Golf, a man's game? At Chantaco this cliché disappears with the swing of a club, even if it was a man, René Thion de la Chaume, who founded it in 1924 in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Banker and fencing champion, the Parisian fell in love with the place and invested in the purchase of 60 hectares of fields to create a golf course. The Ladies course was inaugurated by Simone, René's daughter, who won the British Girls amateur championship in 1924, followed by many prestigious British ladies. Catherine, Simone's daughter, took over. She imitated the swings of her mother and went on to win world titles, including the US Open in 1967. Together they successively presided over the destiny of this golf course from 1930 to 2009.
Then Véronique Smondack took over. No sporting track record to bring to the table but a deep conviction to carry on the tradition behind the charm and reputation of the Saint-Jean-de-Luz golf course. At just 30, in 2013, the granddaughter of René Lacoste took on the succession from her mother at the head of this Basque institution. A natural transmission and a destiny mapped out to extend the dynasty. “Frankly, it wasn't planned, she confides today. I grew up close to people who always said: ‘you'll be the future president’. I didn't really believe it, but now, I'm totally involved, I want to be part of this story of women who run the Chantaco golf course”.
The House where her Heart is
Very aware that “I've got to make my mark as I'm not a golf champion”, determination runs in the new president's genes. “I've always been close to my mother, who trusts me, has a big heart and has always said, live your family life and then come here”. Véronique Smondack shared her early years between Madrid, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the United States where she studied. “When I had Kiara, my first daugther, in 2011, I decided to settle with my family in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. As a child, this is where I spent all my holidays, most of the time with my grandparents. I learnt to play golf. In any case, it was better to enjoy it if you wanted to get on in the family”, she jokes today.
Following in the footsteps of her grandmother and mother, she says she is “proud to see that the family continues to be involved in golf”. She maintains close ties with her mother. “She supports me, and knows that I will respect the values of golf and the family. It's not always easy, I learn something every day, but I also know that I'm extremely lucky”.
It takes more than being the “heiress” to succeed. Every year, she puts her mandate as president on the line. “For the moment, I've always been re-elected unanimously”, she says, looking forwards. “We're not a commercial golf course, but we have to plan for much needed major work on the course. We need to improve the tee-offs, continue the draining and cabling of Chantaco while preserving the original spirit of the place”. Every Wednesday morning, Véronique Smondack accompanies her two daughters Kiara, 5 and Noémie 3, onto the green of the golf school. “I give them a few tips”, she chuckles. A path all laid out to continue the saga.