Locker-room tales drive away golf club officials

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The Independent Online
LYME REGIS golf club, serenely landscaped above a crumbling Dorset cliff, was trying yesterday to play down months of internecine squabbles leading to resignations, anonymous hate mail and the club captain having his locker filled with rubbish.

Its chairman, Walter Hepworth, 71, has gone, fed up with verbal abuse on the greens from elderly players in Agassi-style forage caps; so has its president Ron Baker, 71 and a member for 57 years, after Harry Austin, captain of the 570-member club, opened his locker door to a cascade of orange peel and drink tins.

The catalyst for the feud was the resiting of the 14th and 15th greens after landslides carried away a public footpath and forced walkers to detour from the 50ft cliff and obstruct the fairways. Dorset County Council bought a swath of club land to rebuild the path. The row that followed was over the realignment of the course.

One faction of the pounds 300-a- year club wanted to reinstate two practice holes, the 2nd and 3rd greens, transferring practice activities to a new field. Rivals said the club should keep the old practice greens and restore a green, the 17th, abandoned 12 years ago.

'And that's where it all tumbled down like a pack of cards,' one member said yesterday. 'As with everything else in a members-only voluntarily-run club, there's always undercurrents of dissent and everything else. The president and chairman resigned because it was getting pretty personal and basically they'd had enough. Then this anonymous letter arrived on the club board along with their resignation letters . . . what it inferred was that both men were incapable of solving the problem. Some members thought the new practice greens, which are 200 yards away across a main road, were less than ideal.'

The old practice greens were in sight of the club house and there was some concern for the safety of the ladies practising there on their own. But the thing that really aggravated it was our beautiful new club house opened only a month ago. During the winter we'd been living in Portakabins which was less than ideal in terms of socialising.

'If only you'd had that nice big new lounge I suspect it wouldn't have gone as far as it did. And, of course, in that sort of environment there's always people in a club who don't actually want to go on committees, but think they can run it better.'

Club members were disinclined to discuss the dispute yesterday. Eventually the club secretary told the Independent to leave.

The outgoing chairman and president, who will be replaced at the annual meeting in October, were equally reticent. 'We don't want to say anything to the papers,' Mr Hepworth said. 'We feel it's an internal affair.'