The First Scottish Golfing Superstar

With the Women’s British Open being played at St Andrews this year the tournament will, again, garner the sort of headlines that the mainstream media seem loathe to give women’s golf throughout the rest of the year.

Yet it is often widely forgotten that women and golf have been closely connected in Scotland for centuries. 

Scotland’s most famous, most debated and last independent monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots, was widely regarded as the country’s first female golfer. Indeed, she was, arguably, the nation’s first golfing superstar.

Like much of the Mary legend some of the facts about her golfing career are unclear. It seems likely, however, that she first picked up the game in France where she spent her formative years. 

On her return to Scotland she followed the game passionately – and it was a passion that got her into trouble. Mary’s turbulent reign was matched only by her turbulent love life. Her second husband, Lord Darnley, was murdered in February 1567 in Edinburgh.

Within days of Darnley’s death Mary was playing golf at Seton Links in East Lothian (a golf course – Longniddry – remains within walking distance of the original links). A catholic monarch in an increasingly protestant country Mary had few troubles to seek: the apparent slight on her husband’s memory increased the impression – at least in the eyes of her enemies – that ruling the country was an unsuitable job for a woman. 

One thing is clear, however, Mary, Queen of Scots, like so many of her subjects before and since, loved the golf and she did much to popularise the game and contribute to the democratic nature of Scottish golf. This truly was a game for all – man, woman, queen or servant.

And she left one enduring legacy – Mary’s French military attendants “cadets” carried her clubs. As time passed the local Scots turned cadet to caddie and a venerable profession was born.

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