at URL: https://en.everybodywiki.com/Kathleen_Garnham Accessed Jan 2020

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