Tributes paid at grave of French golf legend Massy

Francois Illouz pays tribute to his countryman Arnaud Massy at his grave in Newington. Picture: Greg Macvean
Francois Illouz pays tribute to his countryman Arnaud Massy at his grave in Newington. Picture: Greg Macvean
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ARNAUD Massy’s burial site in Edinburgh will hopefully become the focal point of golfing pilgrimages following a reconsecration service on Saturday to honour the first non-Briton to win the Open Championship.

The short service at Newington Cemetery, where it was only discovered recently that the Frenchman has been buried for 63 years, was attended by 
Pierrie-Alain Coffinier, the French Consul in Edinburgh, and a representative of the French Golf Federation.

Joining them were representatives of the R&A, the British Golf Collectors Society, the 
European Association of Golf Historians and Collectors as well as Douglas Seaton, the North Berwick golf historian who discovered the then unkempt grave, and Hugh Henderson, a great nephew of Massy.

“Hopefully many golfers will come here as a pilgrimege,” said Coffinier. “Arnaud Massy was one of golf’s biggest champions and we are very proud that he has been honoured with such a service in Scotland, where golf is at the core of its identity.”

Biarritz-born Massy, who came to North Berwick as a young man to learn his trade and had Ben Sayers, one of the East Lothian town’s favourite sons, as his mentor, won the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 1906. He remained the only Continental European to win a major until the legendary Seve Ballesteros got his name on the Claret Jug for the first time in 1979.

“We are very pleased to be associated with this event,” said R&A representative Philip Truett. “If there are other champion golfers not recognised in the correct way we should pursue this, but I am glad to report the grave of James Braid, a five-times champion golfer, is in good order at Walton-on-the-Hill.”

On behalf of the French Golf Federation, Francois Illouz, who won the Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Blairgowrie in 1989, paid a warm tribute to Massy, who also won the inaugural staging of his home Open in 1906.

“It is very emotional for me to be standing close to Arnaud Massy, who, without knowing it, wrote the golden letters of French golf history,” said Illouz. “He felt more comfortable in Scotland [than he did in France] and now rests in peace here. I hope this burial site will now be visited by many golfers to give their tribute to the best French golfer of the 20th Century.”