THE announcements keep coming thick and fast from St Andrews. Hot on the heels of doors being opened to women for the first time, a global golf study and a pace-of-play review, another dispatch has winged its way around the world from the Auld Grey Toun.
In what can only be described as a move to prevent golf fans either south or north of the Border feeling one or the other had been unfairly overlooked, it involves Sandy Lyle and Nick Faldo being handed the same honour simultaneously.
Two of Britain’s foremost players over the past 30 years, the duo have both accepted an invitation to become honorary members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. In so doing, Lyle and Faldo joined a select bunch, the honour having previously been bestowed upon just eight fellow Open champions: Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Roberto de Vicenzo, Tony Jacklin, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson.
“Sir Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle have enjoyed long and successful careers and are wonderful ambassadors for golf around the world,” said George Macgregor, captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. “They were instrumental in leading the resurgence of British golf and have undoubtedly been role models for subsequent generations of golfers. We are extremely pleased that they have accepted invitations to become honorary members of the club.”
In Lyle’s case, it is mainly in recognition of his Open Championship victory at Royal St George’s, which, believe it or not, was recorded 30 years ago in July. The affable Scot, of course, followed that up by becoming Masters champion three years later and, in addition to those two majors, racked up a combined 20 title triumphs on the European Tour and PGA Tour.
One of those came in the 1987 Players Championship, while he also topped the European Order of Merit three times between 1979 amd 1985, a commendable feat bearing in mind that his main rivals included the likes of Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer. On the team front, Lyle played in five Ryder Cups but has suffered the disappointment of being the only member of “Europe’s Big Five”to be overlooked for the captaincy in that event.
Thankfully, no such oversight has been made by the R&A, with Lyle being honoured at the same time as Faldo ahead of the Englishman making his farewell Open Championship appearance along with Watson at St Andrews in just over two months’ time.
“I am delighted to receive this recognition,” said Lyle, 57, who now plays mainly on the Champions Tour and recently teamed up with Ian Woosnam to finish second in a Legends of Golf event in America. “It was a lifetime ambition for me to win the Open and I will never forget how it felt to lift the Claret Jug. Golf has given me a great deal over the years and I feel privileged to have been invited to become part of this great club.”
While Faldo blotted his Ryder Cup copybook with an awful captaincy at Valhalla in 2008, he is unquestionably the most successful British golfer of the modern era with six major titles to his name, including three Open Championship successes – at St Andrews in 1990 and Muirfield in 1987 and 1992.
“St Andrews frames many of my most treasured memories in golf, including those of my second Open win
25 years ago,” said the man who used a win in the Craigmillar Park Open as a young amateur in 1976 as part of the springboard for his glittering career. “I am honoured to receive this invitation and look forward to celebrating nearly 40 years as a professional at the home of golf in July.”
The spate of activity at the R&A has coincided with the final few months of Peter Dawson’s term as chief executive before he hands over the reins to his successor, Martin Slumbers, on 1 October. We await with interest to see if Dawson has anything else left up his sleeve.