Jill Thornhill equalled her age to win the Walton Heath Ladies Autumn Meeting – 57 years after first success!
Former Amateur Champion Equals Age Of 78 In Competition
If it’s true that age is only a number, then 78 is the perfect figure for Walton Heath’s most illustrious honorary life member, Jill Thornhill.
Mrs Thornhill, winner of the British and English Ladies Amateur Championships during the eighties, has just completed the remarkable achievement of equalling her age of 78 for the first time by winning her club’s Ladies Autumn Meeting Gold Medal by one stroke over the demanding Old Course.
If that isn’t impressive enough, consider the fact that Mrs Thornhill was actually winning the Autumn Meeting Gold Medal 57 years after she first won the competition as a mere 21-year-old in 1963!
Mrs Thornhill, whose roll call of achievements reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of women’s golf, said: “It had been a goal of mine for a couple of years now to break or equal my age and I’ve been close to achieving it. However, each time I managed to get ahead of myself.
“Coming to the last few holes I knew I was in touching distance and tried to draw on what I did well in my younger day. It’s the oldest cliché, but one shot at a time is the best strategy and I knew a five at the last would help me shoot my age.”
A two-putt five duly sealed the deal on the 18th – and earned a cut in her handicap from six to five!
A former Lady Captain of Walton Heath, Mrs Thornhill has been winning national and regional titles for 50 years. Her finest moment came at Silloth-on-Solway in 1983 when she beat Swiss miss Regina Lautens to claim the British title. She said: “That was the highlight, since it opened so many doors and earned me selection for the Curtis Cup side.”
She represented Great Britain and Ireland in three winning Curtis Cups against the United States and also captained the side in 1990. At regional level, she was Surrey County Champion 15 times and helped Surrey win the County Championships on eight occasions.
At her peak she played off a handicap of plus three and continues to enjoy the competition. However, equalling her age has created a huge stir at the Club, much to her surprise.
“I am finding the attention quite amazing,” she said.
“In my hey-day, if your achievements didn’t get into the press, it didn’t appear anywhere. Now, with social media, everyone seems to know about my 78. I feel like I’ve won the ‘British’ all over again! Everyone at Walton Heath has been so kind and I have to admit I’m quite enjoying it.”
So, can Mrs Thornhill go one step better and actually break her age over the acclaimed Old Course?
She laughed: “Well, some of my friends have said that when I am 79, I only have to shoot 78. However, the other side of the argument is that I’ll be another year older, so it might be harder. I will certainly keep trying.”
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