Janet Melville had a fabulous amateur career winning three British women’s titles, the Open, the Amateur and the Stroke Play Championships.
Now, as a volunteer, she’s drawing on those experiences to support up-and-coming players. Janet, a member at Royal Birkdale and Sherwood Forest Golf Clubs, tells her story…
I have always been a competitive person so really enjoy that side of golf. However I enjoy the social side too – playing golf in different parts of the UK and abroad and meeting lots of interesting and friendly people. What I particularly like about golf is that people of all abilities can play the game together.
Why did you start playing?
Although I enjoy sport and the competitive side of playing sport I was never particularly athletic and struggled with the sports offered by my school. I saw golf as a way to not only be competitive but also to get exercise and keep fit.
What were your golfing highlights?
I was thrilled when I was first picked to represent my club, especially as I was rarely picked for any sporting teams when I was at school! I then moved up into county golf, playing for Lancashire, and soon after was selected to play for England in the Girls’ Home International Matches. Along the way I played in various events in the UK.
My first venture abroad to play was in the European Lady Juniors’ Team Championship in Luxembourg which was an amazing experience…such a thrill to parade as a team behind the English flag with the national anthem playing.
The highlights in terms of winning championships were the Ladies’ British Open at Foxhills in 1978, the British Stroke Play the same year and the British Amateur Championship in 1987 at Royal St David’s Golf Club, Harlech.
My best golfing moment was
Winning the British Amateur at Harlech (pictured left). My inspiration when I started to play county girls’ golf was Frances Smith, otherwise known as Bunty Stephens. She was an amazing lady and also a past winner of the British Amateur. There is a wonderful painting of her in the main hall at Royal Birkdale, where she was also a member, standing in front of Harlech Castle, the venue of one of her Amateur Championship wins. I could not believe it when I followed in her footsteps and won the same tournament at the same course!
Why do you volunteer?
I have enjoyed golf all of my life and following my own success in the game I wanted to put something back into the sport to encourage future generations.
I was delighted when England Golf asked me a few years ago to take on a role of a selector of the various squads and teams which represent them around the world. It gave me the opportunity to watch some very talented girls play some amazing golf.
I have also been invited to captain some of the national teams. As a result I have not only been able to pass on some of my experiences of playing golf to younger players but also watch them progress and develop their own games. I have captained the U18s in the Girls’ Home International Matches the past two years and am doing so again this year when we are aiming for a hat-trick of wins – fingers crossed!
As a player it was always an honour to represent England and it makes me equally proud to represent England as a team captain.
What are the challenges?
It is quite a responsibility looking after such young players especially when abroad. Another challenge for me is being away from my family. I remarried last year, care for my elderly father and also have a 19-year-old daughter who still lives at home. It takes some organising before I go away to events, but I enjoy watching the girls play so much that it is worth it. I am so lucky to have a family that supports me in fulfilling my role.
And the rewards?
Seeing the players doing well, especially after all their hard work and practice. This has just been highlighted by Emily Toy’s magnificent win in the British Amateur at Royal County Down. Under the training system that England Golf currently have in place I have watched her progress and develop her golf game over the winter months to a totally different level, culminating in this amazing win. I was lucky enough to be on selection duties for a couple of days at the event and was able to watch her play and give my support.
What would you say to encourage more women and girls to take up golf?
Looking back I can honestly say that taking up golf has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only has it satisfied my competitive nature, but it has allowed me to visit some amazing places in the UK and abroad and make some wonderful friendships.
While I was at university in Liverpool studying law I was also lucky enough to be the first recipient of the John Moores Sports Scholarship from the Littlewoods Group, which allowed me to attend university in Florida for one year, improving and working on my golf and also continuing my studies. Similarly on my return from the States my first job at a law practice was secured, I suspect, because my boss was a big golf enthusiast. Golf as a whole has opened so many doors for me throughout my life.
Caption: Janet Meville is pictured (top) with the England team which won the 2018 Girls’ Home Internationals (Image courtesy The R&A).