An outstanding player who was content to remain an amateur while the professional world expanded, Bonallack went on to win The Amateur Championship and the English Amateur Championship five times. Second only to John Ball for the most victories in The Amateur, his five wins featured a hat-trick of titles from 1968 – 1970.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, he simply defined amateur golf in Britain. Twice he won the Silver Medal as leading amateur at The Open in 1968 (Carnoustie) and 1971 (Royal Birkdale). He also claimed the Brabazon Trophy on four occasions, as well as lifting the Lytham Trophy twice.
Bonallack played golf because he loved playing and also played it at the highest team level, representing his country in the Walker Cup nine times from 1957. The win in 1971 at St Andrews was the first time Great Britain and Ireland had emerged victorious since 1938. Over the Old Course, it was one of the highlights of his career. “I was playing captain that year when we won,” said Bonallack, who was awarded an OBE in 1971. “It does not get, cannot get, any better than that.”
He also played seven times for Great Britain and Ireland in the Eisenhower Trophy and tied first for individual honours in 1968. Four years later he received the USGA Bob Jones Award in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.
Soon after retiring from competitive play, he joined a golf course design company and served on a number of golf committees. Before taking up his post as Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club from 1984, Bonallack was Chairman of the European Tour, the Professional Golfers’ Association and the Golf Foundation. He was also President of the English Golf Union in 1982 and Chairman of the advisory committee for the Official World Golf Ranking.
As Secretary for 15 years until 1999, Bonallack helped to successfully guide the sport into the 21st Century. “It’s one continual satisfaction to see the way in which golf is developing,” he said. “Obviously, the expansion of The Open and the fact that we can generate money to put back into the development of the game is very satisfying.” He was also Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews from 1999 – 2000 and, in 2013, received Honorary Membership.
“I’m extremely proud,” he said. “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.”
In recognition of his role as one of the great ambassadors of the game with a wealth of knowledge, Bonallack was awarded a knighthood in Her Majesty The Queen’s birthday honours list in 1998. He was then inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000 for his lifetime achievement in golf.
His legacy lives on as teams of 12 amateur golfers from Europe and the Asia-Pacific play for the Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy every two years.
Sir Michael’s wife Lady Angela Bonallack, who was herself one of Great Britain and Ireland’s finest amateur golfers, passed away last year. Sir Michael is survived by their children, Glenna, Jane, Sara and Robert and their ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren who all play golf.