THE next lady captain at Thorpe Hall Golf Club is a shining example of the club’s desire to make itself more open to new members who may never have picked up a club before.

Jane Pacey – who drives-in at 3pm next Tuesday – will be the first captain to come through the club’s probationary members scheme at the Thorpe Hall Avenue club which dates back to 1907.

The scheme was set up seven years ago to attract members who were new to the sport.

Before then women had to have a handicap of 36 (28 for men) and it was felt that this was quite restrictive to the new wave of potential members.

So the club took the bold step of changing its rules.

And Pacey’s forthcoming inauguration is a sign that the scheme’s been a success.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to my year as lady captain and think that starting out on the scheme is a very positive thing for this club.”

Although her father, James Pacey, was a former captain, secretary and president of Belfairs Golf Club she’d hardly ever wielded a club herself before deciding to get involved.

But the then new scheme at Thorpe Hall was quite a big draw for the former City worker who now sees it as a major boost as the historic club – like all other clubs – strives for new members.

She said: “I know that getting involved with anything new can be daunting, and this is true of golf too.

“But we’re very proud of the way the scheme works here. It’s really a mentoring scheme and it’s designed to appeal to the many people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who come into golf and want some help.

“They won’t have a playing handicap – that can take over a year to get – but this means that at Thorpe Hall they are supported and looked after by the pro.

“The pro makes sure they learn the right way and helps them come into the club as a playing member.

“Golf can be quite a singular sport so the scheme also helps with the social side of things and there is a reduced cost element to the membership which helps out too.

“Were so lucky that, over the years, we’ve had some very talented people come into the club through the probationary scheme.”

She praised the “great” contribution of course pro John Fryatt who had been instrucing at the premier club for many years. The club itself is acknowledged as one of the best in south Essex.

Pacey said that another member – her vice captain Yvonne Healy – was also a former probationary scheme member.

But Pacey knows that, come January 21st, she’ll have to be on her guard for exploding golf balls or other golfing high-jinx when standing on the first tee for her drive-in.

“I don’t quite know what to expect on the day, but the women’s section is a really nice friendly bunch so I’m sure it will be fun.”

The incoming captain is still mulling over what good cause to choose for her nominated charity, so there is still plenty to be done over the next few weeks.

And with Thorpe Hall having the honour of staging the Essex Golf Union Girls championship (for youngsters aged 18 and under) on May 27, the spring looks like being a busy time for both Pacey and Healy.