Golf: Davies now a women's instituter

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LAURA DAVIES was driving from Atlanta to Daytona Beach in Florida when she had a brainwave. Her passenger was her cousin Matthew, whom she had just sacked as her caddie, but it wasn't his future that she was thinking about.

Her idea was to host her own event on the troubled Ladies' European Tour and last week saw the launch of the Laura Davies Invitational. It will be played at Brocket Hall, near Welwyn in Hertfordshire over the August Bank Holiday weekend with a prize fund of pounds 300,000. Davies, the former world No 1, plays most of her golf in America but not always through choice.

The women's circuit in Europe has had almost as many acronyms (WPGET, ELPGA, etc) as tournaments and has resurfaced this year as the Ladies European Tour. "At the beginning of 1988 we were looking down the proverbial barrel," Trevor Kirkpatrick, the chairman, said. "It seemed as if there was only one way to go and that was oblivion. But the players got together and created the momentum to turn the tour around. We now have a meaningful schedule and are rebuilding a quality tour."

Davies's event will be one of 15 on the calendar as they attempt to provide a schedule for those unable to gain playing rights in America. With a first prize of pounds 45,000 (Tiger Woods walked away with pounds 800,000 in prize money and an appearance fee in Germany last week) the rewards are modest compared to the US, but the venue has something that America can't buy.

Parts of Brocket Hall date back to the 13th Century and the estate as it is today was built by Sir Matthew Lamb in 1760. Lamb's son became the first Lord Melbourne as his wife (the black sheep of the family?) was the mistress of the Prince Regent, later King George IV, while the second Lord Melbourne was Queen Victoria's first prime minister. The hall later passed into the family of another prime minister, Lord Palmerston who died, it is alleged, in flagrante delecto with a chambermaid in the billiards room.

The present course, designed by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark, is named after Melbourne and a new layout will be known as the Palmerston. There are no plans to name a course after the third Baron Brocket, Charles Niall- Cain. In 1996 he was jailed following a multi-million pound insurance fraud which centred on the bogus theft of his collection of classic sports cars, including Ferraris. It's a shame Laura's initiative wasn't taken earlier. She drives a Ferrari and they could have compared notes.

On the demise of Baron Brocket, the estate has been taken over by the CCA Group, the second largest golf operator outside America. Laura's tournament is being sponsored by Cantor Fitzgerald, an electronics marketplace for financial securities, although the bookies Victor Chandler, the new backers of the British Masters, would have been closer to her heart.

Pinochet's invasion

A BAD week, not just for Lawrence Dallaglio (a member at Sudbury GC), Ian Botham and Sophie Rhys-Jones, who have all been savaged by the press, but also for General Augusto Pinochet.

His efforts to avoid deportation were dealt a blow when a judge refused to let him challenge extradition and as if that wasn't bad enough his privacy on the exclusive Wentworth Estate has been shattered by thousands of golf fans. The old dictator lives adjacent to the 16th hole on the Burma Road, Wentworth's West course which is currently hosting the Volvo PGA Championship. Pinochet has not taken advantage of the club's facilities and, apparently, in a view shared by many, he regards golf as a form of torture.

The full Monty show

COLIN MONTGOMERIE, Europe's perennial winner of the Order of Merit, spoke at the Tour's annual dinner on Wednesday evening - guests kept nipping out to the bar to watch the European Cup final - of the philosophy behind his success. "It's all about self-belief," he said. "I say to myself if not now, when? If not me, who? I work to live, not vice versa. My best is yet to come."

Jose Maria Olazabal, sporting his Masters jacket (the name tag above the inside pocket is still misspelt Olazabel) revealed the real reason behind Monty's progress: the Scot is more laid back than a Spanish deckchair attendant during siesta. Olazabal studied Monty before the final round of the B & H International two weeks ago. "He was on the driving range for 40 minutes and hit only 10 shots," Olazabal said. "Then he had some lunch. Then he went to the practice putting green but hardly hit a putt. Instead he sat down." Monty won the tournament, and, in the process, took his career earnings past the pounds 6m mark. "He kicked my arse so hard," Olazabal told the guests, "it still hurts." Even so, Olazabal has something that Montgomerie might give his right arm for - a green jacket.

Laud of the Manor

WHEN MARK JAMES and Ian Woosnam opened the new Wentwood Hills course at Celtic Manor in South Wales, the Ryder Cup captain was full of praise for the formidable 7,450-yard layout.

Since James was being paid "appearance money", this was hardly surprising. Celtic Manor, one of the largest developements in Europe, will stage the Welsh Open in the year 2000. It's part of the grand design of the electronics billionaire Terry Matthews who has invested pounds 100m in the 1,400 acre resort near Newport and who sees the Welsh Open as a stepping stone to the greater prize - the Ryder Cup in 2009.

Matthews, who lives in Canada, is building Wales's largest hotel on site and has plans to introduce other sports. But not everybody is enamoured with Matthews' dream. A group of protestors, who do not want the land developed, let off fireworks and erected huge banners, one of which complained about "dodgy beef".

This was a reference to Celtic Manor recently serving Prince Charles beef on the bone. As the Prince of Wales thought it was "absolutely delicious" this is not, perhaps, the most contentious of bones to pick with Celtic Manor.

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