Women Members – The R&A and Augusta National GC

This is a rolling piece where I am trying to keep track of the women members of both The R&A and Augusta National Golf Club.

To date there are eight articles / updates below: –

6th April 2019

The inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur revealed that the Club had recently taken on its sixth female member.

Heidi UEBERROTH (52) was seen sporting a green jacket on the grounds during the competition. Mrs. Ueberroth is a Director of the Pebble Beach Company and Electronic Arts. She is formerly an executive at the National Basketball Association. She is an accomplished golfer too.

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Heidi Ueberroth

ME.

8th April 2018

I thought I should branch out and start keeping a track of the women members at Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC), the home of The Masters, too.

Like The R&A and other exclusive Clubs Augusta National does not as a rule make formal announcements concerning new members. Both Clubs did of course do so when admitting their first female members.

On 20th August 2012 Condoleezza RICE (b.14/11/54) and Darla MOORE (b. 01/08/54) were announced as the first two women to be admitted to the ANGC membership.

Chairman Billy Payne said at the time “These accomplished women share our passion for the game and both are well known and respected by our membership”.

Rice was very well known from her days in international politics, serving in high office under President George W. Bush. She was the 20th United States National Security Adviser (2001-05) and 66th Secretary of State (2005-09).

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Condoleezza Rice

Darla Moore was a less well known South Carolina financier and philanthropist. A billionaire partner in private investment firm Rainwater Inc she was the first women to grace the front cover of Fortune magazine. Her husband, who passed away in September 2015, introduced her to the game and she was a long time friend of former ANGC Chairman William “Hootie” Johnson (1998-2006).

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Darla Moore

Johnson was Chairman when the ANGC’s male only membership policies were first brought under the microscope in 2002 by Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO). The debate lasted for a few months but Johnson held firm. He said ” Our membership is single gender just as many organisations and clubs across America. These would include junior leagues, sororities, fraternities, boy scouts, girl scouts and countless others. And we all have a moral and legal right to organise our clubs the way we wish”.

Following the uproar two members resigned and pressure on corporate sponsors led to the 2003 and 2004 Masters tournaments being broadcast without commercials.

The pressure for women members next came to prominence in 2011 when Chairman Billy Payne was asked to explain the Club’s decision not to offer Ginni Rometty, the recently appointed CEO of IBM, membership – every previous holder of this role having been been invited to join ANGC. IBM is a long term generous sponsor of The Masters and this arrangement was said to be part of the deal, as it is with other corporate partners Exxon Mobil and AT&T.

In 2011 the International Olympic Committee discussed ANGC’s male only membership as part of their considerations as to whether golf should be re-admitted to the 2016 Rio Games. The Olympic criteria included the words “sport practiced without discrimination”.

In 2012 two gender discrimination lawsuits brought by the NCWO against companies associated with ANGC led to $79m settlement payments and bans for the companies from entertaining at or in conjunction with facilities that discriminate on the basis or race or gender.

Not unexpectedly Virginia “Ginni” ROMETTY (b. 29/07/57) became the third women member of ANGC in 2014. She is the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM. Understandably given her role Rometty is currently only an occasional golfer.

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Ginni Rometty

Diana M. MURPHY, the recently retired 64th USGA President, was seen sporting a green jacket ahead of the 2018 Masters and is therefore believed to be the fourth women member of ANGC. Many former USGA President’s have been invited to join ANGC after completing their terms of office including her husband Reg Murphy who served as President between 1994-96. New ANGC Chairman Fred Ridley is himself a former USGA President. Mrs. Murphy has a background in finance having being the Managing Director of private equity firm Rocksolid Holdings LLC.

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Diana Murphy

Finally Ana Patricia BOTÍN (57) was also reported to have joined Augusta National in early 2018. Botin is the Executive Chairman of Santander Bank, having taken over from her father Emilio. Her sister Carmen was married to Seve Ballesteros and coming from a golfing family she is a sound golfer.

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Ana Botín

ME.

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7th March 2018

Lally SEGARD (nee Vagliano), one of The R&A’s original female honorary members in February 2015, passed away aged 96 on 3rd March 2018.

Lally was one of France’s best amateur players winning numerous national and international titles. Amongst her honours she won the Girls British Open Amateur Championship (1937) and the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in (1950).

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Lally Segard (Photo: Golf De Saint-Cloud)

After her playing career had ended she successfully turned her attention to administration holding senior roles at the French Golf Federation, European Golf Association and the World Amateur Golf Council.

The number of women’s honorary members therefore has now fallen back to 8.

ME.

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20th February 2017

The R&A today announced that Bridget JACKSON MBE, Hon D.Sc. (Birmingham) and José María Olazábal had accepted invitations to become Honorary Members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Mrs. Jackson takes the number of current women honorary members to nine. The overall total is now eighteen.

Born in Birmingham, England in 1936, Jackson won the Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship in 1954 and two years later triumphed in the English Ladies Closed Championship and German Ladies Championship. She also won the Canadian Ladies Championship in 1967.

Bridget played in the Curtis Cup for Great Britain and Ireland on three occasions. Initially included as a reserve in the GB&I team for the 1958 Curtis Cup against the United States, the withdrawal of Philomena Garvey led to Jackson playing in the match for the first time, which was tied 4½ – 4½, at Brae Burn. Jackson would also play for GB&I in the Curtis Cup in 1964 and 1968, and the Vagliano Trophy match against the Continent of Europe on four occasions. In 1973 and 1975, she was the non-playing captain of winning GB&I teams in the Vagliano Trophy.

She was selected as an England international nine times. In 1964, Jackson was selected as playing captain by England to play in the first ever Espirito Santo Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships, winning a bronze medal. She also won the Home Internationals with England on six occasions.

Bridget Jackson (Photo: The R&A)

Following a successful playing career, Jackson became a talented golf administrator and was chair of the English Ladies Golf Association from 1971-72 and President from 1993-95. She became President of the Ladies’ Golf Union in 1998 and subsequently an Honorary Vice-President. She has also been President of Handsworth Golf Club and Royal St David’s Golf Club. She was made a MBE in 2003 for her services to women’s golf.

She said, “I am delighted to accept this invitation to become an Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club. I have been fortunate to be involved in golf throughout my life and have always enjoyed being able to give something back to the game. I look forward to representing the club and playing my part in continuing its great tradition of supporting golf.”

Keith Macintosh, Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, said, “I am very pleased to welcome Bridget Jackson and José María Olazábal as Honorary Members of the Club. Bridget has graced the game for many years as a fine amateur golfer and exceptional administrator, while José María is one of golf’s outstanding champions and has achieved notable success throughout his career as a player and as Ryder Cup captain. Both of them thoroughly deserve this recognition.”

A number of new Ordinary Members have also recently been omitted but details are currently scarce.

ME.

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25th January 2016 

Ewan Murray of The Guardian today reported on the fact that The R&A’s female members have no changing room inside the famous St Andrews clubhouse which opened in 1854.

Women members use recently refurbished facilities in Forgan House, an R&A-owned building 100 yards away on The Links street. The R&A have explained that this is simply down to a lack of space and they have no immediate plans to rectify the situation.

Personally I find it hard to believe that any new women members will have complained about the situation given the short distance between the two buildings. It also appears that The R&A have done everything they can to make their new facilities as comfortable as possible.

Here is a link to the full story in The Guardian – ‘St Andrews Women Members Still Have No Changing Room In Main Clubhouse’

ME.

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4th May 2016

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) today announced, at the start of its Spring Meeting, that Sir Bob Charles ONZ, KNZM, CBE has become an Honorary Member.

Now 80 years old the New Zealander is best known for winning The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes G.C. in 1963.

He is the Club’s 16th male Honorary Member. There are now 8 female Honorary Members. All of them are listed in my articles below.

ME.

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7th December 2015

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) has today announced two new women Honorary Members.  As one would expect both ladies have made substantial contributions to golf as both players and administrators.

Marlene STEWART STREIT (CAN), aged 81, won 11 Canadian Ladies Open Amateurs, 9 Canadian Ladies Close Amateurs, 4 Canadian Ladies’ Seniors and 3 U.S. Senior Women’s Championships. She also won the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship in 1953, the U.S Women’s Amateur in 1956 and the Australian Women’s Amateur in 1963.  In 2004 she became Canada’s first member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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Marlene Stewart Streit (Photo: Golf1.is)

Judy BELL (USA), aged 79, played in two Curtis Cup teams, 1960 and 1962, and also captained the team in 1986 and 1988. In 1996 she became the first woman to be named President of the USGA and in 2001 was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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Judy Bell (Photo: USGA)

In the same announcement it was stated that, ‘A further eight women have also become (Ordinary) Members of the Club’.  The Club’s protocol is not to reveal the names of Ordinary Members.  However, Golf Digest have reported that they include Diana MURPHY, the recently nominated new President of the USGA (the second women President after Judy Bell), Jay MOTTLE, the executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association, and Christie AUSTIN, a former USGA Executive Committee member.  Steve Scott in Scotland’s The Courier reported that Hazel IRVINE, a St. Andrews University graduate (and golfer) better known of course as a BBC sports presenter, and Diane BAILEY, the former amateur golfer and Curtis Cup captain and current President of the Ladies Golf Union, were also amongst the latest intake.

Since the original announcements in February both Honorary Member Louise SUGGS (7th August 2015) and Ordinary Member Patsy HANKINS (22nd October 2015) have sadly both died.

Therefore by my calculation the R&A now has 22 women members.

On 11th May 2015 Lady Angela BONALLACK became the first women member to represent the R&A in a match – she played in the annual friendly against the Links Trust. She also went on to win one of the R&A Spring Medals on 14th May 2015.

Claire DOWLING gave the 2015 new members address at the Annual Dinner held in September at the St. Andrews Fairmont Hotel. She now also sits on The Rules and Equipment Committee.

ME.

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18th February 2015

On 10th February 2015 The R&A announced that Her Royal Highness (HRH) The Princess Royal (UK), Dame Laura DAVIES (UK), Renée POWELL (USA), Belle ROBERTSON MBE (UK), Lally SEGARD (FRA), Annika SÖRENSTAM (SWE) and Louise SUGGS (USA) had accepted invitations to become Honorary Members of the Club.

There was some irony in the inclusion of HRH The Princess Royal given her previous comments on the sport: “Golf seems to me to be an arduous way to go for a walk.  I prefer to take the dogs out”.

As an aside I can see Karrie WEBB (AUS) being added to this list relatively quickly after she retires from competitive play as her achievements and nationality clearly make her a worthy candidate too.

These seven ladies join the 15 male Honorary Members that the St. Andrews-based R&A already has. These include HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Duke of York, HRH The Duke of Kent, President George WH Bush, Peter Thompson CBE, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Roberto De Vicenzo, Tony Jacklin CBE, John Jacobs OBE, Peter Alliss and Sir Michael Bonallack.

This announcement followed The R&A’s historic vote in favour of admitting women as members in September 2014, overturning an all-male tradition that had been in existence for 260 years. The Club had been under pressure to reform itself from politicians and women campaign groups for a number of years prior to this.

On the same day a member communication from The R&A was leaked revealing that a further seven women had accepted invitations to become Ordinary Members. These were Lady Angela BONALLACK (UK), Claire DOWLING (IRE), Diane DUNLOP-HÉBERT (CAN), Patsy HANKINS (NZ), Martha LANG (US), Carol SEMPLE THOMPSON (USA) and Marion THANNHÄUSER (GER).

R&A Women Members

R&A Communication

In this communication Peter Dawson of The R&A stated that all of “These new (Ordinary) Members have made considerable contributions to the game of golf as players and / or administrators”. It also intimated that the Ordinary Members had been finalised before the Honorary ones thus suggesting that the second list contains the names of the first women members not the first as was understandably widely reported in the media.

At a press briefing last week The R&A’s Peter Dawson stated that no women had turned down invitations to join the existing 2,400 male members.

Traditionally the Club has bestowed Honorary membership on the Principal of St. Andrews University.  However, the current incumbent, Professor Louise Richardson was not included in the announcement.

Congratulations to the five R&A women members from Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I), HRH The Princess Royal, Dame Laura DAVIES, Lady Angela BONALLACK, Belle ROBERTSON and Claire DOWLING.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Does The Walker Cup Need A Refresh ?

11th September 2015

This week many golf commentators, particularly in the United States, have been discussing an apparent lack of interest in the Walker Cup and throwing out suggestions as to how the match could be rejuvenated and improved.

You may have read Geoff Shackleford’s summary piece – What To Do To Restore The Walker Cup’s Luster ?

Whilst it is obviously important that the contest doesn’t become totally irrelevant and that it remains competitive I personally think, in broad terms, it should be left well alone.

The Walker Cup will never be played in front of 50,000 spectators a day and shown live to a global TV audience of tens of millions.  It is a niche event, albeit one that enjoys a prestigious place in the golfing spectrum.  In striving for change and publicity we must not forget history and tradition, two attributes that set our sport apart.  Of course that’s not to say improvements aren’t possible.

Here’s my thoughts on some of the suggestions that I have seen aired this week: –

Change The Date
I do like the season finale feel a September date brings to the Walker Cup but have to say I can see real benefits to tying the event into the two major Amateur Championships. This was of course the approach in years gone by when travelling was more time consuming and expensive.

Why not play it adjacent to the Amateur Championship or the US Amateur depending on which country is staging it ?  I am sure the competition calendar could be adjusted to accommodate this if required.  Certainly from an R&A and GB&I perspective such a move would be beneficial.  It would ensure better US participation in the Amateur at least every two years – where few of the leading American players compete nowadays – and also secure more entries for home players into the US Amateur Championship.

The September date also sits uncomfortably with regard to both the start of the US College season and the commencement of the Professional Tour Q-Schools.  Traditionalists may argue that the Walker Cup should sit above both of these but the reality is they are both important to many of the players and a distraction that could easily be avoided.

Introduce A More Transparent Selection Process
Both teams have always been selected by small Committees established by the R&A and the USGA.  You still hear references to dodgy selections in years gone by and with regard to GB&I examples of blatant national interest overriding the wider team perspective.  Selection in the USA will always be difficult because of the vast number of really good players at their disposal – a USA 2nd Team would give GB&I a very competitive match such is their strength in depth.

Calls for a Fedex Cup / Race To Dubai standings table to generate year round interest have some merit but in reality already exist.  The two amateur ranking systems, the WAGR and the SPWAR, are both high quality and mean the days of biased and poor selections are long gone.  Good quality rankings are therefore readily available and those that follow this blog have seen me use them this year to highlight the leading players.

Perhaps this one is more relevant for the USA rather than GB&I where the quest for sporting attention is tougher at this time of year ?  No one could question the appropriateness of the R&A’s selections this year and it has been a while since any major controversies so the current approach appears to be working for us.

Review The Rules of Amateur Status To Improve The Quality of Players Available
This appears to me more of a GB&I issue than one that affects the USA.

The College system means that young sportsmen in the United States have a well trodden path into professional sports. Golf is no different – a four year scholarship means plenty of practice and competitive play whilst a degree is hopefully secured on the side.  As a result only in the most exceptional circumstances do young American golfers turn pro before they are 22.

This is not the case in GB&I.  Elite programmes have been established by each of the Home Unions in recent years which have helped, providing both coaching and financial support to leading amateurs.  The problem nowadays is that to become an elite player you have to be working on your golf almost 24/7, not just at weekends which to an exaggerated degree was the case twenty years ago.  It is difficult for the R&A and the Home Unions to ask our best players to do that and then in the same breathe tell them they can’t receive any remuneration for doing so.  Committed to their golf, youngsters are seeing no alternative, depending on their family and ‘sponsorship’ circumstances, but to quickly move into the Pro. game.  This is despite many lacking real experience or frankly the game required. They then end up trapped in development tour sweeps with no real way back.  When the reality dawns the opportunity’s often gone and many simply become disillusioned with the game.

Is it time to keep more of these good players in the Amateur game by moving the status line a little bit further and making it more appropriate for modern day realities ?  I think it probably is and so do the likes of Peter McEvoy who has been espousing similar views for a few years now.

Add Europe to the GB&I Team
I am against this and it will need another very long run of USA victories for me to be persuaded by it.  This is not professional golf and whilst the European Golf Association (EGA) exists it is in no way the well-funded governing organisation that the Royal & Ancient Club (R&A) is.

Of course ‘our’ team would be individually stronger by widening the selection net but at the same time it may lose something on the team front with a more disparate group being involved.  The GB&I lads play against and with each other quite a bit nowadays, which is not so much the case with the Europeans, so know each other well.  To be fair over the last 20 years the GB&I team have generally been performing well so calls for this have largely receded, albeit a loss at Lytham will no doubt see them return.

Perhaps a better alternative would be to insist that the USA pick three mid-amateurs in their team, after all they already handicap themselves with this antiquated selection policy !

The Walker Cup was originally established as an international challenge match with many countries invited to play.  However, in the 1920s only Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) via the R&A took up the invitation and a match against the USA and United States Golf Association (USGA) quickly became the norm.  The USGA and R&A are also the two governing bodies of world golf so the ties between the two are close with many other meetings taking place during match week.  Then of course there are all the administrator and player friendships that are rekindled every two years.  In many respects it has become more than just a match so it is hard to see the R&A and USGA rushing to change it anyway.

Tweak The Match Rules – Add a Fourball Session / Announce the Singles line ups at lunch time 
The Walker Cup is one of the few team events in what is essentially an individual sport.  Fourball golf masquerades as team golf when two players dove-tail well but it is only when the same ball is being played, as in Foursomes, that golf really is played as a team, or at least as a pair.  So I am all for keeping the existing foursomes format intact.

Perhaps we should have five foursome matches rather than four ? I guess the current arrangement for four on each day reflects the GB&I Team’s perceived lack of depth and a wish to manage the match’s competitiveness to a degree.

The Day 1 and Day 2 Foursome and Singles line ups are both announced on the evening prior to the following day’s play.  Whilst adding to the stress for the Captain’s I agree that added excitement could be brought to leaving the Singles announcement until after the Foursomes have been played or are at least well underway.

Introduce Higher Profile Captains
Both the R&A and USGA seek to appoint Captains from a pool of former Walker Cup players that have remained amateur.  As the rewards in professional golf have risen this has become an increasingly difficult task for both organisations.

I have heard it said that mid-amateur Mike McCoy (52) was largely selected this year based on the fact that he was considered captain material by the USGA but hadn’t yet played in the match.  If even partially true that can’t be a good thing.

I think it would be good to keep the tradition alive but realistically the time has now come for the amateur status condition to be relaxed.  Surely a past performance in the Walker Cup is sufficient for consideration irrespective of the fact the player may have moved on to the professional ranks following their appearance.

I accept that for those seeking to raise the event’s profile there is no denying higher profile Captains, those who have made a name for themselves in the Pro. ranks, may help with greater media interest and publicity.  A Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley or Colin Montgomerie perhaps in the near future.

What do you think ? Is it time to review the Walker Cup or should we leave it be ?   Alternatively do you have any other ideas that could improve the match ?

ME

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

The Amateur Championship – 2015 Preview & Results

UPDATE – France’s Romain Langasque won the 2015 Amateur Championship, beating Scotland’s Grant Forrest 4&2 in the 36-holf final at Carnoustie Golf Links.

Romain Langasque

Romain Langasque celebrates with The Amateur Championship trophy (Photo: The R&A / Getty Images) 

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14th June 2015

288 golfers from 29 countries are competing in the 120th Amateur Championship which starts tomorrow.  All of them will be trying to follow in the footsteps of Scotland’s Bradley Neil, who won the 2014 event at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

 

History
The Amateur Championship was first held in 1885 at Hoylake and from humble beginnings has grown in both stature and tradition over the last 130 years.

Famous past winners include Horace Hutchinson, Johnny Ball Jr, Johnny Laidlay, Harold Hilton, Bobby Jones, Lawson Little, Joe Carr, Sir Michael Bonallack, Peter McEvoy, Jose-Maria Olazabel, Gary Wolstenholme, Sergio Garcia and Matteo Manassero.

‘The Amateur – The Story of The Amateur Golf Championship 1885-1995’ by John Behrend provides an excellent history of the oldest amateur championship in the world.

The Amateur

The Amateur by John Behrend

To date the competition has been held at 22 different courses across Great Britain. The 2015 Amateur is being held at Carnoustie Golf Links and Panmure Golf Club.  Both courses are situated near to Dundee, in Angus, on the east coast of Scotland.  This will be the fifth occasion, and the first since 1992, that Carnoustie has been afforded the honour of being the Amateur’s main course.  Past winners here include Willie Turnesa (USA, in 1947), Bobby Cole (RSA, in1966 aged 18), Steve Melnyk (USA, in 1971) and Stephen Dundas (SCO, in 1992).

Carnoustie and Panmure

Carnoustie and Panmure Links, Scotland

Competition Format
The Amateur Championship starts with a 36-hole stroke play qualifier which will be played over the first two days of the competition.  Each golfer will play 18-holes at Carnoustie and Panmure on either Monday or Tuesday.

As can be seen in the scorecards below, off the Championship tees, Panmure plays to 6,511 yards and a par 70, whilst the more famous Carnoustie Golf Links plays to 6,941 yards and a par of 72.

Panmure Scorecard

Panmure Scorecard

Following the stroke play qualifier the competitors with the 64 lowest total scores, as well as those tied for 64th place (if there are any), will progress to a match play stage.  This will be held, solely at Carnoustie, over the remaining four days – Wednesday to Saturday – to determine the Amateur Champion.  All of these matches are 18-holes save for the final which is played over 36-holes.

Carnoustie Scorecard

Carnoustie Scorecard

The Field
The start sheet for Rounds 1 and 2 can be viewed here – 2015 Amateur Championship Draw.

The field is understandably strong with frankly any one of the competitors capable of lifting the trophy if form and luck favours them this week.

Unfortunate clashes with the Palmer Cup and Sunnehanna Amateur, both of which are taking place this week in the USA, have sadly deprived some players of the opportunity of competing.  Bradley Neil, the 2014 champion, is also unable to defend his title because the US Open is being played this week at Chambers Bay, for which his victory last year qualified him.  Likewise Sam Horsfield, who many were looking forward to see playing for the first time on this side of the Atlantic, has also withdrawn having last week pre-qualified for the same US Open.

The top 10 players who are playing – at least in terms of the current World Amateur Golf Rankings – are listed below: –
Marcus Kinhult (SWE / 3) – Winner of the 2015 Lytham Trophy and hot off the back of an impressive Nordea Masters in Sweden.
Austin Connelly (CAN / 8) – Winner of the 2015 Jones Cup Invitational
Ashley Chesters (ENG / 32) – 2013 and 2014 European Amateur champion. 2nd in Welsh Amateur recently.
Ryan Ruffels (AUS / 14) – Australian Boys champion in 2014 and 2015.
Mario Galliano (ESP / 15) – Winner of the 2015 European Nations Individual and Copa Beleares.
Will Zalatoris (USA / 17) – Consistent performer in US amateur and College golf.
Lucas Herbert (AUS / 20) – has shown good recent form at the Scottish Amateur and at the St. Andrews Links Trophy.
Cormac Sharvin (IRE / 26) – Recently placed at Lytham as well as the Irish and Scottish Amateurs.
Nick Marsh (ENG / 40) – Top 10s at the West of England, Welsh and Scottish Amateurs in 2015.
Josh Munn (NZ / 43) – Winner of the Lawnmaster Classic and Akarana Open back home in 2015.

Other notable players who should do well are: – James Allan (ENG), John Axelsen (DEN), Ivan Cantero (ESP), Rowin Caron (NED) Cameron Davis (AUS), Matias Dominguez (CHI), Paul Dunne (IRE), Ewen Ferguson (SCO), Grant Forrest (SCO), Rico Hoey (USA), Jack Hume (IRE), Jeroen Krietemeijer (NED), Romain Langasque (FRA), Lukas Lipold (AUS), Taylor MacDonald (AUS), Dermot McElroy (IRE), Antonio Murdaca (AUS), Bradley Moore (ENG), Gavin Moynihan (IRE), Jimmy Mullen (ENG), Jordan Niebrugge (USA), Marco Penge (ENG), Connor Syme (SCO), Ben Taylor (ENG), Ashton Turner (ENG), Robbie Van West (NED), Daniel Young (SCO) and Federico Zucchetti (ITA).

SkyBET are offering odds for the Amateur Championship which highlight who they see as the favourites for this marathon golfing event.  Click the link to view them – SkyBET’s Outright Winner Odds (but be quick as they will be removed at the start of play on Day 1).

Weather Forecast
Locals may be unhappy to see a weather forecast that looks relatively good for the Championship – very little rain and only modest winds are expected.

The current forecast as at 9.00 am on Sunday 14th June is: –
Mon 15th June – Mostly Cloudy. Wind 8 mph (West). Max. 12°C / Min 9°C.
Tues 16th June – Mostly Cloudy. Wind 12 mph (North). Max. 15°C / Min 11°C.
Wed 19th June – Partly Cloudy. Wind 20 mph (East). Temp. Max. 17°C / Min 11°C.
Thurs 18th June – Partly Cloudy. Wind 18 mph (East). Temp. Max. 14°C / Min 11°C.
Fri 19th June – Partly Cloudy. Wind 11 mph (East). Temp. Max. 15°C / Min 11°C.
Sat 20th June – Partly Cloudy. Wind 9 mph (North). Temp. Max. 15°C / Min 11°C.

Prizes
Whilst trophies and cash prizes are awarded to the Amateur Champion these are not the primary rewards on offer.

The winner also receives a place in this year’s Open Championship, taking place down the coast at St. Andrews, and the 2016 US Open Championship, which is to be held at Oakmont CC in Pennsylvania.  Whilst not formalised, an invitation is always extended to the next available Masters Tournament at Augusta National GC too.  Additionally, many other Professional tournaments on both the US PGA Tour and European Tour are only to pleased to offer sponsor’s invitations to the Champion to compete.

Finally, should a home player win they will be assured of a place in the GB&I Walker Cup team, the 2015 match taking place at Royal Lytham in just 3 months time.

Event Coverage

The Royal & Ancient run the Amateur championship.  As one would expect there is an excellent webpage covering the Championship where the all important live scoring and draw information can be found – R&A Amateur Championship webpage.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Latin America Amateur Championship

14th January 2015

A major new Amateur golf event starts tomorrow at Pilar Golf Club, just outside Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) has been established by The Masters Tournament, The R&A and the Unites States Golf Association.  This new competition follows in the footsteps of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which was first played in 2009.

This investment in the game is not small. With the help of their sponsors – AT&T, Mercedes and Rolex – all player travel, accommodation and caddie costs are being picked up by the organisers. When everything is added up the event must be costing around US$1m to put on.

The organisers expect the competition to stimulate further growth in the game in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.  It is great to see the resources of these organisations being used positively to spread the golfing word.

The top 120 male players from the 27 member countries and territories of the International Golf Federation’s Latin America Region have been invited to compete.  The leading players from the area, according to the WAGRs, are Chile’s Guillermo Pereira (6), Venezuela’s Jorge García (38) Costa Rica’s Jose Mendez (40) and Argentina’s Alejandro Tosti (64).

The start sheet for the first two rounds can be viewed here – LAAC Rd. 1 and Rd. 2 Draw

72 holes of stroke play will be played between 15th – 18th January, with the field being cut to the top 60 and ties after 36 holes.  Pilar, which has 27-holes and has previously held the Argentina Open, is a par 71 (36-35) composite course with a championship length of 7,148 yards.

The rewards for the leading players are impressive.  First and foremost the LAAC champion will receive an invitation to compete in the 2015 Masters Tournament.  They will also be afforded a full exemption into the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship.  Along with the runner-up they will additionally be granted exemptions into both final stage qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Open and International Final Qualifying for the Open Championship.

European Tour Productions have been contracted to broadcast the Championship, with two hours of live coverage per day planned.  It is currently unclear if it will be shown on TV in Europe although live streaming will be available for the event website – www.LAACgolf.com.

Good luck to all the competitors !

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Sir Michael Bonallack

31st December 2014

There are few people who have made a more significant contribution to the game of golf than Sir Michael Francis Bonallack, Kt, OBE, who celebrates his birthday today.  An outstanding amateur golfer who became a highly respected administrator.

He was born in Chigwell, Essex, England on 31st December 1934.

Michael first picked up a golf club when he was 10 whilst on holiday in Saunton in North Devon, playing on the beach with his brother rather than the famous courses behind the dunes.  Taking to it well the boys were enrolled by their parents at the local Chigwell GC shortly afterwards. Michael quickly started to win junior competitions and saw his handicap tumble.

Michael’s younger sister Sally (Barber) was also a very accomplished player.  She was the English Ladies Champion in 1968 and played for both England (1960-72) and Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) in the Curtis Cup (1962).  She turned professional in 1979 before having her amateur status re-instated in 1982.

After just a few years at Chigwell Michael joined Thorpe Hall GC and it is this Club, near Southend-on-Sea in Essex, that he represented throughout his amateur career.  Thorpe Hall is a tight tree-lined course with small greens and this contributed to Bonallack becoming a straight-hitter with an exceptional short game.  It is a little odd that today Thorpe Hall’s website makes no mention of this famous association (although I am advised plans to do so are underway).

Educated at Haileybury, Michael achieved a scratch handicap at 16 and quickly made a name for himself; regionally, winning the Essex Boys title in 1950 and 1951, and then nationally, winning the British Boys Championship in 1952, beating Alec Shepperson on the 37th hole of the final at Formby GC.

He went on to win the Amateur Championship 5 times; the last three being in successive years: –
1961 v. Jimmy Walker 6&4 at Turnberry
1965 v. Clive Clark 2&1 at Porthcawl
1968 v. Joe Carr 7&6 at Troon
1969 v. Bill Hyndman (USA) 3&2 at Hoylake
1970 v. Bill Hyndman (USA) 8&7 at Newcastle, County Down

Michael Bonallack - British Amateur Golf Champion

Michael Bonallack – 1969 Amateur Champion

His favourite Amateur win was the 1965 one at Porthcawl against Clive Clark.  “I was six down after 12 holes of the 36 hole final but got it back to three down by lunch when, just to pass the time, I started sticking sixpences into the fruit machine.  On about the fifth pull I won the jackpot. I made sure Clive knew about it. ‘Must be my lucky day’ I told him”. Famous Scottish caddie Willie Aitchison, who helped Roberto De Vicenzo and Lee Trevino to their Open wins, also caddied Bonallack to all of his Amateur wins.

Nationally he also won the English Amateur Championship five times (1962, ’63, ’65, ’67 and ’68) and the English Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship (Brabazon Trophy) four times (1964, ’68, ’69 (tied with Rodney Foster) and ’71).

Other notable victories came in the Lytham Trophy (1965T and ’72), Berkshire Trophy (1957, ’61, ’65, ’68, ’70, ’71T), St. George’s Grand Challenge Cup (1965, ’68, and ’81), H.R.H. Prince of Wales Challenge Cup (1967), Hampshire Hog (1957 and 1979) and the no longer contested Golf Illustrated Gold Vase (1961T, ’67T, ’68, ’69T, ’71 and ’75).  Second Lieutenant MF Bonallack (Royal Army Service Corps.) also won the Army Championship in 1955 at Muirfield.  He captained the Army Team between 1962-67. Finally, he also won the Sunningdale Foursomes in 1959 playing with Doug Sewell and The Antlers at Royal Mid-Surrey in 1964, playing with Dr. David Marsh – Sewell and Marsh both being first class amateurs themselves.

Since 1959 the Philip Scrutton Jug has been awarded to the player with the lowest aggregate scores in the each year’s Brabazon and Berkshire Trophies.  Given his record in both competitions Sir Michael won the jug in 1961, ’64, ’66, ’68, ’69, ’70 and ’71.

Unsurprisingly he dominated men’s golf in Essex winning the Essex Amateur Championship a record 11 times, in 1954, ’57, ’59, ’60, ’61, ’63, ’64, ’68, ’69, ’70 and ’72.  Sir Michael also won the 1969 Essex Open Championship in 1969 and East Anglian Open Championship in 1973.

He represented GB&I in nine Walker Cup teams, two as playing Captain (in 1957, ’59, ’61, ’63, ’65, ’67, ’69,  ’71 and ’73).  He played 25 individual games, more than any other GB&I player in the history of the match and is only beaten by Jay Sigel’s 33 on the USA side.  His record reads won 8, lost 14 and halved 3.  The highlight for Bonallack was contributing to the victorious side in the 1971 Walker Cup – the first time GB&I had won the cup for 33 years. “I was playing captain that year when we won over the Old Course at St. Andrews, and it does not get, cannot get, any better than that,” he later recalled.

Bonallack, representing GB&I at the time, also played in six World Amateur Team Golf Championships, for the Eisenhower Trophy, the last three as playing Captain (1960, ’62, ’64, ’66, ’68, ’70 and ’72).  In 1968 he tied for the Individual title with Vinny Giles from the USA.  He also represented GB&I in biennial matches against The Rest of Europe between 1958-72.

Sir Michael represented England in the Home International Matches on 17 occasions (1957-72, ’74).  He captained the team between 1962-1967.  His record was played 131; won 79, halved 15 and lost 37.  He also played in the British Commonwealth Team in 1959, 1963, 1967 and 1971, captaining the team in 1971 and 1975 (non-playing).

He played in 13 Open Championships.  His best finish coming in his first when he tied 11th at Muirfield.  He didn’t win the Silver Medal that year but secured it in 1968 (Carnoustie – T21) and again in 1971 (Royal Birkdale – T22).  He considered these results his main golfing disappointment, reflecting in later years: “I wish I had done better in The Open”.

Bonallack had little overseas success.  He played in the US Amateur six times between 1957 and 1973, his best finish T11 coming at Scioto CC in 1968.  He also played in the US Masters three times, 1966, ’69 and ’70, missing the cut on each occasion.  However, he did have the pleasure of sitting next to his hero Bobby Jones at the traditional Amateurs’ Dinner in 1966 and then playing alongside the legendary Ben Hogan, whom he described as “the finest ball-striker I ever saw”.  He never competed in either the US Open or the US PGA Championship.

Bonallack was not long off the tee and had an unconventional putting stance but he certainly got the job done.  Peter Alliss described him as “a remarkable player.  He had a wonderful short game, which was of his own making.  Big wide stance, nose sniffing the ball, short jabby swing, but all the putts went in the hole.  He had the most wonderful temperament.  He appeared calm and yet he had that steely something that all great champions have.”

Good friend Donald Steel, writing for Country Life in July 1983, upon Bonallack’s competitive retirement, described him as a “fierce competitor” before adding “I have never seen anyone hole more critical putts than he did or impose the same magical touch on a whole variety of wedge and bunker play.”

Bonallack’s playing pre-eminance came just before the establishment of the European Tour and the growth in tournament purses.  The transition from amateur to professional was more cumbersome in those days – the PGA prevented amateurs from taking prize money for two years – and with a lack of conviction that he was really good enough little time appears to have been spent worrying about doing so.  It simply made more sense for him to work in sales for the family business which was involved with refrigerated trucks and container bodies.  This earned him a salary whilst affording him the flexibility to practice (normally in his lunch breaks) and play on the weekends as he wished.

He married Angela Ward in 1958.  A celebrity couple of the day the announcement of their earlier engagement made the front page news of almost every daily newspaper.  Angela was the British Girls Champion in 1955 and English Ladies Champion in 1958 and 1963.  Lady Bonallack was also runner-up in the British Ladies Amateur in 1962 and 1974.  She played in six Curtis Cup teams (1956, ’58, ’60, ’62, ’64 and ’66).  Playing together Angela and Michael won the Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes in 1958.  [In February 2015 Lady Bonallack became one of the first women ordinary members of The Royal & Ancient GC of St. Andrews.]

The couple have four children, Glenna (55), Jane (53), Sara (49) and Robert (47) and many grand children.  Unsurprisingly golf still runs through the family’s veins with Glenna, Jane and Robert all very good players.  Jane (Baker – known as “JB” to her friends) went her own way preferring horses and riding.  Angela and Glenna won the well known Royal Mid-Surrey Mothers and Daughters Competition in 1979 and 2000.  In 2013 Glenna won it with her own daughter, Harriet.

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Sir Michael’s Daughter Glenna and Grand Daughter Harriet Beasley – 2013  

Michael Bonallack joined The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1960.  Over the years he has been Chairman of the Amateur Status Committee (1975-79) and of the Selection Committee (1975-79) and a Member of the Rules of Golf Committee (1979-83), the General Committee (1975-1978 and 1999-2000) and the Heritage Committee (2006-10).  At the Club’s Autumn Meeting in September 2013 he become the 16th Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient.  He had previously been made a Life Member in 1999.  As such his portrait is now displayed in the Big Room of The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse.  Sir Michael said at the time: “I am extremely proud.  I feel privileged to have been so closely involved with the Club for so much of my life and both it and the town of St Andrews are incredibly dear to me.  It has been an honour to serve the Club.”

Sir Michael was appointed Secretary of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1983, succeeding Keith Mackenzie.  In the early 1980s Bonallack was running the Leisure Division of construction and property developer company Miller Buckley based in Rugby, albeit the family still lived in Essex.  Among his roles was Chairman of Cotton Pennick & Lawrie, the Golf Course Architect company (1978-83), that had been acquired by Miller Buckley.  Upon his appointment he left Miller Buckley to take on the Secretary’s role and moved with Angela up to Fife.

As Secretary of the R&A, Bonallack helped to guide the game into the 21st Century.  “He has bridged the gap between the history and heritage and tradition of The Open Championship and golf in general as it moved into the commercial age globally and internationally and he’s done it with great taste and tact and really stands almost alone as someone who has handled that crossing.” said the late Mark McCormack, chairman of International Management Group. Bonallack himself said: “It’s one continual satisfaction to see the way in which golf is developing. Obviously, the expansion of The Open, and the fact that we can generate this money to put back into the development of the game is very satisfying”.

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Sir Michael Bonallack – 1999/2000 Captain Of The Royal & Ancient 

He retired as Secretary in 1999 after 16 years and was succeeded by Peter Dawson.  He was immediately nominated for the Captaincy of the Club for the millennium 1999/2000 year.  There were two themes that he sought to bring to the role during his term of office: “…maintaining behavioural standards and ensuring that amateur golf is not destroyed by over-commercialism and ridiculously large prizes”.

The Bonallack Trophy, a biennial amateur competition played between teams from Europe and Asia-Pacific, was first played in 1998.  The teams consist of 12 amateur golfers with no more than two players coming from the same country.  The competition named in honour of Sir Michael continues to grow in importance and helps to raise the profile of the game, particularly in the Far East, Indian and Australasia areas.

Other golfing competitions and trophies have been named after Sir Michael too.  In 2007 the Essex Golf Union established The Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy, a 36-hole scratch men’s stroke play competition, in honour of their Life Vice-President.  Finally, 2014 has seen the commencement of The Concession Cup, a match between teams of mid, senior and super-senior amateurs from the USA and GB&I, and the commissioning of the Bonallack Campbell (Jim) Trophy for the winners.

He enjoys many other golf club memberships, notably Pine Valley and Elie, as well as many honorary memberships offered in recognition of his service to the game, including Augusta National GC.

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Sir Michael Enjoying The 2013 Masters Tournament At Augusta National GC

Sir Michael has held and still holds many important positions in the golfing world and over the years has received numerous honours and awards.  Some of these are detailed below: –

Honours
Order of the British Empire (OBE) (1971)
Knight Bachelor awarded by Queen Elizabeth II (1998).  Sir Michael became the third ‘golfing knight’ after Sir Henry Cotton and Sir Bob Charles.  Sir Nick Faldo subsequently joined the select group in 2009.

Awards
Association of (British) Golf Writers – Golf Writers’ Trophy Award (1968)
United States Golf Association – Bobby Jones Award (1972)
American Society of Golf Course Architects – Donald Ross Award (1991)
England Golf – Gerald Micklem Award for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Golf in England (1991)
Northern Ohio Golf Charities – Ambassador of Golf (1995)
Golf Association of Philadelphia – Arnold Palmer Lifetime Service Award (1997)
Spanish Golf Federation Golf – Medal of Honour (1999)
Association of (British) Golf Writers – Award For Outstanding Services To Golf (1999)
World Golf Hall of Fame entry – Lifetime Achievement in Golf (2000)

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Sir Michael Bonallack Introduces Allan Robertson To The World Golf Hall Of Fame in 2001

Czech Republic – Golf Shield of Honour (2000)
Metropolitan Golf Association – Lifetime Service Award (2000)
GOLF EUROPE legend award (2004)
BIGGA Lifetime Achievement Award (2005)
Honoree at The Memorial Tournament (2006)

Other Golf Positions
President, Golf Club Managers’ Association (1974-1984)
Chairman, PGA of Great Britain and Ireland (1976-1981)
Chairman, Golf Foundation (1977-1982)
President, English Golf Union (1982)
President, British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) (1999- )
President, The Society of One Armed Golfers (1995- )
Chairman, Golf Foundation (2000-2003)
Non-Executive Director of the European Tour (2000-2015)
The Professional Golfers Association of Europe (2002-2004)
President, PGA of Europe (2003-2004)
Chairman of the Official World Golf Rankings Governing Body (2004-2016)
Vice President, Association of (British) Golf Writers (N/k)
Patron, Artisan Golfer’s Assocation (2007- )
President of the National Association of Public and Proprietary Golf Courses (NAPGC) (2008- ).

Sir Michael enjoyed a distinguished playing career and has become Britain’s most decorated amateur golfer in the years since.  I hope he is enjoying his retirement at home in Fife and occasionally having the odd game of golf – he still plays off a handicap of around 13.

In my original article in 2014 I complained that a biography of Sir Michael was long overdue. Well in August 2018 The R&A rectified the matter by publishing ‘Par Excellence’, a biography written by Donal Steel. On 21st February 2019 the USGA announced that the book was to be the recipient of their Herbert Warren Wind Book Award for 2018, in recognition of its outstanding contribution to golf literature.

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‘Par Excellence’ Book (Photo: GolfBible)

ME.

Copyright © 2014, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.