The former LET player tells Dean Bailey about her love of golf, her time as a professional and hopes for the future
Claire Brown’s golfing career, which began on the seaside links of Seahouses Golf Club on weekend and school holiday trips to the family caravan, has taken her around the world both on and off the golf course.
Having progressed through the county ranks, Claire turned pro aged 21 and played on the Ladies European Tour in 1989-90 before returning to the North East in retail then as the professional at Tynedale Golf Club.
Following a nearly 20-year career in retail with brands including Golfino, Cutter & Buck and Ping – and a 15-year break from competitive golf – Claire returned to the game with her husband Nigel six years ago at Close House in Northumberland, where we meet following a three-day visit to Morecambe for Ladies County Match Week…
1 How much golf do you get to play?
As of just a few weeks ago I’m officially retired, for now. I’m hoping to play a bit more golf than I’ve been used to – probably three times a week with all the club and county matches. I’m playing off a handicap of four at the moment but hoping to get that back down with a bit more time to play and practice.
2 How did you get into golf?
I started playing with my dad at Seahouses and then joined Ponteland when I was 12. I’d tie my trolley to the back of my bike and cycle from the caravan to the golf club every day of the summer holiday and play as many holes as I could before it got dark. I played my first County Match Week at Pannal when I was 12 and progressed through the system from there.
3 Which is your favourite course in the North East?
Nigel and I joined Close House six years ago and I love it here. The Colt Course is fantastic and the club is a brilliant place to spend time with so many friends. Away from here, I love the North East coast – Bamburgh and Seahouses especially.
4 And further afield?
I’ve always enjoyed playing golf in France, particularly around Paris. I played in the French Girls and the courses in that area are beautiful – they have always stuck in my mind.
5 What’s your best ever round?
I’ve shot six under-par around Ponteland, I think that’s my lowest so far.
6 Which is your favourite golfing memory?
Winning the Northumberland Ladies county championship when I was 19 at City of Newcastle Golf Club stands out as a really important point in my golfing career.
7 What about embarrassing moments?
There are probably loads, particularly from early on. I managed to hit a ball off the face of a bunker into my forehead during a match at Ponteland once.
8 Do you have any superstitions?
I don’t like using a ball with a three on it – I always feel like I can three putt with one.
9 What are your strengths on the course?
I drive it straight and tend to rely on my short game nowadays as I can’t hit it as far as I used to.
10 And your weaknesses?
Losing a few yards off the tee has made the game harder. My irons aren’t so hot at the moment but I’m working on it.
11 Which is your favourite club?
My bright pink, Bubba Watson-inspired, Ping G20 driver.
12 Who is your best golfing friend? I have to say my husband Nigel, don’t I? Playing golf together is probably the only time we don’t argue after 26 years together. A lot of the club events are mixed here so we play a lot of golf together. Nigel plays off scratch and his friends are all good players so it helps keep me competitive.
13 How does your golfing career help you now?
I love being involved in the county team and being able to pass on my experience to some of the younger girls. We get on so well and helping them think about their golf and develop their approach to competitions and matches is great. I may do some more of that in the future, but right now I’m still trying to beat them!
14 Who is your favourite tour player?
I’ve always bet on Sergio Garcia and I tend to pick Lee Westwood and hope he’ll win a major – I’m sure he’ll do it one day. I played with and against Catriona Lambert (Matthew) so I look out for her too.
15 Which event do you enjoy the most?
The Open and The Masters are always highlights of the golfing year. The British Masters at Close House will be fantastic for the North East. It’s amazing that it’s here and I can’t wait to see all the players on the Colt Course in September.
16 Who have you looked up to?
Billy Long, who coached me from the age of nine at Seahouses then The Northumberland. He was an amazing man and I learned so much from him. I’ll never forget being taught to shape persimmon wood heads to strengthen my hands so I could hit the ball further.
17 Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
My late father Brian Breckon, who I played so much golf with and who would have loved to come and played at Close House; Lee Trevino because he is such a great character; and Tom Watson, who I met when I worked for Ping and is a lovely man.
18 If I could offer you a house in the south of France or a scratch handicap, which would you take?
Could I take the house and a three handicap please?