Strictly Come Golfing
Joan ‘Marley’ Spearman was an English amateur golf star. She left school early to embark on a career on the stage, joining a dance troupe which performed with The Crazy Gang at the Windmill Theatre in the West End of London.
The story of her introduction to golf is well-known. She was shopping in Harrods on a wet afternoon, and, unable to find a taxi outside, she returned and saw a sign to a Golf School and thought she would give golf a try. One lesson was enough to alert the professional to her potential, and she made incredible progress, reducing her handicap to four within two years.
Marley was a breath of fresh air in the staid and respectable tweed-suited 1950s. Her dancer's training gave her the work-ethic of practice, and she knew instinctively where her body and club should be throughout her swing.
She came to Dunstable Downs to play in an exhibition match in 1965. H G Higgs, Dunstable Club Captain takes up the story…
“The Curtis Cup was due to be played in America and, unlike today, funds had to be raised by the Ladies to participate. An exhibition golf match was arranged by the Lady Captain where Marley took on the best two lady golfers at Dunstable; Gwen Brandon (3) and Sheila Kempster (5) in a match over 18 holes against their better ball. A crowd of over 120 turned up to watch. Marley was in top form having played in three major tournaments that season and winning all three! The outstanding feature of her game was an amazing accuracy on her long shots to the green and her immaculate chipping. Gwen and Sheila dovetailed well and were only 1 down at the ninth. They lost the 12th to a birdie 4 and with every other hole halved in bogey, Marley ran out the winner by 2 & 1 after a hard fought but thrilling match. It was my duty on the eighteenth green to thank the golfers and ask the spectators to throw their ‘half-crowns’ onto the putting surface in support of the Curtis Cup Team; the collection raised several hundred pounds.”
Marley won the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship in 1961 and 1962. She was New Zealand champion in 1963, and English champion in 1964. She was a member of the Curtis Cup Team In 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964.
Pictured left to right. Sheila Kempster - Marley Spearman - Gwen Brandom