Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Visit to Harry Vardon

Coming along the road from Gorey, and heading towards La Rocque, I spied the statue of Harry Vardon, and as good fortune would have it, an area of road with no yellow lines where I could stop. I explained to Katalin that Harry Vardon was a great figure in golfing history, and born in Grouville, which is why this statue commemorates him.

Henry William "Harry" Vardon (9 May 1870 – 20 March 1937) was a Jersey golfer who won the Open Championship a record six times, as well as winning the U.S. Open.

Now I'm not a professional golfer, and the nearest I come to golf is playing crazy golf at the Living Legend. In fact, Katalin and myself did that this summer, and it was great fun, and she got a hole in one! I know little about golf, and don't even watch it on television, but Harry Vardon interests me because of his history. Here is a man from a small pin-prick of an Island, who goes and makes his mark on the sporting world stage. As a Jerseyman myself, I think that's something to be rather proud about.

Vardon was also well known for the "Vardon grip", also called the "overlapping grip", and for those who want technical details, in the Vardon grip, one places the little finger of the trailing hand (the one placed lower on the club – right hand for a right-handed player) in between the index and middle finger on the leading hand (the hand that is higher on the club).  It sounds very complicated to me! Anyway, the picture above shows the said grip. 

The statue itself was unveiled by Tony Jacklin, who was himself a world-famous professional golfer, and lived in Jersey for a number of years before he moved to South Africa. That I suspect was purely to escape paying tax as a rich English resident, and I always believed he never really like the Island. In fact, he once said: "I even went and lived in Jersey [shaking his head] which was like living on this table.". So that's about enough that need be said about his connection to Jersey, which appeared to be principally mercenary.

The sculpture was designed by Gerald Palmer, who is a well known local artist, and has painted some fine paintings in oils and in water colours. He is married to Valerie Palmer, who for many years was the States Greffier. As she went to school with my mother, we used to go round and play with their children when we were growing up. I can't remember anything about that, except that we sometimes had snail races, when you put snails on a wall, and see if yours can beat another's past a particular line. None of that has much to do with Harry Vardon, but it is pleasant, at my age, to let my mind drift.

Of course, I had to take a nice photo of Katalin in front of Harry Vardon! Fortunately, she shares the same love of history that I do, and let's face it, the statue is quite impressive. There is also a photo of me, but while I struck what I thought was a golfing pose, I ended looking up more like Quasimodo.

The Statue itself is on the edge of the Grouville golf links, hence the picture of two people playing golf, or at any rate taking about something which may or may not be golf related; the presence of the golf clubs shows that they must be golfers. Although there was an episode of Jasper Carrott's "The Detectives", when the hapless pair pretended to be golfers, so one can never be too certain.

Anyhow, I suppose I should say something about the Club. It was founded in 1878 by vistors, and the area which is now golf links was once used for horse racing. There is a famous painting by the artist Ouless which depicts a race meeting.

The club house was then the Royal Oak, which was renamed the Golf Inn and is now called the Pembroke. I've heard good reports of the "pub grub". Now the new club house is along a path towards the coast. 

My history book says:

"The early pioneers bought 36 golf hole cups but they only had 10 proper flag sticks and bought 3 more later in two stages, which implies that they were adding holes as they went and therefore only had 13 in the first year. So more likely they laid out 10 or 13 holes, though this may have been played as a round of 18 holes. 1883 saw the first known layout of 18 holes."


James said...

It was founded in 1878 by vistors, and the area which is now golf links was once used for horse racing.

It was also used for football at one time. When Grouville FC was refounded after the war their first pitch was laid out on the links, and they played there until they moved up to Boulivot in the mid-1950s.

Ivor Gould said...

Pity our other famous golfer Tommy Horton wasn't asked to unveil the statue that would have been more appropriate. I wonder where the golf clubs have disappeared too, I mean the bronze ones that have been stolen from time to time, visitors, i hope. It was about 1949/50 that my grandmother took me on a visit to the museum and i still remember the display of silver that Mr Vardon had won, proudly displayed in a glass showcase.