21 Feb 2023 | Feature stories |

Court’s journey to Order of Australia honour

by Dane Heverin

Anne (in the red dress in the middle) with Burtta Cheney and other former Women's Golf Victoria Presidents.
Anne (in the red dress in the middle) with Burtta Cheney and other former Women's Golf Victoria Presidents.

From club captain to state president to referee and more, there is a hardly an administrative position that Anne Court has not held during her time in golf.

The long-time Royal Melbourne and Barwon Heads member boasts an illustrious list of achievements including refereeing in the Presidents Cup and Australian Opens and holding leadership positions during a time of change for women’s golf in Australia.

The latest addition to her remarkable resume reads: appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to golf administration and the community.

The honour was made public last month, but Anne was told the news in September, and the fact she had received the honour is still yet to fully sink in.

“I was absolutely amazed. Stunned. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“It’s a very humbling experience. You don’t ever expect to be rewarded for something you’ve always enjoyed and loved doing.”

Anne’s love for golf began at a young age.

Her mother was women’s captain at Royal Melbourne in 1950 and 1951 and she grew up around icons of Australian women’s golf including Sport Australia Hall of Famer Mona MacLeod and long-time Victorian Ladies’ Golf Union president, and three-time Australian Amateur champion, Nellie Gatehouse.

She truly began playing the game by hitting balls with a cut down golf club around Flinders Golf Club on the Mornington Peninsula but once Anne was eight years old, she was allowed to attend junior day at Royal Melbourne – an initiative that had been implemented by her mother and MacLeod.

It was not until the age of 15 however that golf became a staple of her life.

“My mother Lynette Lowry and her friend Moira Kimpton stated that they must get their girls together to play golf,” she said.

“Gillian Kimpton and I didn’t know each other, and they sent us to meet on the fifth tee at Flinders Golf Club where we would play 18 holes from there. There weren’t many people around so you could cut in and do whatever you wanted to do and then we’d walk home after our game. That’s really when I started playing golf.”

In 1957 Anne joined Barwon Heads as a junior member, and a year later she also signed up at Royal Melbourne. In 1960, she debuted in pennant, and it was the beginning of a career that would last more than 30 years.

“It was incredible, and my mother’s friends were wonderful to me. They would collect me and take me home. At that stage I was living at university, and they were always so encouraging,” she said.

“I look back on those days and how it important it was that the older generation took an interest in and were so enthusiastic about other people’s golf. From the university, I would put my clubs over my shoulder and catch the tram down Elizabeth Street and then jump on the train to Sandringham Station. One of my mother’s friends or one of my friends with a car would collect me, and then later in the day I’d have the return journey.

“I don’t think it would occur to the young today to get to golf by tram and train, but that was the only way to do it.”

Anne’s last game of pennant was in 1991 after she insisted that she had been long-retired but kept being dragged back.

During her pennant days, her involvement in the administrative side of the game began through stepping in as deputy club delegate for the Victorian Ladies’ Golf Union monthly meetings because nine-time Royal Melbourne club champion Margaret Wallace had too far to travel to make the meetings in the city.

After a few appearances at those meetings, she was asked to referee.

“Someone said to me ‘whatever you do, don’t do it well because you’ll be asked to do it again’. Anyway, I was convinced I wasn’t doing it well, but they kept asking me,” she said with a laugh.

Quickly they kept asking her to take on other roles too.

“I became the club captain and club delegate and moved onto the tournament committee, and then the match committee. I took over the chairmanship of match committee. I was treasurer at the VLGU for a couple of years. I was vice-president for six years and then president from 1996 to 1998,” she said.

“I was a state delegate to the ALGU during which time we changed the name to Women’s Golf Australia which we considered far more modern. Subsequently the VLGU became Women’s Golf Victoria.

“I can remember the president standing up and saying, ‘in the Collins dictionary, the term ‘lady’ refers to a woman to whom a man is chivalrously devoted, a woman of the upper class or the Virgin Mary’. We all agreed that there weren’t too many Virgin Marys among us and hence we changed.”

When vice-president of Women’s Golf Australia, Anne was also an advocate for bridging the gap between the state and national bodies in order to have them working together for the betterment of the game and her work helped lead to the amalgamation process of the 2000s.

During that time, she kept putting on her rules official hat and that included trips around Victoria conducting rules education programs at golf clubs, which she loved but Anne’s greatest joy came from the big tournaments.

“I met some wonderful people through them. I saw some of the fabulous players and witnessed the sort of golf you would only dream of,” she said.

“In the 2011 Presidents Cup, I was asked to go on the match committee for the final two days to work with one of the international rules officials and fortunately, I worked with John Paramor on the Saturday. HHHe was without doubt one of the funniest men I’ve ever met and a most competent referee.

“He was a real character from the UK, and the next day I was with the top official from the US who took it terribly seriously which of course it was.”

Anne’s ability to not take herself or the situation too seriously made her one of the most respected officials in the country, but that did not mean that Australia’s top players were always on their best behaviour for her.

“I was the rules official for Greg Norman’s last Australian Open at Royal Sydney. I had him on the Sunday and he behaved extremely badly on the 18th hole,” she said with a laugh.

Those incidents never phased her, but it was the friendships forged with fellow referees that kept bringing her back.

“I’ve made some incredible friends through golf. We all worked together and were very happy to trapse around the country going to the various tournaments and it was all a wonderful experience,” she said.

“It was always very enjoyable work if you wanted to call it work. Mind you, the exceptions were when it was more than 40 degrees or freezing cold and sleeting rain. All the same, the people I met along the way and the friends I’ve made are lasting friends to today.

“Although there weren’t too many women involved, I’m still in contact with many of the men and it’s been very rewarding particularly working with the match committee for the men’s and women’s Australian Opens which I did for a number of years. All those officials were absolutely charming and so pleasant. They were always very inclusive and we had a lot of fun.”

Nowadays, Anne maintains a close relationship with golf through serving as the patron for the Golf Society of Australia.

She watches a lot of golf and attends the women’s pennant when she can, and the finals of the club championships at the Royal Melbourne and Barwon Heads.

“The last time I played golf I wondered what all the black muck was on my hands. The grips on my woods had perished and after that I thought it was an omen not to play golf again,” she with a laugh.

“However, I think I may change my mind as is a woman’s prerogative.”

Anne will officially be honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) at a ceremony in April, although she is still querying the selection process.

“It’s very humbling because there are many people, not only in golf but within the community activities I’ve been involved with, who are far more deserving of recognition,” she said.

“So, I don’t know how they work these things out. Life goes on as normal but it’s certainly a great honour.”

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