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Wray, Leonora (1886–1979)

by Gillian Fulloon

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Leonora Wray (1886-1979), golfer, was born on 2 July 1886 at East Maitland, New South Wales, third child of Kenneth Mackenzie Wray, a sheriff's officer from Ireland, and his native-born wife Grace, née Edwards. When her family moved to Goulburn, Leonora saw the opening of the local golf club and began using a stick to hit a rubber ball 'golf style'. She attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls where Emmeline Du Faur and Olive King were fellow pupils; although golf was not a school sport, a cousin gave her a putter, her first club.

Living with her family in Sydney, Miss Wray became an associate member of the Australian Golf Club in 1904 and a council-member of the New South Wales Ladies' Golf Union. She was coached by a professional and rapidly developed into a cautious, deliberate player: 'never a chance thrown away, or a single shot played without a definite object'. Wearing a blouse with a stiff linen collar, a waisted jacket and an ankle-length skirt, and using only five clubs, she thrice won the State ladies' amateur championship in 1906-08, and the Australian title twice in 1907-08. She contracted typhoid fever in 1909 and did not play for the next decade.

Gradually recovering, Leo regained the national title in 1929 and the New South Wales championship in 1930; her other titles included the western open (1931) and the northern open (1931-32). In 1929 she had partnered F. G. Murdoch to take the mixed foursomes championship. With a handicap of four in 1934, she continued to play with 'ease and accuracy' and maintained that a 'correct swing' was 'the secret of consistent golf'. She was champion woman player of the Australian club ten times between 1907 and 1938, and five times champion of the Royal Sydney Golf Club between 1924 and 1933.

A delegate to the inaugural meeting of the Australian Ladies' Golf Union in 1921, Miss Wray served as its secretary until 1923. She helped to establish the Tasman Cup competition with New Zealand in 1933 and was captain-manager of the touring team in 1937; she also managed the women's team that toured Great Britain in 1950. As president of the A.L.G.U. in 1954-59 and of the N.S.W. L.G.U. in 1957-65, she enthusiastically promoted junior golf. She was longtime associates' president of the Australian Golf Club and in World War II had worked for the Anzac Buffet Ladies' Auxiliary.

Commanding in 'stature and mien', Leo Wray had 'sharp eyes' and a deep, booming voice. An able raconteur who was known as the 'grand old lady' and the 'mother' of Australian golf, she inspired in younger players 'a mixture of fear and awe, respect and affection'. For many years she lived at Woollahra. Appointed M.B.E. in 1968, she died at Waverley on 4 April 1979 and was cremated with Anglican rites; her estate was sworn for probate at $174,143. Henry Hanke's portrait of Wray is held by the Australian Golf Club.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Ladies' Golf Union Golden Jubilee Championship, Souvenir Programme (Syd, 1971)
  • P. Perry (compiler), From Green to Gold (Syd, 1975)
  • Sydney Mail, 22 Aug 1906, 21 Aug, 9 Oct 1907, 29 July 1908
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Nov 1929, 21 Oct 1937, 3 June 1938, 20 Feb 1940, 6 May 1950
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 6 Dec 1965, 8 Jan 1968.

Citation details

Gillian Fulloon, 'Wray, Leonora (1886–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wray-leonora-9195/text16241, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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