Hail Anita, Emmeline of the fairways

One small step for a lady, one giant leap for ladies' golf. That is how a radical development at a Surrey establishment is being viewed in bunkers from Land's End to John O'Groats. The modern suffragette movement, otherwise known as the ladies' section of that male bastion, the golf club, finally has its Emmeline Pankhurst. Step forward Anita Olrog.

One small step for a lady, one giant leap for ladies' golf. That is how a radical development at a Surrey establishment is being viewed in bunkers from Land's End to John O'Groats. The modern suffragette movement, otherwise known as the ladies' section of that male bastion, the golf club, finally has its Emmeline Pankhurst. Step forward Anita Olrog.

She has been voted in as the captain of the Foxhills Club and Resort, the first woman to hold such a position in Britain, thus ending 600 years of tradition. "I didn't expect it to happen to me but it's quite an honour," said Mrs Olrog, who will be given her own car-parking space. "I hope other clubs will follow suit."

A member of Foxhills for 15 years and a committee member for four, she will begin her role as captain in 2001. However, Mrs Olrog - her ancestors came from Hanover in Germany and prospered in the sugar industry - anticipates that her elevation as the first lady will cause problems for the gravy-stained old-school-tie brigade.

"Even though I'll be captain, I won't be accepted in some clubs because a lot of the matches are men's fixtures. That could apply even if we are playing at home. I accept that. I wouldn't want to play and put either Foxhills or the other club in an embarrassing position. I'll give somebody else the opportunity of captaining the club and I'll show my face in the bar at the end."

Whereas many clubs merely tolerate ladies and impose severe restrictions on when they can play, Foxhills, despite its emblem of arakish-looking fox in plus-fours,diamond-patterned sweater and bow-tie, is an "equal opportunities" club. It has more than 500 lady members and has been promoting golf weekends exclusively for women, a sort of tally-ho for potential vixens.

"Usually ladies have their own section," said Mrs Olrog, who has a handicap of 23, "but here we have one main committee. What is lovely about it is that there are no restrictions and both sexes can play in all the club's competitions. We have equal rights. I think newer clubs are gradually coming over, especially in the south. At one time it was unthinkable, but ladies now are more independent, they have money and are aware that a lot of business is conducted on the course. That is one of the reasons why they want to play."

She and her husband, John, a founder-member of Foxhills and a former captain (thereby initiating a unique family double), are both retired insurance brokers so they can now concentrate on the business of reducing their handicaps.

Royal blush

Foxhills is the trading name of Windsor Holdings Limited. It is understood in some quarters that Prince Charles liked the company so much he wanted to buy it but was told, in the nicest possible way, that it was not for sale.

It is probably just as well that Windsor Holdings has no connection with the House of Windsor for, although Anita Olrog may be tenuously and distantly related to the Royal Family through the House of Hanover, she is unlikely to be swapping captains' tales with Prince Andrew.

The Duke of York has been nominated as captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club for the year 2003. Aside from the fact that the Royal & Ancient, whose clubhouse overlooks the hallowed links of St Andrews, is the governing body of the game, it is also strictly a gentleman's club. No foxy ladies for membership even if they are captains of a club.

It seems a trifle early to announce the nominee for a post that will not be filled for three years. However, the royal appointment of his royal highness coincides with the 250th anniversary of the Royal &Ancient, prompting the past captains to bring forward the announcement in preparation forthe special events that will be held to celebrate the occasion.

Andrew, of course, is beautifully qualified for the role. Not only is he royal but a true patron of the game. With a handicap of seven you can't keep him off a golf course. Furthermore he upholds an honourable tradition, becoming the sixth member of the royal family to captain the Royal & Ancient.

In the years of the Hanoverian kings, nothing was heard of golf in the reigns of the four Georges but Queen Victoria, despite the ban on women at St Andrews, became patron of the Royal & Ancient. Prince Edward, later King Edward VII, was captain in 1863 followed by Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria's youngest son, in 1876, although it is not thought that either of them had much of a handicap to write home about. The last Royal to fulfil the role was the Duke of Kent in 1937.

Andrew joined the Royal &Ancient in 1992 and is at present a member of the Amateur Status Committee. This seems a bit rich considering that earlier this year it was announced he was planning to open a nine-hole corporate event golf course at Windsor Castle, employing Nick Faldo as a consultant.

There is nothing new about golf in England's biggest castle - Henry Cotton designed a few holes there donkeys' years ago and the Royal Household run a little society to play matches against Sandringham and Balmoral - but turning it into a corporate business could well become a matter for well, the AmateurStatus Committee.

According to reports, the Duke of York took up the Royal & Ancient game with a vengeance during his career with the Royal Navy (hitting practice shots into the Atlantic is not a problem, although it wouldn't have been tolerated in Nelson's day).

When asked what career he'd like to pursue after serving Queen and country in the Senior Service, Prince Andrew replied: "Golf." If the game became his profession, there could be a moral conflict with the rules on amateur status and that would not sit well with the captain of the world's greatest club. And we are not talking Foxhills.

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