Colin Callander, former editor of Golf Monthly magazine and now a freelance journalist and a long standing member of the Fettes Halford Hewitt team writes…
The Halford Hewitt is one of Britain’s most competitive golf tournaments, contested between teams of 10 former pupils from the 64 schools which make up the membership of the Public Schools Golfing Society, and it is also one of the game’s most convivial social gatherings, something which is entirely appropriate considering it was conceived during a luncheon meeting at one of England’s finest golf clubs.
There is a degree of debate surrounding how the event came to be started but, according to that great golf writer and TV commentator, Henry Longhurst, it was dreamt up during a lunch which John Beck had with G.L. “Susie” Mellin at The Addington Club in Surrey some time during the summer of 1923. Certainly, later that year, representatives from six schools, namely Eton, Charterhouse, Highgate, The Leys, Malvern and Winchester met up to finalise the first tournament and they were joined in the inaugural draw by four others, Mill Hill, Rugby, Beaumont and Radley although, ultimately, during that first year, Beaumont scratched and Radley failed to raise a team.
Mellin, an old Malvernian, and Beck, an old Carthusian who later went on to Captain the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup side in 1938, were both outstanding golfers, Mellin good enough to reach the semi finals of The Amateur Championship in 1920, and both were determined to instigate an inter Public Schools golf tournament along similar lines to an existing football tournament, the Arthur Dunn Cup. Both were also traditionalists, members of the old school in more ways than one, so it came as no surprise that they selected foursomes as the official format for the tournament.
Foursomes then, unlike now, was the obvious choice, the preferred form of golf for amateur golfers used to competing in the likes of Sunningdale and Addington Foursomes, the Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes and the London Amateur Foursomes, and it was also the speediest format, an important consideration which allowed the first few Hewitts to be contested over a single weekend, thereby ensuring that none of the competitors had to take valuable time off work in order to compete.
Foursomes was confirmed as the official format right from the outset, at that lunch at The Addington, and it seems that the decision to call it The Halford Hewitt was finalised then, too.
According to Longhurst, who seldom got things wrong, Mellin and Beck had decided on the tournament details and were wondering which “bloody fool” they could inveigle into putting up a trophy when, quite by chance, Halford Hewitt walked into the room and was promptly pounced on.