Tributes paid to ‘Mr Hickory’ Lionel Freedman

Chairman Lionel Freedman was delighted to attract Sandy Lyle to the World Hickory Open for a first visit at Panmure in 2014. Photography / ATIMAGES
Chairman Lionel Freedman was delighted to attract Sandy Lyle to the World Hickory Open for a first visit at Panmure in 2014. Photography / ATIMAGES
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Tributes have been paid to Lionel Freedman, the man who made hickory golf fashionable again as the driving force behind the World Hickory Open.

The 82-year-old, who lived in Musselburgh and was a past captain at Craigielaw, passed away yesterday afternoon after a short illness.

Freedman, who hailed from the south-east of England before settling in East Lothian around 20 years ago, co-founded the World Hickory Open in 2005 along with Graham Wilson.

From a small inaugural event at Musselburgh Old Links, it has become popular with hickory enthusiasts from all over the world in subsequent stagings at Craigielaw, Gullane, Carnoustie and Panmure.

Two-time major winner Sandy Lyle is the reigning champion, having returned to Panmure in October to win the title at the Angus venue for the second time in three years.

“Lionel was our chairman, chief executive and chief bottle washer,” said Wilson. “He wanted to do everything and, saying this in a kind way, was a control freak when it came to the World Hickory Open.

“Charismatic people often are, though, and in the early years of the event in particular that was a strength rather than a weakness because he was assiduous in following things up.

“His passing is a sad loss, both as a friend and a businessman, and it is going to be difficult to fill his shoes.”

Freedman worked as a stockbroker in London before moving to Scotland, where he threw his heart and soul into organising the World Hickory Open along with his wife, Beth.

Former Walker Cup player Lloyd Saltman helped raise the event’s profile when he claimed the title at Craigielaw in 2009, with regular competitors coming from the United States, Australia and South Africa as well as all over Europe.

“Lionel was a great person who championed the hickory game,” wrote Tad Moore, a leading custom golf club designer, in a tribute to Freedman on the event’s Facebook page.

“He brought the Hickory World Championship to Scotland, the home of golf. I enjoyed knowing him and I am saddened by his passing.”

Top trick shot artist Dave Edwards described Freedman as a “wonderful ambassador for the game of golf”.

He added: “Mr Hickory, you will be remembered by all of us as the man that made us welcome and a friend to everyone in our special group of golfers who meet each year at the World Hickory Open.”

Saltman said Freedman had become a “friend of the family” since they first met as Craigielaw clubmates.

“He was a great ambassador for the World Hickory Open and myself and my brothers (Elliot and Zack) loved to play in the event,” he added.

“He was such a nice man and our thoughts go out to his wife, Beth, and the rest of his family. He will be sadly missed by myself and my family.”