OBITUARY BY MITCHELL PLATTS
The Association of Golf Writers has lost one of its most humorous, respected and gifted writers with the passing of Chris Plumridge.
Chris, who became a Member of the AGW in 1975, died on Good Friday, April 3, in hospital because of complications brought about by respiratory failure.
His passing at the age of 70 came the week before The Masters. Chris had many fond memories of playing the game he loved although few as precious as the Augusta National card on his office wall which recorded the round of 81 he scored when playing the course the day following Tom Watson’s win in 1977.
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, led the tributes when he said: “Chris was a determined, professional writer with an intellectual and individual style whether when composing articles on a vast range of subjects predominantly on golf, editing magazines such as Golf International and for many years helping The European Tour and the Golf Foundation. He fought his severe illnesses with enormous courage for so many years. Our thoughts are with Sally and his two daughters, Jo and Jessica, and their families at this difficult time.”
Chris’s passion for golf began on the Flackwell Heath course in Buckinghamshire where he grew-up with his elder brother Tim. He was born at Fulmer, near Gerrards Cross, on April 21, 1944, and from a young age he and Tim ventured onto the Flackwell Heath course from their home behind the 15th green.
Curiously although he played cricket right-handed, Chris initially played golf left-handed until his father made it crystal clear that since Tim played right-handed then so would Chris as “We can’t afford left-handed clubs as well.”
His enthusiasm for playing the game – his five handicap enabled him to tee-up in the celebrated Carris Trophy at Moor Park – initially evoked imaginations of being a professional and most certainly did not immediately lead to a career in golf writing.
Educated at St Bede’s School, Eastbourne, where he was taught English language and literature alongside the late Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the cricket writer known to millions of listeners of Test Match Special as ‘CMJ’, by the same teacher whom they both adored, and then St Edward’s Oxford, he was first encouraged by his father to enter the family furniture business.
He eventually put behind him a chequered career, having tried several roles none of which excited him, by launching his own company, selling furniture parts to various manufacturers, before his mother, exasperated by his ambivalence towards the industry, offered him £1,000 to ‘Go out and get a proper job’ and with that he set sail for South Africa.
Chris used the ship journey to good effect by taking a correspondence course in journalism, and on returning to England in 1971, following the death of his father, he was determined to make golf his profession as well as his pastime and that gained momentum as the editor of the inaugural Golf International.
By now married to Vanessa, who sadly died in 1998, Chris’s eloquent writing skills allied to his natural humour was reflected by an enthusiastic readership of his regular columns in the Sunday Telegraph, Golf Illustrated and Punch magazine in addition to many other newspapers and magazines around the world.
Chris was the first Editor of The European Tour Yearbook – now in its 27th year – and the author of many outstanding books on golf including ‘How to Play Golf’, ‘It Can Only Happen to a Golfer’, ‘The Challenge of Golf’, ‘Golf Characters’, ‘The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of World Golf’, ‘The Book of Golf Disasters and Bizarre Records’ and ‘Almost Straight Down the Middle’. He also gained a marvellous reputation as an after-dinner speaker and for him his ‘masterpiece’ remained his speech at the AGW Annual Dinner at The Open Championship.
Tragically, Chris, a member at Beaconsfield Golf Club where Luke Donald also played, was forced to stop playing more than 20 years ago by the debilitating illness which impaired his ability to walk and eventually culminated in his declining health.
Nevertheless with typical stoicism six weeks before his death, he embarked on the last of several trips to South Africa with his partner Sally, who came into his life 14 years ago and with whom he shared many happy and fun times.
Mark Wilson, Chairman of the AGW between 1982 and 1984 and former Golf Correspondent of the Daily Express and Director of Communications of The European Tour, led the tributes of the golfing world when he said: “Chris promised much as a golfer when he was talented enough to compete in the Carris Trophy. But when cruelly disabled, he became an inspiration in bravely coping with life in a wheelchair, and his ridiculous sense of humour attracted many friends. He was a keen student of race form, loved a gamble on the horses, and also enjoyed the challenge of the AGW Pick Your Pro competition as a means of contributing to his favourite charity. In his final hours in hospital, news was given to him that he alone had selected that week’s champion, Richie Ramsay in the Trophée Hassan II. Great timing! RIP Chris Plumridge, a winner to the end.”
Renton Laidlaw, President of the AGW and commentator for The Golf Channel, said: “Chris never lost his enthusiasm for golf. He was always in demand to write articles which he produced with polish and professionalism. A keen racing fan, Chris did much work behind the scenes for The European Tour who had every reason to be grateful for his loyalty. Everyone who knew Chris admired his indefatigable spirit despite the illness which he battled so bravely for so many years. He was an inspiration to us all.”
Michael McDonnell, formerly Golf Correspondent of The Daily Mail and Chairman (1978-1982 and 1992-1995) and President (1998-2004) of the AGW, said: “Chris was an outstanding influence on golf writers including myself for more than 40 years. As editor of numerous golf annuals and magazines he exerted a light and powerful touch and knew exactly what he wanted – and got it from his writers. His humour was infectious and irreverent and he was always a joy to be around except when he was winning at golf which was quite often. It has been a privilege to have worked with – and for – this gifted character and to have witnessed his talents at first hand. Rest in Peace, old chum.”
Chris leaves two children, Jo and Jess, and two grand-children, Archie and Raffy whom he adored.
The funeral will be on Thursday April 16 at 4.00pm at Chiltern Crematorium and the reception afterwards will be at Beaconsfield Golf Club.
Family flowers only. Donations if desired to CHP, The Golf Foundation, c/o Arnold’s Funeral Services, 32, Gregories Road, Beaconsfield, Bucks HP9 1HQ