Poppy Wingate was England’s first professional woman golfer, and she began her career right here at Temple Newsam.
Born at Harborne, near Birmingham in 1902, Poppy’s father and brothers were all golfers, and she was taught to play aged ten. In 1923 her brother Syd Wingate was appointed as a professional golfer at Temple Newsam Golf Club. Poppy moved up to Leeds with him and worked as an assistant, giving lessons to both men and women. Her appointment was featured in the Daily Mirror on 27 July 1923, where she was described as “the only woman golf professional in the world”.
In 1928 she married Dr Herbert Arnott Eadie, a doctor in Leeds and they had children together. Tragically, Eadie was killed in an accident at a Leeds Motor Club event in 1931. He was riding on a tractor which was climbing up a steep hill near Pudsey, when the tractor tipped backwards, trapping him underneath and causing his death. Widowed, with two young children, Poppy returned to teaching golf at Temple Newsam, increasingly conscious that she needed a career to support her family.
In 1933 the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament was due to be played at Temple Newsam on 30-31 May. At the time this was a prominent national competition, and competitors included some of the most experienced golfers of the day. Poppy decided to enter competition and in doing so became the first woman in England to enter a professional golf tournament.
Newspapers around the country ran stories on her, despite the fact she didn’t win. Playing as the only woman amongst 200 men was ground-breaking, although Poppy took a more logical approach to her participation, saying:
“… this business of regarding professional golf as a holy of holies is all nonsense. I’m going to get that championship if I can. I cannot understand why more women do not take up golf as a career. Making allowances for rainy weather or snow, when there are few pupils, a good woman professional should be able to average about £300 a year with teaching alone and there are profits from the shop on top of that.”
As far as she was concerned, she was an assistant professional at a golf club, other assistant professionals (who were men) competed, so why shouldn’t she?
In July 1933 she competed in the Irish Championship, expanding her reputation beyond England. In 1934 the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament was played at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds, and she competed there. In 1935 she competed in other national competitions, including the Sunningdale Open Foursomes, the Dunlop Northern Tournament and a further return to the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament – this time played at Sand Moor golf course. There she beat her brother Syd in the competition! Although it was the waterproof trousers that she wore to play in that the Daily Mirror commented on.
1935 was a significant year for Poppy, as well as competing in multiple competitions, she had begun to design a range of women’s golfwear for the Leeds firm Avison, Hare & Co., who were woollen merchants based on Wellington Street in Leeds. She was featured in Golf Weekly, which also predicted that if the idea for a women’s tournament went ahead, Poppy would be a strong contender for a women’s title. (Sadly, there was no women’s championship until the British Women’s Open started in 1976!)
Coverage like this expanded her reputation and by 1936 she was teaching, designing and lecturing on golf and golf clothing in London. She even designed a sports make-up range for Elizabeth Arden! Her name and reputation meant that in 1937 she was invited to present a programme on BBC Radio on Golfing Temperaments and Golfing Wardrobes.
On 7 June 1937, Poppy Wingate became the first woman golfer in be featured on television in the world. She presented a demonstration from Alexandra Park Golf Course, showing viewers a variety of short and mid-range shots.
Poppy’s golfing passion became much less public after she re-married in 1940. Her husband was a barrister called Raymond Hinchcliffe, who was later knighted – giving Poppy the title of Lady Hinchcliffe. She died in 1977.
Whilst Poppy Wingate was a pioneer for women in golf internationally, other women were excelling in local tournaments. On 8 April 1938 Muriel Somerville and Dorothy Green became the winners of the Northern Women’s Foursome. This competition was played at Sand Moor Golf Course – where Poppy Wingate had played in the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament in 1935. Muriel was originally from Glasgow, and Dorothy was from Leeds.
Beyond these two women, we have one other postcard that shows a woman golfer. This dates to 1918 and reflects the amateur status that women and ‘girls’ had in the sport before Poppy Wingate and others came along.
The wider golf collection includes clubs and practice hoops, balls and the moulds to make them. There’s also photographs, leaflets and board games, studs for golf shoes, as well as the Leeds Pals Association Golf Trophy and one commemorative ashtray!
As part of golf club collection, we have some fantastic examples from the Pudsey firm Bronty Golf Co. Ltd. Their equipment was very popular in the 1970s – it included clubs such as the Bronty “Chipmaster” and Bronty “Rustler”. The company went out of business in 2000, citing competition from East Asian manufacturers as a key reason.
We are always keen to hear from people whose stories might add to our collections, so please do drop us an email.
By Lucy Moore, Projects Curator