The association was the brainchild of Mrs Glascott of Didsbury Golf Club who wanted to inaugurate a championship for lady golfers in the Manchester area similar in concept to the Balfour & Houldsworth competitions played by the men. One journalist, on hearing about this, expressed doubts about it, feeling that it smacked of ‘pot-hunting’. So the idea of a championship was dropped and the title ‘Challenge Trophy’ was adopted instead.
Mrs Glascott wrote to 35 clubs within a radius of 20 miles of Manchester Town Hall
From this initial contact she received 20 positive replies, 4 negative and 11 clubs failed to respond. Mrs Glascott together with a Mr. Ross-Couborough, arranged a meeting of representatives from the 20 clubs which was held at Parkers Restaurant, St. Anne’s Square on the 19th March 1902.
Mr. Ross-Couborough, who was then the secretary of Manchester Golf Club and a keen supporter of ladies golf, chaired the meeting. The 20 Clubs were:-
ANSON, ASHTON-ON-MERSEY, BURBAGE, BURY, BRAMHALL, BOWDEN, CHEADLE, DIDSBURY, ENTWISTLE, FAILSWORTH, FAIRFIELD, KNUTSFORD, MANCHESTER, OLD MANCHESTER, NORTH MANCHESTER, OLDHAM, TIMPERLEY, WITHINGTON, WILMSLOW, WORSLEY
Each of these clubs sent 2 representatives. Some of them exist but others have just changed their names. Entwistle is now Davyhulme, and Burbage is now Cavendish.
The Challenge Cup idea was quickly accepted and the first committee was formed with Mrs Glascott becoming the Secretary / Treasurer, and Mrs Prestwich from Old Manchester becoming the first President together with 12 committee members elected from those attending the meeting. Mr. Ross-Couborough offered a draft set of rules for the association which was discussed and accepted, very similar to the rules of today.
The first competition was held at Manchester Golf Club on the 5th June 1902 and the draw for partners and time sheet was published in the Manchester newspapers. At this time the L.G.U. was in it’s infancy and regarded as an Organisation of the South-East. It was largely ignored by Northern Clubs and so the ladies’ handicaps were assessed and allocated by a committee of gentlemen. The first handicap limit was set at 9 and 90 ladies took part.
This system was maintained until around 1914 although by this time the handicap limit for the cup had increased from 9 to 15. In this year, a suggestion was made that the limit should increase because so many handicaps had gone up under the new L.G.U. rules………it seems that nothing changes……… but the proposition was not carried. One interesting thing to note was that clubs were offering the use of their courses for the competition and a ballot had to be taken to decide which one to choose; would it were still like that!
In 1907 Mrs Glascott was elevated to the Presidency and Mr. Ross-Couborough became the paid Secretary/Treasurer for a fee of 5 guineas and in 1908 Mrs Glascott proposed that the area of the association be increased from 20 to 25 miles radius.
The following year the secretary suggested that the association should extend itself a little and proposed that a match tournament might be held. Mrs Bell who was president at the time offered a cup which could be played for annually and in March 1911 the tournament became known as the ‘Bell Cup.’
The final of the first Bell Cup Tournament was between Anson and Burbage (now Cavendish) and was played at Trafford Park. Teams in the Final consisted of 7 players but in the preceding rounds there were only 5 and a new draw was made for every round. 26 clubs entered in that year and since those days numbers have steadily increased until in 2000 there were 84 clubs entered. The Bell Cup produces match-play of a very high standard and as an inter-club Knock-out competition is unrivalled in the land.
When the Great War came, activities were suspended, a donation of £5 was made to the Manchester & District Distress Fund and no further AGMs were held until 1919. By 1920 the entry fee for the Challenge Cup had to be increased to 2/6 from 1/0….. but one could still get a caddie for 1/6!
The Board recording the names of the Presidents was made in 1949 and is always displayed at the President’s home club during her term of office. Unfortunately, when Rochdale Golf Club had their disastrous fire in 2003, the Boards were on display in their Club House. This was because Mrs Brenda Flett from Rochdale was our President at the time. Of course, they were lost along with everything else. However, we did have photographs of them, and Mr. Raymond Smith, a calligrapher, has managed to reproduce them for us. They are not exactly the same, but they still look very impressive. They are now back in circulation.
Over the years, other competitions have been added to the Association’s list and 1951 saw the start of the foursomes competition with a cup presented by Miss Jean Burt. Sadly, this cup was destroyed in a fire at Mere Golf Club in January 1973. Two new silver trophies were then presented by Miss Burt and Miss Yates of Manchester Golf Club and these are still played for. In 2017, as a result of a questionnaire,the competition will be played as a four ball better ball.
In 1952 , the jubilee year of the Association, Mrs Lloyd-Jones of Hale Golf Club presented a Scratch Trophy for a competition to be run alongside the Challenge Cup. This was played for separately as a 36 hole tournament for a few years but this became less and less well supported and has now reverted to its original format. The very popular new team event was inaugurated in 1997 and was played at Lymm Golf Club. With teams now consisting of four players, this has proved to be one of the best supported of all the competitions. In 2016 a beautiful new crystal trophy was donated for the winners of this event, by Vice Presidents Mrs Ann Chalmers and Mrs Jackie Foy.
In 2002 the first final of the Centenary Trophy was held at Chorlton-cum –Hardy Golf Club. The beautiful bronze trophy, which was presented to the winner of the Centenary Competition, was given to the association by Miss D.E.O. Booth, better known as Bunty Booth. Bunty was a lifelong friend of the association, serving on the committee, then becoming President and latterly serving as a Vice President. Her mother, who was also a golfer, played in the very first competition for the Challenge Bowl in 1902. In 2003 The Centenary Trophy was renamed the Bunty Booth Trophy and is played for every year, with the winners of the qualifying competition going forward to the final the following year.
The modern day President finds herself in charge of all the Association’s most treasured possessions. The Association Flag to which have been added the centenary dates; the hand embroidered presentation cloth and the gold President’s brooch. This brooch is relatively new being bought in 1986 after the original one, which was given to the Association by Peggy Nutter in 1963, was stolen. It is quite a responsibility but every Past President would agree that it is a happy and most rewarding year of office.
Apart from the generous donation of £35 to the Great War Distress fund, a very large sum of money in those days, the Association is a keen supporter of Junior girls’ golf and has made regular financial contributions to the Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire County organisations for their Junior Coaching schemes.
2002 was the Centenary Year of the Association, and as well as holding the inaugural competition for the Bunty Booth (Centenary) Trophy, as it is now known, the Association held a Centenary lunch at Manchester Airport. This was a sell out and from all reports was very well received. Vivian Saunders gave a most entertaining and instructive talk, and thanks to all those present for their support. It was a special day.
In 2003 the President’s Boards were lost in a fire at Rochdale Golf Club and new Boards had to be made.
In 2008 Ex-Presidents badges were designed for those Presidents interested in purchasing them.