It's the one they all want to win

MAY DAY: Grafton Lady golfers captain Marie Keynes with the May Tournament trophy.
MAY DAY: Grafton Lady golfers captain Marie Keynes with the May Tournament trophy. Daily Examiner

GRAFTON Lady Golfers May Tournament officials are hoping history is not repeating itself as grey clouds cover the skies above the Clarence Valley.

The time-honoured tournament had the most inauspicious of beginnings 46 years ago, when torrential rains caused widespread flooding and the cancellation of the event.

Today, and with the long fairways and lush greens of the Grafton District Golf Course waiting for action, eyes and minds have strayed little from the heavens above.

“I've sent a few prayers up there, but I don't think he is listening,” Grafton Lady Golfers captain Marie Keynes said.

More than 100 competitors will, weather permitting, tee off over the four-days of the event, beginning with a four ball-best ball competition tomorrow.

However, the race for the 36-hole Ampol Cup will not start until Thursday, with the winner crowned on Friday afternoon.

Reigning champion and Ballina resident Anne Jackson will be back to defend her title, but with a large field, including 13-time winner Jean Dahl, breathing down her neck, last year's play-off queen will have to stave off challenges from across the leaderboard.

“It is a big tournament and it's one all the local ladies try to play,” Keynes said.

“We have 132 nominations from all over the North Coast.

“Everybody loves to come because we have a brilliant course and a prestigious tournament.”

In fact, according to Grafton Lady Golfers publicity officer Pam Kenway, the May Golf Tournament provided the original format of women's tournaments in the area.

“It is one of the longest and most prestigious events ... and it pioneered the (women's) club competition,” she said.

“In the beginning we were one of the first tournaments outside of the jurisdiction of the Northern Rivers Association.

“And we used to get over 140 golfers because there weren't many around.”

Kenway said player numbers had reached a level of stability after many years of growth, but still thought the tournament could do with a fresh coat of the younger generation.

“We loved to have the younger ones here ... I think that's one of the problems we face,” she said.

“Mark Harvison (club professional) does beginner classes and we tried to follow that up and encourage people to play.”