‘Come on then, Mandy. Show us how it’s done.’
The mocking tone made it clear that Gavin Simpson was expecting Mandy’s first stroke in the golf match to be less than spectacular. Looking around at the crowd gathered at the first tee at Shieling Golf Club, he smiled. Clearly, he wasn’t the only man who felt that way.
Normally, Mandy Campbell would have responded to the challenge with gusto, confident in her ability to play the game well. Today, however, her stomach churned. For the twenty-nine-year-old Lady Captain of the club–one of the youngest in its history–this was the single moment she dreaded most in her period of office: the Captains’ demonstration game on Centenary Saturday. What if she made a fool of herself in front of the crowds of members and guests who had gathered for the celebration marking the 100th birthday of the club?
Mandy knew Gents Captain Gavin Simpson would be playing to the gallery, convinced of his ability to shine at her expense.
‘Well, we’ll see,’ she muttered.
‘What was that?’ Gavin asked.
‘Nothing. Just my mantra for a successful round.’ She knew her broad smile would fail to reach her eyes.
‘Good game,’ she said, loud enough for the spectators to hear.
‘Er… good game,’ he replied.
In the Central Scotland village of Rowanbrae, some thirty miles from Glasgow, the golf club provided first-class facilities, but was also a venue for social activities. Members and guests met there to attend dinners, dances, and meetings of all descriptions. Many in Rowanbrae had held their breath as the local council, at their last meeting, had considered a proposal to purchase the golf course and build much-needed houses on the site for the expanding population of the community. The golf club members had breathed a sigh of relief when the council rejected the application.
On this important day, they could not have wished for better weather: the thin mist obscuring the distant hills would evaporate soon in the heat of the day. The course looked as if an artist had painted it–the long fairways, undulating like low sand dunes, their green made more intense by the heavy rainfall of the area. In places shadowed from the sun, a light dew lingered, silvering the surface of the grass, adding contrast to the picture.
The golf course was in perfect condition, thanks to the dedication of the head greenkeeper. All Mandy had to do now was send the ball as far as she could down the centre of the first fairway. She’d done it hundreds of times before, so why worry? It was Gavin Simpson’s remark that had raised her tension level. Gavin–the Captain. The Captain. Mandy was the Lady Captain–and was reminded of her inferior status at every opportunity.
She swung her club. The ball arced straight down the middle of the fairway, high and fast, to land in a perfect position for her second shot. With a gesture of exaggerated courtesy, she invited Gavin onto the first tee.
‘Your turn,’ she said.
As expected, Gavin’s ball went further than Mandy’s, but veered to the right and slithered into the rough–the long grass at the edge of the fairway. Good. You’ll have some difficulty getting your ball out from there, she thought.
‘Well done!’ Mandy said, smiling smugly as she joined in the applause. ‘Could be a bit tricky to get out of the rough, though,’ she added for his ears only. Had she injected a little too much syrup into her tone? She didn’t really want to humiliate Gavin on this of all days; on the other hand, she wasn’t prepared to allow him to belittle her. Since embarking on her captaincy, she had been striving to rid the club of its gender bias. Now in her second year, she knew that time was running out. Perhaps male chauvinism would not disappear from Shieling Golf Club, but she would continue to do her level best to fight it.