Sporting Heroes - Hockey, Rugby, Cricket and Golf
Early occupants of Welwyn Garden City met as a small social group playing mixed hockey on what was originally a farmer's field, now Handside Playing fields. Before the Second World War separate men's and ladies teams emerged and steadily grew in numbers. In 1946, after the war, both clubs reformed and transferred to two rented council grass pitches at the King George V playing fields, alongside Hatfield Hyde Cricket Club. The two sports clubs eventually formed a limited liability company. Between the 1950s and 1980s the hockey club prospered culminating in six mens and three womens teams using, at one time five grass pitches. The Hockey club boasted female players who represented Scotland and Wales, whilst the male team boasted county and regional players, as well as one player in the National under-23 squad. In the 1960s, the men fielded an outstanding 6-a-side team, which won most of the local events and twice reaching the final of the London 6s, the most prestigious tournament in the South of England. A number of local players turned to umpiring and reached County and Regional level status, with three attaining national recognition and two reaching FIH/Olympic recognition. The Men's and Women's clubs eventually merged in 1991 and continue to flourish.
Denys Carnill played hockey many times for England and captained the team at one time. He was part of the England Hockey team who won bronze at the 1952 Olympics and also played in the 1956 Olympic squad, when they narrowly missed out on a medal place. The press at the time reported that the team had "won a great deal of glory in playing the game as it should be played." His father owned a haberdashery shop for many years in Howardsgate and was a wicket keeper for Welwyn Garden City Cricket Club. Other well-known local Hockey players include Mair Quarterley (nee Jones) who was a national player for Wales and Myra Clarke of Digswell Park Road, who was a Scotland national player for Scotland.
The district boasts three well-known Rugby Internationals. John Wackett was born in 1932. He played for Roslyn Park and went on to be capped for England against Wales on 17 January 1959 and later against Ireland. Steve Bates played for Welwyn before going on to play for Wasps and won his first cap for England in 1989 against Romania. Bates is currently director of rugby at Newcastle Falcons and had a spell as coach of the England Saxons last year. Joe Worsley gained 78 full England caps and was part of the 2003 World Cup winning side. University of Hertfordshire students Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt made their England debuts in February 2012, former student Tom Ryder who plays for the Glasgow Warriors has been called up for Scotland and second year student Hannah Gallagher, a former member of Welwyn Rugby club, has been called up for the England Women's Team. The district also boasts lots of successful teams. On the 10 May 2009, Welwyn Girls Under 15 Rugby team became National Champions for their age group, beating Paviours Under 15 (from Nottingham) 5-3 in an extremely tight final at Lichfield.
Hatfield Cricket Club can be traced back over 150 years and is well documented by H.J. Gray, one of the Club's players and officials between the 1940s and 1980s. Gray wrote two major bound volumes on the history of the Club and its players and collected press cuttings about the club in a scrapbook, which can be viewed by appointment at Mill Green Museum. The Hatfield Cricket club was originally based in front of Hatfield House, but eventually moved to a new site in Ascot's Lane. The district also boasts many local Cricket teams including Welwyn Garden City Cricket club, Welwyn Cricket Club, Cavendish, North Mymms, Cuffley, Digswell, Sherrards, Hatfield Hyde and Heronswood. George Hulks was one of the founder members of the Hatfield Hyde Cricket Club in around 1919. Mr Hulks lived in Hatfield Hyde throughout his life and died in 1950 at the age of 77. Three former England cricketers who once lived in Hatfield are W.J. (Bill) Edrich who lived in Green Lanes, in Hatfield during the 1950s and 60s and played for Middlesex and England. Fred Titmus who ran the newsagents in Manor Parade, Hatfield in the 1960s was an all rounder for Middlesex and England. F.R. (Freddie) Brown of Wilkins Green Lane, Hatfield captained England in the 1940s and 50s and also played at one time for Northamptonshire. The district also boasts two Olympic cricket umpires David Marshall and Bryan Humphrey. The district has also had visits from famous cricketers. Denis Compton, the cricketer and face of the Brylcreem advertising campaigns visited Hatfield Park in June 1956 and in 1977, Geoffrey Boycott visited Hatfield Indoor Cricket School (at the former Hatfield Polytechnic) to help local boys with their cricketing skills.
The first English Golf Club opened in the 1860s and subsequently there was an explosion in golf course construction. The Welwyn Garden City golf course was constructed in 1923 and Brookmans Park opened in 1930. Later local authorities began to provide municipal courses, such as Panshanger, which opened in 1975, to encourage more people to take up golf as a hobby. The course at Mill Green opened in 1993.
Nick Faldo is one of the most famous sports people associated with our district. He learnt to play golf at the Welwyn Garden City Golf Club from the age of fourteen, when he was still a pupil at Sir Frederick Osborn School and played for the Hertfordshire Colts. He won his first title at 16 years old and by the age of 18, had won twelve amateur tournaments, including the English and South African Amateur Championships. In 1977, in his second season of professional golf, he tied with Seve Ballesteros in the Uni-Royal Tournament at Moor Park, but lost to a birdie in a sudden death play-off. In August of the same year, he won his first major professional title at Gleneagles in the Skol International Tournament and at twenty was the youngest ever player to represent Britain in the Ryder Cup. During his career he has won six majors, three Open Championships and three Masters. To acknowledge his sporting achievements and connection to Welwyn Garden City a tree was planted with a stone plaque, on the Campus in September 1990. He was knighted for his services to sport in 2009. Other notable members of Welwyn Garden City Golf Club include Chris Allen who won the Herts County Amateur Championship twice in the late 1970s. Ken Brown was born in Harpenden, but was also a member of Welwyn Garden City Golf Club. He represented Britain in the Ryder Cup five times between 1977 and 1987. He won the European Tour four times and, in 1978, finished fourth in the European Tour Order of Merit. He now works as a golf broadcaster and writer, primarily for the BBC.
Today, Tom Lewis a young golfer from Welwyn Garden City is competing well. In 2011 he won silver in the Golf Open Championship for best amateur performance and led the tournament after the second day. Lewis has now turned professional after playing in the Walker Cup and went on to win the Portuguese Masters, which earned him a two-year exemption on the European Tour. In February 2012 he competed in the Qatar Masters, contending with high winds and sand blowing across the Doha Golf Course.
Updated July 2012
This page was last updated on 05/07/2012