Fire still burns...
If a winning attitude is key to sporting success, then it’s no wonder that the competitive fires are still burning brightly in new Yorkshire Ladies Senior Champion and former Olympian Bet Sworowski.
Fresh off beating her Wakefield clubmate Heather Butcher 3&2 in the County Ladies’ final at Oakdale, it was off to Market Rasen for a gruelling week of tournament golf seeking the national title for the 61-year-old.
Two days of strokeplay qualifying in which Bet finished second in the over-60s category was followed by a 40-hole day with the knockout round of 16, then a quarter-final against Hallamshire’s Cathy Riley which went down the 22nd hole.
Her place in the final against the strokeplay qualifying winner, Sheree Dove-Wilde, was earned by virtue of a 3&2 win over East Berkshire’s Gabi Heuchel.
Ultimately, Bet had to settle for the runners-up spot after another dogged battle which went all the way down the 20th, before Dove-Wilde prevailed to take home the Anne Howard Trophy.
“I should really have won it on the 15th,” said Bet. “I just could not get the putts to drop – the 6-footers just wouldn’t fall.”
The disappointment is perhaps understandable in someone who won seven AAA Championship titles between 1988 and 1991 in the 5,000 and 10,000 metre race-walking events.
Qualifying for the Commonwealth Games and European Championships in 1990 at 10k was topped the following season by places in the UK World Cup team for San Jose, California and World Championships in Tokyo.
The ultimate, though, and crowning moment of her career, was an appearance at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. And literally, in the changing rooms after that final appearance, Bet Sworowski hung up her trainers!
“I just couldn’t carry on with the injuries – stress fractures in my ankles and legs, knee injuries … I couldn’t afford all the physio!”
But at the age of 31, race-walking’s loss was golf’s gain.
Husband Andrew was a golfer, so Bet joined him at Wath Golf Club with the aim of beating his then-21 handicap. It didn’t take long. Overtaking her brother’s 12-mark was next, then single figures … and finally one of the most belated and unusual golfing journeys: turning professional!
“My son was six and had a good swing, and I saw a European Golf Teachers Federation poster in the pro shop at Wath.”
Qualifying as a single-figure golfer, Bet took a week-long residential course in 2007, later followed that up with her Masters certification, and started BYG Academy – Betty’s Young Golfers – at Loxley Driving Range in Sheffield. An accountant by day, she tutored mostly youngsters and women in evenings and at weekends.
“It was a tough decision, because I loved competitive golf so much, and with my job and the coaching, I hardly got to play golf.”
Also, although son Steven turned out to be a natural, it wasn’t a life choice for him, so eventually Bet gave up her professional status and served a two-year wait to return to the amateur ranks.
And what a return it has been. Bet switched clubs to Woodthorpe where the club has a scratch ladies team to try to improve her game and in 2018 she and England Senior international Julie Wheeldon won the national Brenda King Foursomes title, at Brough.
With the introduction of the new WHS handicap system she saw her official mark drop to 0.0 – a scratch golfer! – although at the moment the rapidly fluctuating new system sees her at 1.7.
And as for the future?
“I did not expect to get there (the Senior Amateur Championship) but I just knuckled down and thought ‘I could do this’.” In the event she was just one hole from national glory.
Don’t bet on Bet not to be reappearing in 2022.