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A tribute to...

Rhonda Gladys Watson OAM

Published: Sat 23rd Nov 2019

"Rhonda had an outstanding and distinguished golfing career. She was indispensable as a wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother (to two children), and great grandmother to five children"

- Family and friends of Rhonda.

SOUTH Australia lost one of its most successful female amateur golfers, a tireless golf administrator, and a much-loved family member with the passing of Rhonda Watson (OAM) on September 26, 2019.

For Rhonda, sport, family, and service to the golf community and beyond, consumed her life for more than 70 years.

On the family front, Rhonda was the eldest child of Alf and Amy Biddell and a sister to Maxine and Rodger.

As a youngster she attended Rose Park Primary School, leaving as Dux of the School, before attending Adelaide Technical High School - where basketball was her sport and she qualified as an umpire.

Her parents liked a hit of golf though.

They took their 16-year-old daughter along with them when they went to play weekend rounds at Victor Harbor or Lobethal National Park or Kensington Gardens and it wasn't long before Rhonda's sporting interest fell to golf and it became a big part of her life.

In 1948 she joined the Glenelg Golf Club as a junior, receiving early coaching from the club professionals Fred Thompson and then, later, Murray Crafter. It was to be the start of a golf career, so stellar Rhonda is still hailed as one of the State's best golfers.

From the club, to state, to the national stage Rhonda excelled.

She won her first state championship in 1952 and went on to win 11 more. She won the Club Championship too that year. The first of 13.

Three times (1956, 62, 66) she was chosen to play for Australia in the Tasman Cup and she also captained the side as a non-playing captain in 1970.

Rhonda was a key member of the Glenelg Pennant team for 27 years and she won numerous local and country golf competitions during her playing years.

Rhonda with her daughter Sue.
Rhonda with her daughter Sue.

In 1960 she became the first female player in South Australia to obtain a "scratch" (zero) handicap.

Her service off the course was just as impressive.

She was president of the South Australian Ladies Golf Union from 1969 to 1971 and held a range of positions at Glenelg over the same period from Associate Committee Member to Vice-Captain, Captain and President of the club. Rhonda also served as the Honorary Treasurer of the SALGU for four years from 1974.

Her dedication to her club and her sport was recognised with life membership at Glenelg, (the first woman honoured there in such a way), life membership of the SALGU and in 1978, The Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to golf.

She was named The Advertiser's Sportswoman of the Year in 1959, 1965 and 1966, was given an Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and was inducted into the SA Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Rhonda married her husband, pharmacist and fellow golfer John Watson in 1952 and soon after their daughter Sue arrived.

Her work over the years included bookkeeping roles at the Shell Company, at an accountant's office, bookkeeping for wineries and helping at The Royal Show.

In an interview with a News Corp publication in 1993 Rhonda proudly talked of her 21 years of service at The Royal Show's sideshow alley where she worked "behind the scenes" at the Funtasia fun parlor empire and became known as one of the characters of the area turning up for work every day in "workman's garb" and serving the thousands of customers who came to see the latest pinball and computer games.

On the family front Rhonda's daughter Sue, also a golfer, married golf professional Bob Tuohy.

As the years went on, Rhonda became Nana to Peppa, Ben and Jane and Big Nana to Jessie, Sebastian, Elle, Oliver and Aasha.

Rhonda with Bob Tuohy and Ben Tuohy.
Rhonda with Bob Tuohy and Ben Tuohy.

In October 2011, after 59 years of marriage, her husband John passed away.

Rhonda had moved to Mitcham Residential Care by this stage, having developed dementia in 2002. She was visited there four days a week up until the day she died by her daughter Sue.

As the family and friends involved in crafting her eulogy so elegantly said:

"Rhonda had an outstanding and distinguished golfing career. She was indispensable as a wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother (to two children), and great grandmother to five children.

"She will be greatly missed by all who knew her".

For female golfers in South Australia, Rhonda's name will live on every year when players compete in the prestigious Rhonda Watson Brooch teams event played between various SA golf clubs.

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