One of the region’s most-decorated golfers on and off the course, Chris Pascall crowns her long career in golf this season as the president of England Golf. Dean Bailey caught up with her to reflect on more than 50 years at the top of the game, look ahead to an exciting year, and find out what more Chris would like to achieve in golf
For Chris Pascall, golf has been a lifelong passion. For more than 50 years she has played and supported the game at the highest level, and while she’s achieved so much already, the pinnacle of all her success stories – certainly off the course – comes in 2023 as she serves as president of England Golf.
“Becoming president is the icing on the cake for a long career in golf,” says Chris, who succeeded Lancashire’s Les Wilson as president at the England Golf AGM at Woodhall Spa in April.
In the build-up to the event, Chris took the opportunity to reflect on her career in the game.
A former girls and women’s international, team captain and selector, Chris’ involvement at national level goes back to her teenage years and has seen her travel around the world. Add to that her long service to Durham, as a player and an official – most recently serving as captain until the end of 2022 – and it’s no wonder it took some time to fill out her golfing CV.
“You often fail to appreciate what you’re doing over a long period of time,” she says. “It’s not until you take the chance to look at it written down that you take stock of it all. It’s been a lot of fun to go through the list and think back on all the fun I’ve had.
“It’s been, and will be, a huge honour to represent Durham, and the North East. In my early days it was hard to break through as a golfer from the North East. It’s funny to look back on that now given the success we see these days from our boys, girls, men and women on the national stage.”
Chris will bring an enormous amount of experience to her latest role. A single-figure handicapper for more than 50 years, she played for England girls in 1972 – her first of many appearances on the honours board of her home club, Hartlepool – and went on to represent the England women’s squad between 1979-81. She also represented Durham with distinction for more than 20 years at county level, then enjoyed great success on the management side of the game with England and the county.
Having picked up the game with her father at the age of 11, Chris was a county player by the time she was 16. By the age of 20 she was a scratch-handicapper and would go on to win two Northern Ladies titles and four County Championships.
“I don’t think I ever realised I was a really good golfer,” she admits, despite her successful playing career. “I won a big schools’ championship in Iowa when I was 16, then the Girls’ a year later, but I was never at the top table.”
Throughout, it was in England colours that Chris forged her fondest memories. “Getting picked for the European Championships in 1979 was a big goal for me and to achieve that was fantastic. I had a really good week, including being five under-par through eight holes in our match against Spain.
“Two years later, I was picked as second reserve for the Home Internationals, which were at Portmarnock. I ended up playing all six matches and I can remember every minute of coming back from 2dn on the 16th to half the match against Scotland.”
Chris first captained the girls’ side in 1979, the same year she represented England in the European Championships. She went on to captain the side a second time in 1981 before stepping back from the role following the births of her children – Harriett and James.
She didn’t return to an England captaincy until 2010, serving in the role for the last time in 2017, though she continues to be an England selector.
On captaining and managing teams, Chris says: “I’ve fitted into the role really well over the years and although I miss the competition, I certainly don’t miss the playing. I had been in the position all those girls were in and I think I had a lot to offer them. It was always great working with the younger ones – they just soaked up everything.”
Chris captained 15 different England teams in their quest for success at home and abroad in events such as the Home Internationals and European Team Championships. Those included leading a team featuring Georgia Hall, Bronte Law and Charley Hull at Hillside for the ladies’ Home Internationals, and captaining England to five consecutive wins in the annual event.
“I was lucky to work with some of the best young players over the years and it has been fantastic to see them progress. Charley was exceptional – an incredibly focused young woman. Bronte was like a terrier – she got her teeth stuck in and didn’t let go. Georgia had, and still has, a great all-round game.”
Since Chris represented England, golf has changed immeasurably, not least the role the national system – now England Golf – plays in developing juniors.
“The girls now get a huge amount of support from the county and national systems,” she says. “It was very different when I was playing. The first year I captained the girls at the Home Internationals, I was given seven players instead of eight, which was an interesting introduction!”
A member of Hartlepool throughout her golfing career, Chris was captain of Durham until the end of the 2022 season.
This year she will travel around the country and overseas, representing England Golf at major amateur tournaments as well as this summer’s Open Championship and next April’s Masters Tournament.
With a unique opportunity to meet and talk to golfers across the country, Chris hopes to continue golf’s drive toward true equality for men and women during her term as president, and support the drive to reach out to more people and welcome them into clubs.
“Bringing real equality to golf, at all levels, is incredibly important and I want to be part of achieving that in the years ahead,” she says.
“We’ve made huge strides in recent years, and I’d like to see more clubs and organisations welcome women’s views to the table as we drive golf forward together.
“Things are moving in the right direction and governance is becoming practice. The more we can push that forward, and the sooner we can achieve true equality in the game, the better.”
Junior golf and seeing players progress is also a huge passion for Chris. She continues to promote the introduction of new players to the game at Hartlepool, hosting sessions for families new to the game and steering the development of routes to membership and a life in golf for those who have never been in contact with the sport before.
“Being able to support people who are new to the game and use my experience to help them is something I really enjoy,” Chris adds. “The family sessions have proved incredibly popular with youngsters and their parents coming to the club, joining as academy members, and getting to learn about the game which has given me so much over the years.”
With a lot coming up, not least a busy diary of national events, Chris is looking forward to the year ahead. “There is so much to look forward to. Having formally taken on the role at Woodhall Spa, I headed to Liverpool the following night for a 350-person dinner for The Society of Liverpool Golf Captains – a very traditional event, but an amazing evening which I thoroughly enjoyed. On the course, I’ve already been to the Lytham and Fairhaven trophies, which were great fun with some superb golf played at both.
“There’s a lot more to come too. Having been involved in the women’s side of the game for so long, it will be great to be at lots of men’s events for the first time. Having seen the boys in action last season as president-elect, I know I’ll see a lot of high-quality golf.
“Going back to the Home Internationals will be special having played and captained at them so many times. Attending The Open at Hoylake – one of my favourite courses – will also be a highlight I’m sure, as will heading to next year’s Masters.”
With roughly 10 months, countless events, and hundreds of opportunities to meet and watch some of the best players in the world ahead of her, it’s no wonder the smile hasn’t left Chris’ face in last couple of hours. Given how much energy she has had for golf for more than 50 years, I’d put money on it still being there come next April too.