The First Meeting

The first meeting was held at St. George’s Hill Golf Club on Monday 24 November 1913. The competition was the brainchild of Arthur Wallis Myers, tennis correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and one of the first great writers on our sport. Initially known as the ‘Lawn Tennis Golf Cup’, it was eventually renamed in honour of Lord Desborough, a sporting legend and former president of both the AELTC and the LTA, who donated the trophy.

The inaugural event was introduced as “a reunion of lawn tennis players under novel and auspicious conditions”. It was noted that “cheap return railway tickets will be available for competitors and every arrangement made for their comfort and convenience”, and The Lawn Tennis and Badminton magazine commented that “a most enjoyable day was spent – even by those who tore up their cards.”

The same publication went so far as to describe the event as “one of the most successful days in the annals of either game”!

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One of the leading tennis journalists

Arthur Wallis Myers was one of the leading tennis journalists of the first half of the 20th century, who subsequently founded the International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain in 1924 with Lord Balfour, former Prime Minister and later a Member of the Cabinet, as its first President.

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Mixed Competition

Ladies were first invited in 1919, making the event a mixed competition, and five took part with the most successful being Miss E.G Johnson who came 15th. Initially 6 shots were allowed in addition to the usual handicap but this was reduced to 4 in 1925 and to 3 in 1929 after six out of the first twelve events were won by ladies!

As far back as the early 20th century, golf and tennis have been closely linked. Many publications in the first half of the last century covered the two sports together, including the German magazine Tennis und Golf, and Tennis et Golf (France) and Tennis en Golf (Netherlands). Many players have excelled at both sports over the years and to list all of these would be impossible, but two that warrant a mention are Lottie Dodd and Althea Gibson.

Lottie Dodd, pictured here, won five Wimbledon ladies’ singles titles between 1887 and 1893, and was one of the first great all-round sportswomen. Among various other activities, she represented England at hockey, won an Olympic medal in archery and, in golf, won the British Ladies’ Amateur Championship at Troon in 1904.

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First African American woman to join the LPGA golf tour

Another Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Champion to excel at golf was Althea Gibson. After winning the ladies’ singles title in 1957 and 1958 and then spending several years playing professional tennis, Gibson became the first African American woman to join the LPGA golf tour.

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The most successful golfing tennis player

The most successful golfing tennis player was surely Ellsworth Vines, the 1932 Gentlemen’s Singles Champion. Like Althea Gibson, Vines played on the professional tennis tour for several years after his Wimbledon triumph, before turning his attention to golf.

He won three PGA Tour titles and even finished joint-third in a major championship, reaching the semi-finals of the 1951 US PGA Championship in the days when the tournament had a match play format.

However, in 1913 the sight of tennis players on a golf course was clearly still a novelty. A tennis reporter was asked to report on the first Lawn Tennis Cup. His article, provided in full later, reflects the fun and sense of humour which permeates all of the articles of the time, noting that: “every player had a ball boy to himself for the whole day…the boys thus got to know the idiosyncrasies of each player.

At lawn tennis the boy is generally a stranger to me and does not appreciate the ferocity of my forehand drive; thus, when it sails about three courts away the ball is hardly ever returned; but the ball boys at Weybridge are well trained and not only find your [golf] ball for you but (when no one is looking) assist you by a deft touch of the foot if the ball lies in an awkward position.”

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A great success

The 1913 event was a great success and has continued since then, albeit interrupted by two World Wars, the 2000 petrol strike, and the global coronavirus pandemic. The event remains true to its founding regulations, continues to be well supported and enjoyed, and the spirit in which this is played still reflects that enshrined in the event by Wallis Myers and his friends over 100 years ago. In 1965 the original cup was stolen from the home of the holder, Mrs J. Bisley, and the AELTC kindly presented a replacement in 1966.

The following picture shows several of the 1913 participants in action, including Wimbledon Champions Laurie Doherty and Arthur Gore, as well as the organiser, Wallis Myers. Doherty was an outstanding golfer, with a handicap of +2, but had an off day and was pipped to the inaugural scratch title by ‘C. Ambrose’ who won with a round of 85. The main handicapped cup event was a draw between V.M. Hill and J.G.L. Pleydell-Nott who had to play off a few days later for the cup. After a further 18 holes the two were still tied, and ‘there was nothing for it but lunch and another round’, and Hill eventually won by a shot after another round of 18!

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The Desborough Cup - Competitions

The event includes the following competitions:

The Desborough Cup: a handicap competition, open to tennis players who have represented their country or county in ITF or LTA competitions.

The Desborough Bowl: a handicap competition open to all members of an ITF or LTA affiliated tennis club.

The Ladies Cup: a handicap competition, open to ladies who are members of an ITF or LTA affiliated tennis club.

The Scratch Cup: decided on gross score.

The Bill Maclagan Memorial Trophy: a handicap competition for tennis players over the age of 60.

The Team Cup: a team event decided according to a combined stableford team score.

The team score on each hole is the sum of the best two stableford scores of the four players in the team, subject to all four players counting on at least 6 holes.

Competitors are only able to win one of the above competitions. In the event that a player wins more than one individual competitions, they will be awarded the trophy of the event highest in the above list, with the other event being awarded to the next best player in that competition.

The event has stayed true to the intentions of its founding committee, who published these founding regulations in The Lawn Tennis and Badminton magazine on 13 November 1913:

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Arthur Wallis Myers

Arthur Wallis Myers CBE (24 July 1878 – 17 June 1939) was an English tennis correspondent, editor, author and player.

He was a keen tennis player himself and was active mainly in amateur doubles competition. In April 1906 he won the doubles title with New Zealander Anthony Wilding at the Championships of Barcelona. He also won the Monte Carlo doubles championship in 1910 and 1921.

In mixed doubles competition, Myers competed at Monte Carlo in 1909 and later at the 1914 World Hard Court Championships with Phyllis Satterthwaite, reaching the semi-finals. He also teamed up with Molla Bjurstedt Mallory for the 1923 Monte Carlo tournament.

Also in 1923 he won the doubles title at the South of France championships. He was the captain of British tennis teams on tour in Europe, South Africa and India.

Myers was the editor of the Ayers Lawn Tennis Almanack beginning in 1908. The following year he began work as the lawn tennis correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, a position he held until his death in 1939. He also served as lawn tennis editor of The Field and he wrote several books on tennis including a biography of four-time Wimbledon champion Anthony Wilding who was killed in the First World War. During that war Myers served in the Ministry of Information.

Myers was appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by French President Paul Doumer on 29 April 1932 for his service to the game of tennis.


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