Muriel Thomson has packed so much into her 66 years on planet earth, she’ll probably get sent a bill for excess baggage.

Her life has been one of decorated accomplishment on the golf course and great fulfilment away from it. With an unwavering competitive instinct and an unquenchable drooth for adventure, Thomson won multiple titles on the European women’s circuit, became the first female club professional in Scotland, bagged all the Munros in her homeland, clambered up peaks in the Himalayas and cycled the kind of epic routes that would make Eddy Merckx gasp.

Her long-standing charity work with orphaned children in India, meanwhile, has given her a wider sense of awareness, energy and selflessness that continues to reward and inspire.

That she hasn’t been able to make her annual pilgrimage to the St Josephs Social Service Centre on the outskirts of Chennai due to the coronavirus has been a real scunner. “It’s the first time in 15 years I’ve had a winter in Aberdeen,” said Thomson. “I’m missing it. I’ve watched those kids grow up and some are in their final year at school. It’s been an amazing journey since I first went there in 2006.

“I’d seen a lot of places  through golf. But most of the time it was the golf course, a nice hotel and the airport. You don’t live in the back streets for a month like I did on the voluntary work. It was a huge eye-opener and a real emotional roller coaster.

“It took me three weeks to digest what I’d seen when I came home the first time. I’d climbed peaks in the Himalayas, I’d trekked across the Patagonia Ice Caps. I remember sitting in my tent during one of those treks thinking ‘what is it you’re looking for, Muriel?’

“Someone said about doing voluntary work. Originally, I was thinking ‘this will be a great experience for me’. Within a day of being in India, of course, I quickly realised that it wasn’t about me at all. I felt I was meant to be there. At the end of my first visit, there was no way I could say ‘thanks for the experience, I’m off back to Scotland now’. I’ve been going back ever since.”

Having turned professional in 1979, Thomson made her mark on the fledgling Ladies European Tour, winning nine times between 1981 and 1986 and finishing top of the order of merit twice. The chance to pursue the American dream plunged something of a star-spangled spanner into her works, though.


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“I didn’t really want to go to America but I felt I was expected to go,” she reflected. “I remember flying out one January and I was actually praying I’d get snowed in at Aberdeen and wouldn’t have to go. I got there and knew it wasn’t for me. I just didn’t enjoy the American way of life.

“I was in Hawaii, it was 85 degrees, I’d had a night listening to the Beach Boys live on the beach but I phoned back and said ‘I’m coming home’. My folks said ‘you can’t, the weather is terrible’ and I said ‘I don’t care, I’ve had enough’. It was a tough thing to admit that it wasn’t for me. But I got off the plane in Aberdeen, it was snowing and I thought ‘thank God, I’m home’.”

With a lack of events in Europe, Thomson called time on her 10-year touring life and, as a qualified PGA pro, became the first female club professional in Scotland when she took up the post at Portlethen in 1990. The former Curtis Cup player retired six years ago. Her golf clubs retired with her.

“I haven’t hit a shot since,” she said. “When you’ve played for a living and then just play for fun, it’s very difficult. There’s no goal. So cycling became my passion. I cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, that was my retirement goal and have cycled in India, Mongolia, South Africa, China, Burma and Thailand. There have been a few hairy moments. But if you don’t have hairy moments, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. I love the challenge.

“If restrictions do get lifted, there’s a cycle from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan and a Trans-Himalayan route from North India to Kathmandu.”

The charity work, meanwhile, continues to give her enriching perspective. “I placed so much importance on six-foot putts during my career but you realise how unimportant they are in life,” she said.

There’s still a bit to pack into that life yet it seems.