A Review of 2009
Golf’s inclusion in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games after an absence of more than a century was a major highlight of 2009, and one which The R&A worked hard to achieve. Led by Ty Votaw, Executive Director of the International Golf Federation’s Olympic Golf Committee, and Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A and Joint-Secretary of the IGF, the successful Olympic bid was supported by a number of elite players including Open Champions, Jack Nicklaus and Padraig Harrington, and the most successful player in the history of the women’s game, Annika Sorenstam.
Throughout the year, The R&A continued to distribute funds generated by The Open Championship to support golf in areas of the world far away from St Andrews. An interesting example was the continued assistance given to the Himalayan nations of Nepal and Bhutan, where golf is being incorporated into government tourism strategies.
The R&A also made its first official visit to Israel and extended its Foundation Scholarship programme to Russia, where 10 promising student golfers are now given financial assistance to enable them to continue to play competitively whilst completing their studies.
The Rules Department continued its work taking the Rules to enthusiastic officials all over the world. In 2009, Rules Education courses were held in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, China, the Caribbean and, for the first time, Eastern Europe.
The R&A’s Equipment Standards Department offered groove testing on professional tours, including at the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship in October, ahead of the change in specifications at the beginning of 2010. The new Rules will be enforced at elite professional level from next year, and elite amateur level from 2014. Club golfers, however, will not be affected until 2024 at the earliest.
In early May, over 140 delegates from 60 countries arrived in St Andrews for the Working for Golf Conference to debate the most pressing issues in the game today. Topics discussed over the course of the three-day conference included the anti-doping measures which are currently being taken on professional tours, worldwide golf development and the environmental sustainability of golf in different regions and climates.
The successful Olympic bid was supported by a number of elite players including Open Champions, Jack Nicklaus and Padraig Harrington, and the most successful player in the history of the women’s game, Annika Sorenstam. ”
Conference delegates were also shown restored Kinora reel footage of Harry Vardon, JH Taylor and James Braid, which dates back to the early 1900s. This year, The R&A Heritage Department’s Kinora reel restoration work was recognised by the Federation of Commercial Audiovisual Libraries with the Award for Archive Restoration or Preservation Project at the 2009 Focal International Awards.
At Turnberry in July, The Open once again delivered drama, joy and heartbreak in equal measure. Nobody could have predicted that the then 59-year-old five-time Open Champion, Tom Watson, would stand on the 72nd hole of the Ailsa Course with eight feet between him and a record-equalling sixth Claret Jug. But stand there he did, on the verge of completing one of the most remarkable sporting stories of all time.
It was not to be, however. Watson missed the putt to finish on two under par along with Stewart Cink. Cink, the likeable and humble American, who had played so superbly to bring himself into contention, excelled in the ensuing play-off to become a worthy Open Champion.
Winner of the Silver Medal for the low amateur in 2009 was 16-year-old Italian, Matteo Manassero. His exceptional performance, which saw him in contention on the final day, came as no surprise to those who had attended the Amateur Championship at Formby and West Lancs a month earlier.
Having set a new course record at West Lancs to qualify for the Match Play stages, he was only down once in reaching the final where he defeated England’s Sam Hutsby to become the youngest champion in the 124-year history of the event.
Korea’s Han Chang-won won the inaugural Asian Amateur Championship at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China on October 29 – November 1. Courtesy of his victory, Han received an invitation to the Masters Tournament and, along with runner-up Eric Chun, a place in International Final Qualifying for The Open Championship. An initiative developed by a partnership of The R&A, the Masters Tournament and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, the Asian Amateur Championship is destined to become one of the world’s flagship amateur events.
Perhaps the most prominent event on the amateur stage is the biennial Walker Cup Match between Great Britain and Ireland and the USA, which was held at Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania, in September. After eight foursomes and 18 singles matches over two days, it was the USA who emerged comfortable 16 ½ - 9 ½ winners over a battling GB&I unit.