During the 100 years of its existence, Newark Golf Club has always had its fair share of excellent golfers but one stands out from all the rest. That outstanding player was Miss Eleanor Cicely Nevile.
Together with her two sisters Isobel and Margaret, Eleanor moved from Worcestershire at the turn of the century to live near Newark. The three sisters joined Newark in 1903. By then they had already made a considerable name for themselves in golf, especially Eleanor who was the most gifted and famous.
By the time she joined Newark, Eleanor had already been runner-up three times in the Ladies British Open Championship, in 1898, 1900 and 1902. She was destined never to win that title but she always gave a very good account of herself. In 1902, for example, at Sandwich, she lost in the final only at the 19th hole. The person who beat her was May Hezlet, the top lady golfer of the day. May Hezlet was a member of Royal Portrush in Ireland and won the Ladies British Open Championship three times.
In May 1903, the year she joined Newark, Eleanor had the honour of being selected to play for England against Ireland at Royal Portrush; and not only Eleanor but another Newark member as well, Mrs C F Richardson! The club must have felt extremely proud! 20.
Unfortunately of the 10 matches played at Portrush, Mrs Richardson was the only winner for England. Miss Nevile was beaten again by Miss Hezlet. However, that same month all three Nevile sisters and a Miss Wilson represented Newark in the Midland Championship at Buxton and won easily. Eleanor won the individual championship. The Newark Advertiser reported that 'the news of the great victory was received at the clubhouse early that same evening and a message of congratulations was wired to the Misses Nevile.' No mention of Miss Wilson!
The following year, the three Nevile sisters and Mrs Richarson formed the team which again won this championship at the same venue. Eleanor won the individual title by 12 strokes. This was the fourth time she had won the title. Her earlier wins had been in 1898 and 1901 and she had been runner up in 1900.
In the Newark Ladies Spring Meeting in May 1904, Margaret Nevile won the long driving competition with an aggregate of 501 yards for 3 drives. This was quite a feat because she would have used a hickory shafted club and a gutty type ball and probably worn an ankle length tight waisted dress.
Eleanor was again selected to play for England in the 1904 International Ladies Golf Match at Troon. She beat her Scottish opponent and played splendidly against Rhona Adair of Ireland to get a halved match. This was quite an achievement because Rhona Adair (also Royal Portrush) was a formidable opponent. She had won the British Championship twice in the previous 4 years.
Over the years Eleanor Nevile played for England many times, her final appearance being in 1910. May Hezlet wrote these words about her in 1903: "She is one of the finest lady golfers in England. Her golfing style is not a common one, but the result cannot be quarrelled with, and the old saying is very true that people play well with all styles and in all positions.
"Her peculiarity is her style as she stands so exceedingly upright, scarcely bending her body at all, and draws back the club very straight and rather slowly. Somehow or other she seems to have more power over the ball than the majority of lady players, and she is an exceptionally long driver, her balls as a rule having a great run.
"Miss Nevile uses a wooden putter and the result is good and it is only in championship meetings or important matches of that kind she seems to succumb to those dreadful short putts, which are a bane to a golfer's existence." (Nothing changes.)
We have little information about Eleanor after she left the club in 1910 and returned to Worcestershire. However, she did return to the area after World War I and she won the Lincolnshire Ladies Championship in 1926.
The Nevile sisters were aunts of Sir Henry Nevile of Auborn Hall near Lincoln. He died only within the past couple of years. Eleanor herself is buried not too far away from the club for which she won so much honour at nearby Wellingore Church.