Campbelltown’s Sporting Heroine
Rose Hannah Payten, known to her friends as “Babe” is considered by many to have been Campbelltown’s most outstanding sporting personality.
Born at “Woodbine”, which stood on Campbelltown Road at Leumeah, in 1880, Rose Payten was the only girl in a family of five boys. Her brothers were all keen sportsmen, and although she participated in cricket, golf, horse riding and shooting, tennis proved to be her main delight. Whilst a pupil at Normanhurst private school in the Sydney suburb of Ashfield, Rose’s natural ability at tennis enabled her to beat any of the other girls.
In 1898, whilst still a school girl, she competed in the New South Wales Open Tennis Tournament, but was defeated in the semi-finals. The Sydney Week by Week magazine said of her:
“Miss Payten is a bright, lively, little lady … tanned and freckled with the sun, with pretty fair hair, laughing light eyes and very white teeth. She wore an ankle-length dark blue serge dress, tan shoes, black stockings, a large sailor hat with a Katoomba ribbon, and a free and unembarrassed manner.”
In 1899 she again competed in the New South Wales Open, but was narrowly defeated in the final by reigning champion, Miss P Hewitt, the score being 3-6, 10-8, 7-5. In 1900, she won the New South Wales singles championship, defeating Miss Dight 6-0, 6-2 in the final, and Mrs Cater 6-1, 6-1 in the Challenge Round.
The Sydney Morning Herald described her style as free and graceful, and said that her play off the ground or on the volley was invincible.
In 1901 Rose again won the singles title, partnered H M Rice to win the mixed doubles title, and partnered Miss Dransfield to win the women’s doubles title. To have won all three titles was an unprecedented feat, but Rose repeated her successes in 1902, 1903, and 1904. She also won all three titles at the Victoria Championships in 1903 and at the Queensland Championships in 1904.
It was at this Queensland Tournament that Rose Payten performed a most remarkable feat. She competed in the handicap event and in the final she played a Miss Goodwin, who at the time was classed as one of the three best Queensland players. Miss Goodwin was placed on a handicap of +40 and Rose on a handicap of -40. This meant that Miss Goodwin had only to win one point to take a game, whereas Rose had to win eight consecutive points. With an exhibition of accurate power tennis, Rose was able to win the handicap event as well.
There was no New South Wales Open held in 1905, and at the time of the 1906 championships, Rose was too ill to defend her singles title. So as not to let her partners down, however, she competed in the women’s and mixed doubles. Of the women’s doubles, the Sydney Morning Herald reported:
“… Misses Payten and Jones are still the champion pair of the state. Miss Payten though out of health and too weak to run, was too skilful for her opponents who were compelled to cramp their game so as to get everything to Miss Jones. The latter’s play was very strong, and her hard drives continually compelled her opponents to lift the ball to Miss Payten who skilfully put it out of reach.”
Of the mixed doubles, the Sydney Morning Herald said:
“This year Miss Payten was but a pale image of her usual self, and to those who know her play it was almost painful to see her reduced by sickness to an absolute inability to run for a ball out of her reach. Still she played a fine skilful game, and she and her partner were only just beaten after two close sets.”
In the same year, Rose Payten competed in the Strathfield Tournament, which in New South Wales was rated almost as important as the New South Wales Open, and again she won the three titles. She also won the Triple Crown at the Western Australian Open in 1906.
In 1907, Rose Payten repeated her performances of 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1904. The Sydney Morning Herald, in its report of the mixed doubles, said:
“Miss Payten’s play was as effective as ever. She and A B Jones had an easy win from S Jones and Miss M Jones … Miss Payten’s skill in volleying (she follows her service to the net, and with good effect) made her and Jones as good as any men’s doubles pair.”
When it is considered that at this time Australasia held the Davis Cup, this was indeed very high praise for Rose Payten.
Immediately after the New South Wales Championships of 1907, Rose Payten announced her retirement from competitive tennis, acting on doctor’s advice. From 1900 to 1907, she was never once beaten in singles play, and was without doubt the best woman player in Australia during this time. The Town and Country Journal said of her:
“The Ladies Championship again went to Miss Payten, and this young lady is classed above all her opponents … Certainly no better lady player has ever been seen in Australia.”
After retiring from competition tennis, Rose joined her two brothers, Percy and Jim, in breeding and training harness ponies. For many years her ponies won major prizes at the Campbelltown and Camden shows. In 1922 she took two of her ponies to the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, where she won three second prizes. In subsequent years her awards were as follows:
1923 Two first prizes and champion harness pony.
1924 One first prize, one second prize, one third prize.
1925 One second prize, two third prizes.
1926 Three first prizes, one second prize.
1927 Three first prizes, one second prize, one third prize and champion harness pony.
Although she continued to exhibit at the Campbelltown Show for several more years, 1927 was the last year that Rose entered her ponies at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
During these years Rose had also developed a keen interest in the game of golf. She was a member of the Kensington Club (now The Australian Golf Club), and in the 1920s she was instrumental in the formation of the Campbelltown Associates Golf Club, which played on the golf course at the corner of Camden and Menangle Roads.
With her knowledge of the game and its rules, she was selected Club Captain at the initial meeting, a position she held for a number of years. In 1930, Rose Payten won the Ladies Championship. A Sydney paper, “The Evening News”, reported her victory.
“Back in 1900 a girl from the country flashed into the tennis firmament of the Metropolis and trailed a path of glory for several years. She was Miss Rose Payten of Campbelltown, who won the Ladies Singles Championship of that year, and triple honours – singles, doubles and mixed doubles – in 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904 and 1907; unprecedented achievements that have never been repeated. This week Miss Payten came back into the limelight by winning the Ladies Golf Championship of Campbelltown Club.”
Having won the championship in 1930, she repeated her effort in 1931, 1934, 1936, 1938 and 1939. She was also successful in winning the foursomes championship in 1934 and 1938.
Rose Payten was also an Associate member of the Australian Golf Club, and for a number of years she served on the committee of the ladies Golf Union of New South Wales, She was also very active in organising the Ladies Country Week Tournament.
At the age of 71 years, Rose Payten died at “Woodbine” on 9 May 1951 and is buried in St Peter’s Anglican cemetery, Campbelltown. The Campbelltown Golf Associates still play annually for two trophies in her memory – the Rose Payten Cup and the Rose Payten Salver.
Not only was Rose Payten an extremely talented sportswoman, but she was also a very capable sports administrator, who during her life endeavoured to promote good sportsmanship and friendship. She remains one of Campbelltown’s finest ever sporting personalities, having enjoyed a career that was truly remarkable.