THE chance to become Ryder Cup captain has, sadly, passed him by, but the awards are starting to come thick and fast for Sandy Lyle as the Scot prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his Masters victory at Augusta National.
Nearly six months after being inducted into the Golf of Hall Fame, Lyle has been selected as the latest recipient of Scottish Golf’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an honour he’ll receive at a glittering ceremony in Glasgow next March.
As a two-times major winner – he claimed the Open Championship at Royal St George’s two years before securing his Green Jacket – it could well be argued that Lyle deserved his accolade ahead of Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie and Sam Torrance, the previous recipients.
It’s better late than never, though, and Lyle, a popular figure in the home of golf, will certainly deserve his night in the spotlight at the Scottish Golf Awards, to be held at the Hilton Glasgow on 1 March.
“It is an honour to receive such a prestigious award from the Scottish golfing public,” said the 54-year-old. “I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since I won at Augusta and I’m looking forward to recalling that victory, as well as my other highlights, on the night. I have enjoyed a great career and hope for further success in the years ahead in Europe and America.”
Having made five appear- ances in the event, including wins in 1985 and 1987, Lyle will surely touch on the Ryder Cup when he addresses the audience and it could provide him with the chance to offer some fresh views on why he was overlooked for the captaincy. Even with a post up for grabs in Scotland, it is way too late to rectify the situation, but it is surely one of European golf’s biggest embarrassments that Lyle is the only member of the so-called “Big Five” to have missed out on captaining a team, in the biennial match against the Americans.
Seve Ballesteros, of course, was first up, the Spaniard getting his chance on home soil at Valderrama in 1997, with Bernhard Langer (2004), Ian Woosnam (2006) and Nick Faldo (2008) all getting opportunities they also deserved in return for being great ambassadors for European golf.
To this day, it is a complete mystery to many why Mark James got the job at Brookline in 1999, the Englishman’s name being totally out of place on Europe’s list of captains, especially when a match in America seemed the perfect opportunity for Lyle.
In fairness, Lyle himself has rarely made too much noise about his unfair treatement – it’s not his style to shout and bawl – and the event in Glasgow will be an oportunity to show one of Scotland’s favourite sporting sons that he still occupies a special place in the heart of golf fans the length and breadth of the land.
“I know the awards recognise the achievements of golfers and golf clubs from all levels of the game in Scotland so it will be great meeting all of the other winners, from our leading amateurs to our dedicated volunteers,” added Lyle. “I’ve heard the event is now one of the highlights of the Scottish golfing calendar and I’m looking forward to attending it.”
The occasion will also see Scotland’s leading male and female amateurs from 2012 presented with their awards, while the work of clubs at community level will be recognised with the RBS Junior Club and Volunteer of the Year Awards.
For the first time, a new Player of the Year award will be handed out as well and voting for that will take place soon online via the Scottish Golf Union website, www.scottishgolf.org.
There can surely be little doubt that Lawrie will be the recipient of that after the Aberdonian won twice on the European Tour to secure a Ryder Cup return after a 13-year absence then helped Europe triumph at Medinah by beating Brandt Snedeker, the newly-crowned FedEx Cup champion, in the last-day singles in Illinois.