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Witley Court, Great Witley, Worcs.

It was reported in the Worcestershire Chronicle in February 1902 that a grand exhibition match was to be played on the Witley Court links on Saturday 8th February. The Earl of Dudley with the assistance of Blackwell of Kidderminster had laid out the course. A professional tournament would be held and the following famous players were invited to compete by his lordship. J Braid (Open Champion) J H Taylor, Harry Vardon, Alec Herd, W Fernie, W Auchterlonie, J White, A Kirkaldy, B Sayers and Cawsey of Malvern. What a splendid array of talent, members of clubs in the district were invited to attend and it was hoped that there would be a good attendance on the day.

The Earl of Dudley had been attacked with “golfluenza” some years previous and had a deep interest in the game. About eight years ago he had a course laid out in the park at Witley Court, mostly for himself and friends. Andrew Kirkaldy had assisted the Earl with his game, and he also carried out many alterations to the course at Witley Court. The course itself was a fair test, with hazards of trees and ponds, the greens where large and kept in good condition.

The competition went ahead on the 8th February with all the earlier named professionals attending. It was unfortunate that the tournament should be spoiled by a heavy snowstorm on the day. The first round was particularly badly affected by the falling snow, it was interesting to note that the players were playing with red coloured balls. Despite the weather, a following of about 500 golf enthusiasts turned up to witness the games. At the interval between rounds about 350 sat down to lunch.

The first round commenced at 10am in the falling snow, the conditions were proving almost impossible to play in, people were employed on the course as spotters, and a team of volunteers attempted to sweep the greens clear of snow, despite many missed putts from short distance, the players battled on.

By the time the second round commenced at 2pm the conditions had improved considerably. The scores reflected this, all the players improved on their first round efforts.

Harry Vardon took the first prize of £40, scores as follows; first round 81, second round 72, total 153.

A Kirkaldy was runner up and received £20; first round 79, second round 75, total 154.

A Herd was third and received £15; first round 79, second round 76, total, 155.

J Braid was fourth and received £10; first round 85, second round 71, total 156.

All other players received £5; B Sayers, 83 - 77 = 160; J White, 85 – 76 = 161; G Cawsey, 90 – 78 = 168;

W Fernie, 88 – 82 = 170; J H Taylor, 90 – 82 = 172; W Aucterlonie, 89 – 83 =172.

At the close of play Mr A G Spreckley, captain of the Worcester Golf Club, thanked the Lord Dudley, and also all the local golfers who had attended and given their support to the players, despite the atrocious conditions.

In 1937 there was a devastating fire and the 19th century mansion was left in ruins, the estate was totally neglected for many years and fell in to a long sad decline.

Witley Court is now run by English Heritage, and the beautiful grounds can once again be enjoyed, the ruins of the once grand mansion adding an eerie, yet atmospheric feeling to the site.