You probably hadn’t heard of her until messages flooded social media at the announcement of her death last week, aged 36, almost two years to the day after she was first diagnosed with cancer. Her name didn’t resonate throughout golf. She was not a leading player nor a famous administrator nor a well-known spectator. But to some people, Kate Wright was important. Really important, more important even than Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive.
Her constituency was the press tent at golf tournaments, a noisy, sometimes argumentative place. In her constituency were the journalists, the tardy and the titanic, the scruffy and the scrupulous, the garrulous and the mute, a disparate and at times desperate band if ever there was one. “Wrighty” looked after us with brusque affection, a wry humour, an acerbic wit and, above all, a love for her work. She gave as good as she got. “She’d do anything to help you out and then she’d take the piss out of you for what you had done,” Neil Squires of the Daily Express said.
Above all, and day after day, she kept the wheels turning, making life easier for her constituents, be they writers, photographers or broadcasters. It was for this reason that men like Jamie Corrigan, golf correspondent of The Telegraph, tweeted this heartfelt message on hearing about her death: “The media centre simply will not be the same without you and your laugh, your enthusiasm and your wicked sense of humour. You were a joy to be around.” And the photographer Dave Cannon said this of her: “An infuriatingly cheeky, wonderfully helpful and an absolutely lovely rough diamond.”
“All of us have been on the receiving end of Kate’s wit. She never missed the opportunity to lampoon the people she served, and revelled in others trying to take her down a peg too. All part of the brilliant banter that makes life on the road more bearable.”
Golf bodies on either side of the Atlantic have benefited significantly from the presence of women like Kate down the years. At the USGA there was Suzanne Colson. The PGA of America had Una Jones. The PGA Tour Denise Taylor. They are names that were hardly known outside their organisations but these ladies shared a number of things in common. Despite having very mundane titles, they were very good, very hard-working and if you crossed them, then more fool you. They were the ones you turned to in moments of desperation and on the European Tour, none more so than Kate, the ET’s media relations coordinator.
“Kate, the Wi-Fi’s gone down.”
“Kate, I left my accreditation in my hotel. May I have a new one please?”
“Kate, can I have a couple of free tickets for Sunday?”
“Kate, where’s the McIlroy transcript?”
“Kate, what’s the Test score?”
“Kate, the coffee’s rubbish.”
And she would step forward calmly and find the missing document, the lost key, the parking pass, and another crisis among her constituents would pass.
As a teenager she had done a week’s work experience on the sports desk of The Sunday Telegraph. She had a bachelor's degree in journalism and when you talked to her about sport you realised quickly that her breadth of knowledge was greater than yours. She took up golf at Leighton Buzzard Golf Club when Ian Poulter was an assistant pro there, and with his help later got down to 5 handicap. She played junior golf, cricket and hockey for Bedfordshire and senior hockey for the county as well.
“The trouble with Kate was she was a natural at sport,” Brian Wright, her father, said. “She had good hand-eye coordination and the result was she gave the ball a helluva smack.” This fact wasn’t always appreciated by her male opponents when one of her drives bounded down a fairway yards past theirs, both having played from the same tee. She was a friend of Alastair Cook, the former England cricket captain, who lived nearby.
Few people seem as happy in their own skin as Kate Wright was. Her obvious contentment at her lot was only improved when Northampton Saints, her rugby team where she had a season ticket, were on a winning streak or when she could visit another country. She loved travelling and when that was combined with sport then she was on cloud nine. “She was unfazed by anything thrown at her, unbridled in her passion for all sport, but unequivocal in her love of golf,” said Scott Crockett, director of communications at the European Tour. “She absolutely loved tour life and tour life absolutely loved her.”
Alistair Tait, the golf writer, tells this story: “Fellow journalists will miss her distinctive cackle. Oftentimes she was laughing at herself. Sometimes at the mishaps of the journalists in the room. All of us have been on the receiving end of Kate’s wit. She never missed the opportunity to lampoon the people she served, and revelled in others trying to take her down a peg too. All part of the brilliant banter that makes life on the road more bearable.
“During the 2018 French Open at Le Golf National, I committed a wee mistake during an interview with a European Ryder Cup player. I told Kate of my gaffe. She told me not to worry about it, it was no big deal.
“We went back to the media centre and I excused myself to get a coffee. When I came back, the letters ‘NUMPTY’ were written in huge red ink on my notepad. When I looked over towards the media desk, Kate had a huge smile on her face.”
This is what Tommy Fleetwood said on hearing of Wright’s death: “She was a huge supporter of golf, always quick-witted and not shy in telling you what she thought.”
Thomas Bjørn, captain of the Europe team at the 2018 Ryder Cup, said: “She was funny, brilliant and kind. RIP dear Kate.”
Paul McGinley, Europe’s captain at the 2014 Ryder Cup, said: “(Kate) fought so bravely and another kind soul leaves us.”
The late poet and writer Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” On that score Kate Wright could hardly have done better. The tributes to her haven’t stopped ringing out, louder than church bells and coming from around the world. Those of us who knew Kate were aware of that characteristic of hers. We appreciated the work she did on our behalf and have come together to say this: “Wrighty, you made us feel happy and the better for having known you. Farewell, God bless and rest in peace.”