HOT on the heels of voting to admit women members for the first time in its 260-year history, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has announced the appointment of a new chief executive.
Englishman Martin Slumbers will join the organisation next March then shadow the current incumbent, Peter Dawson, for six months until he retires in September after 16 years in the post.
Brighton-born Slumbers, 54, has a similar background to Dawson in the sense that he will be taking up the position on the back of a successful career outwith golf.
After gaining a BSc in Production Engineering and Economics from the University of Birmingham, he qualified as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse in London before embarking on a career in investment banking.
He spent 12 years working for Salomon Brothers International in London and Hong Kong, becoming chief financial officer in Asia and then Europe.
In 1998, he joined Deutsche Bank and served in a number of senior executive roles, including global head of its investment banking operations in 2006 and the following year as global head of global business services.
“The R&A is one of the most influential bodies in world sport and I am delighted to be taking up this position,” said Slumbers, a member of Worplesdon Golf Club in Surrey, where he plays to a handicap of two.
“Golf has always been close to my heart and I am very much looking forward to living and working in St Andrews. I am honoured to be appointed to lead the R&A and to serve such an historic and prestigious club.”
His appointment comes less than a month after the R&A’s proposal to admit women members received backing from 85 per cent of the club’s worldwide membership. It has taken immediate effect and a “significant” initial number of women are set to be fast-tracked to membership in the coming months.
That decision, which was met with widespread approval, lifted a potential dark cloud above the head of the new chief executive, though whether or not the three men-only clubs on the Open Championship rota – Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St George’s – follow suit is likely to come under Slumbers’ watch rather than his predecessor’s.
Fittingly perhaps, the last Open Championship Dawson oversees will be at St Andrews next July, when Slumbers will learn the ropes with the game’s oldest major before taking charge himself at Royal Troon in 2016.
The early part of his tenure will almost certainly include the event heading to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland after it was invited to host the tournament in 2019, having last been held there in 1951.
Professor Wilson Sibbet, chairman of the R&A, believes Slumbers is the perfect man to succeed Dawson following an exhaustive recruitment search.
“I would like to congratulate Martin on his appointment,” he said. “He has enjoyed a long and successful career and will bring a great deal of experience to the position. He has a passion for golf and is absolutely committed to the work of the R&A in governing the game, running The Open and supporting development initiatives around the world.”
l Miguel Angel Jimenez will put aside his ambition to become Ryder Cup captain to concentrate on creating more history in the Hong Kong Open this week.
Jimenez is hoping to become the only player to win the event five times and claim a third win in succession, having taken the title in 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2013.
He is the European Tour’s oldest ever winner and the 50-year-old Spaniard shows no signs of resting on his laurels.
“It always feels good to come back to Hong Kong. It is one of my favourite places in the world and it feels like coming home in some ways,” Jimenez said.