“I’m certainly not the shy, quiet type,” says Debbie Gillings. Which is just as well because anyone who holds down the position of club captain of a golf club needs to be a people’s person, able to communicate well verbally with fellow members in addition to being a hard-working, good organiser and administrator.
And Debbie fills all these roles admirably as the Ladies’ Captain here at Randpark. She first started hitting the little white ball in 2006 after excelling in a number of sports including netball, hockey, tennis and swimming – representing at swimming the then Transvaal in butterfly. And, let’s face it folks, birdies and bogeys aside, anyone who can speed across the pool doing the demanding ‘fly stroke’ damn well deserves our respect!
Now Debbie is commanding respect as our Ladies’ Captain. “I love golf but whereas I was really good at all those other sports I find golf very humbling (don’t we all?),” she admits. “Just when you think, you think you’ve got on top of the game it bites you hard.” Yes, we know!
Debbie, who is the mother of a 17-year-old daughter and off the course is a sales executive, was introduced to the game by fellow Randpark member Hylton Glasspool who has been her life’s partner for the past 15 years. “Hylton is a 13 handicap and I play off 25 but even off his 13 he still seems to always beat me,” she says with one of those frustrating, ‘dammit’ smiles. “Golf is supposed to be relaxing but it isn’t always so, because of the great challenge within yourself. Of course when you have a good round the sense of achievement is hard to beat. The exercise you get is a big plus and the social side of the game is fantastic as you meet such a wide variety of people (even in these lockdown days, fortunately, now that golf has resumed).”
In any event, after years of playing the game Debbie felt it was time – as she puts it – “to give back” by standing for the committee. “I wanted to help in any way I could,” she explains. And she has helped, becoming Vice-Captain in 2018 before stepping up to the plate as Captain last year. “Yes, it’s quite a big commitment keeping all the ladies happy and it takes a lot of my time especially with my job to consider and having a daughter to look after, but fortunately my sales job is quite flexible so I do manage and at the end of the day it is very gratifying. And it helps to have a very strong ladies’ committee backing me up,” she adds, referring to Alice Taylor (Vice-Captain and Secretary), Willa Muller (League and Handicaps), Carol Primes (Mixed and Wednesday Opens) and Jeanne de Power (Trophy and LGG Events).” And, happily, on the subject of competition golf organised by Debbie and her committee, Randpark’s Mixed Open and Ladies Open returned on the 26th and 29th of this month after the long weeks of non-activity due to the lockdown.
Debbie loves Randpark and says she wouldn’t change clubs for anything. “There is such good leadership, and the vibe and the family feel is great. The staff is so helpful, whether it be the waitresses, waiters or whatever.”
Bushwillow is our Ladies Captain’s choice of course as she says she usually scores better there, although her all-round favourite hole is the par-5 second at Firethorn, not only for its challenge but because it is so easy on the eye with the river running parallel to the fairway. She’s never had a hole-in-one at Randpark but achieved the feat at Skukuza four years ago. “It was with an eight-iron at the par-3 second hole, and it wasn’t just a lucky shot. It was the perfect strike,” she says proudly.
Debbie’s favourite golfer is Rory McIlroy. “I love the little bounce he gets in his step when he’s playing well,” she explains. And she so enjoyed being a marshal during the SA Open at Randpark last summer. “I was stationed at Firethorn’s 18th hole and seeing all the players coming in and finishing their rounds was a real privilege. Of course I didn’t personally witness Louis Oosthuizen’s hole-in-one at the eighth but at 18 we certainly heard the roar and just knew that someone had done something really special.”
Debbie’s daughter Roxanne, incidentally, is in Matric at Northcliff High right now concentrating on her studies. Like her mother, she has excelled at sport and made her debut in the school’s girls’ first cricket team as early as Grade 9.
Of the future in these trying times, our Ladies Captain is optimistic: “South Africans are determined fighters and we’ll get through this,” she says. Thanks, Debbie, we’ll hold on to your words. And thanks also for all the hard work you are doing at Randpark.
Finally, a word from Lesley Richard our ex-Ladies Captain “Debbie is working hard, managing both her full time and second “full time” job and is doing great in keeping us ladies happy!”
Written by Randpark Member Grant Winter.