Wednesday 21 August 2019

Last Portrush Open in 1951 teed up a fine romance

Golden years: Ronnie Patterson and Jean Cobban married in 1954
Golden years: Ronnie Patterson and Jean Cobban married in 1954

Lauren Harte

A couple who met when the British Open was last held in Portrush in 1951 have said "it still seems like yesterday".

Ronnie Patterson, from Belfast, and Jean Cobban, from Coleraine, were both aged 24 and visiting the Open when they first set eyes on each other.

Now aged 92, the couple are full of happy memories of the golf tournament 68 years ago.

Ronnie, who is bouncing back after recent major surgery, said the chance meeting with Jean in a dance hall changed his life.

"It doesn't feel like 68 years since I first met Jean," he said.

"It still seems like yesterday.

"She is nine months older than me, so I've always referred to myself as her toy boy, but I certainly couldn't have got better."

The couple exchanged letters for several months and met a number of times before getting engaged 18 months after their first meeting. They married in 1954 and have two daughters, Valerie (63) and Rosemary (57).

And while they would love to attend the Open this week, after Ronnie's surgery they will be watching the action on TV at home in Dundonald.

"I couldn't believe it when it was announced that the Open was coming back to Portrush," said Ronnie.

"I said to Jean that we would have to go up for old times' sake but sadly it's not to be."

"The golfers of today are certainly very different to those back in 1951.

"They're more classy and of course have much better equipment. I'd like to see the local boys like Rory doing well this time."

Irish Independent

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