Tales of family ties to early history of golf

Anne O'Shields with Matty Henderson and the photos the club gave her.
Anne O'Shields with Matty Henderson and the photos the club gave her.
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Members of a coastal north Northumberland golf club discovered some real ties to their history last week in the form of a visitor from the US.

Some of the members at Alnmouth Village Golf Club – the oldest nine-hole links course in England – were delighted to welcome Anne O’Shields, the granddaughter of George Rochester, who was the club’s pro around the turn of the 20th century.

Anne O'Shields with club captain Steve McKee, right, and vice-captain Donald Blythe, left.

Anne O'Shields with club captain Steve McKee, right, and vice-captain Donald Blythe, left.

According to the records, George E Rochester was the club professional from 1889 to 1924

Mrs O’Shield’s father, also George E Rochester, was born and brought up at Foxhall and Alnmouth House.

Aged 19, he joined The Royal Flying Corps in First World War and became a prisoner in Germany for two years.

On returning home to Alnmouth, he also became a golf pro and later taught at Potter’s Bar Golf Club in London.

Mrs O’Shields, aged 81, also has ties to north Northumberland as she used to have family living in Broomhill and she spent two years at school there during the Second World War. She moved to the United States in 1953, at the age of 21.

And last Thursday, club captain Steve McKee, vice-captain Donald Blythe and Matty Henderson, who runs the club bar, met Mrs O’Shields along with her daughter Julie DeVore and granddaughter Kristin at the clubhouse.

As well as chatting to the family about their ancestor and his role at the club, they also presented Mrs O’Shields with a copy of the Alnmouth Golf Book, which features George Rochester, and some photographs of her grandfather.

“I look at that and want to cry, even though I didn’t know him,” said Mrs O’Shields.

“Through my father, I learnt a lot about him, he was very good with family history.”

And she confessed to be delighted with the gifts from the club.

“That I wasn’t expecting and I think that I shall treasure them,” she said.

“I have two grandsons as well as Kristin and they will be very interested too.

“I have a rose bowl of my grandfather’s that he got on retiring and it’s been kept all wrapped up. Now I will bring it out and polish it.”

In further links to the club, George Rochester was a clubmaker and he is believed to have made the clubs which are now displayed above the bar in the clubhouse, while next door is a property called Rochester House, which was built in 1901 for him to live and work in.

Mrs O’Shields said she never knew about the house and was pleased to get her photo taken outside, adding ‘Can I rent it out?’

The Rochesters’ link to golf in north Northumberland extends further as well, as it is said that in 1913 George Rochester designed the course at Seahouses Golf Club, which is celebrating its centenary this year.

For more information on Alnmouth Village Golf Club, visit www.alnmouthvillagegolfclub.co.uk