Archive for January, 2018

It’s a stroll in the park for Corrigan

CHILLI Dip Golf Academy coach Craig Corrigan racked up an impressive 40 points to win the first Manchester Alliance fixture at Boysnope Park.

And he also extended his lead over nearest rival Phil Archer in the professional order-of-merit, a shot ahead of his Birchwood rival, as Hazel Grove assistant Ben Thompson claimed third place with 36 points.

Corrigan teamed up with regular partner Phil Cooney from Dean Wood to top the pro-am to make it a double pay day.

Local knowledge paid off in the am-am as host club captain Adrian Hodges and his Davyhulme Park partner Andy Greig won on countback with 41 points.

Glory for Wardle in final round fight-back

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PRESTBURY ace Isobel Wardle staged a stunning final-round comeback to claim a dramatic play-off victory at the 2018 Portuguese Women’s Amateur Golf Championship at West Cliffs Golf Links.

The 18-year-old began the last day five strokes behind Annabell Fuller but coped best in the difficult, windy conditions, carding a five-over-par 77 to first catch her fellow England international, then beat her on the first hole of sudden death.

Named as the World’s Best New Golf Course at the 2017 World Golf Awards, West Cliffs has quickly established itself as one of the new stars of global golf since opening last summer, and provided a fitting venue for the 88th edition of the prestigious event – which featured competitors from 15 countries including China.

Wardle, who plays off a handicap of +4.2, opened the event with a level-par 72 – the joint-lowest round of the week in a tournament that was played in cold and windy conditions throughout – but Fuller looked to have victory in her sights as she started the fourth and final round with a three-shot advantage over the field.

The 15-year-old from Roehampton still held a two-stroke lead as she stood on the 18th tee, but she double-bogeyed the hole after tangling with a bush on her way to a disappointing 82, before being beaten by Wardle on the same hole in the play-off.

“It’s amazing to win,” said Wardle, who was playing in her first competitive event of the year after winning the English women’s and English girls’ ope

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n championships in 2017. “This golf course throws everything at you, it is so tough. If you spray the ball left or right you are struggling to make a bogey.

“I had no idea what anyone else was scoring but I just tried to keep myself as low as possible. Holes 16, 17 and 18 are really tough and I knew if I could hang in with some sort of score it would make those holes even tougher with the pressure.

“I was very, very nervous, I had never been in a play-off. But I had my friend Jess Hall on the bag, she was calming me down and we went through the strategy I had in place and just played the hole.”

Shacklady leads the way in Portugal

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ACTION MAN: David Shacklady. Picture Getty Images

LANCASTRIAN David Shacklady took the 36-hole lead at Staysure Tour Qualifying School Final Stage after firing a two under par second round of 69 to move to four under  at Pestana Golf Resort in Portugal.

The 50-year-old, making his second Qualifying School appearance, missed out on one of the five coveted cards in 2017 after a three-man play-off, but has returned to Portugal in a bid to secure playing rights on the Staysure Tour in 2018.

Shacklady started his round from the tenth hole, and made consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, cancelling out an earlier bogey.

After starting the day two under par, he reached a total of five under after further gains on the second and third holes, but undid his hard work with a bogey and double bogey on the fourth and fifth holes.

Shacklady recovered strongly and birdied the final two holes for a four under par total, two strokes ahead of compatriot Paul Streeter and Argentina’s Mauricio Molina.

“I’m very pleased that I showed some bottle out there,” said Shacklady. “On the fifth hole I found the bottom ridge of the green, lipped out for two and then missed the next two putts. I had to have a word with myself after that and calm myself down.

“I said to my wife last night that everyone is going to have moments on this golf course, I just hope that was mine. It’s very easy to become negative. You have to commit to everything out there, but it’s easier said than done. It’s mentally gruelling. When it’s fiery, fast and windy out there, it’s no fun.

“I’m just pleased I didn’t lose it towards the end, it can drown you when you have moments like that. I refocused and started again. I’d have been pleased finishing level par today, but to come in with two birdies is great.

“It’s nice having the cushion at the top of the leaderboard, but I was in the same scenario last week at First Stage. I was coasting and only finished second. You have to play this like it’s a tournament and try to win it.”

Making up the top five are English amateur John Kemp and Gary Wolstenholme, a six-time Walker Cup player and two-time Staysure Tour winner, on level par.

Kemp, a member of Woburn Golf Club, host course of the Travis Perkins Masters, carded one of the lowest rounds of the day, a four under par 67.

“It is very hard to judge how you are as a player when you go up against the pros,” said Kemp. “At First Stage, I didn’t play very well on my first nine holes, but I played the next 27 in six under par – which was good golf for me.

“I now know I can compete at this level. I played well in patches and had a couple of breaks to get me back up the leaderboard. I played with a bit more freedom today, I did hit some bad shots in the middle of my round but I knuckled down in the end.”

Players within eight shots of fifth place will make it through to Thursday’s final round on the Vale da Pinta Course at Pestana Golf Resort, with the top five earning cards for the 2018 Staysure Tour season.

Leading scores: 

138 D Shacklady (Eng) 69 69, 140 P Streeter (Eng) 70 70, M Molina (Arg) 70 70, 142 G Wolstenholme (Eng) 72 70, J Kemp (am) (Eng) 75 67, 143 S Skinner (USA) 74 69, P Parker (USA) 74 69, J Buendia (Esp) 70 73, 144 M Hallberg (Swe) 67 77, P Wilson (Eng) 73 71, A Franco (Par) 75 69, M Booth (Eng) 68 76, 145 V Casado (Esp) 72 73, S McNally (Eng) 74 71, 146 M Wharton (Eng) 72 74, G Joyner (Aus) 74 72, J Quiros (Esp) 73 73, J Romero (Esp) 75 71, J Carriles (Esp) 75 71, D Wettlaufer (Can) 75 71, S Brown (Eng) 74 72, N Cheetham (Eng) 72 74, R Gomez (Arg) 80 66.

 

Bel of the ball! Portugal win for Prestbury ace

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PRESTBURY and England star Bel Wardle came from five shots off the lead to win the Portuguese women’s amateur championship in a play-off.

The 18-year-old international caught and then beat fellow England player Annabell Fuller on the first play-off hole – the 18th – on the difficult West Cliffs course.

“It’s amazing to win,” said Wardle, who was playing in her first competitive event of the year and adds this title to the English women’s and English girls’ open championships of 2017.

Fuller, 15, took a three shot lead into the final round and Wardle was five behind her – but knew anything could happen. “This golf course throws everything at you, it is so tough. If you spray the ball left or right you are struggling to make a bogey.

“I had no idea what anyone else was scoring but I just tried to keep myself as low as possible,” said Wardle “Holes 16, 17 and 18 are really tough and I knew if I could hang in with some sort of score it would make those holes even tougher with the pressure.”

In the final round, in which strong winds added to the challenge of the course, Wardle posted five-over 77 and declared herself: “100 per cent happy. I was five-over through nine and heading in to the tougher nine, so I was so pleased to come back in level par.”

It put her in the play-off after Surrey’s Fuller tangled with a bush and double bogeyed the 18th in regulation play. “I was very, very nervous, I had never been in a play-off,” said Wardle. “But I had my friend Jess Hall on the bag, she was calming me down and we went through the strategy I had in place and just played the hole.”

This was Wardle’s first competitive event since the World girls’ championship last September – and she was ready for it. “I have done a lot of work over the winter with my coach, Richard Green at Bramhall Golf Club. My swing was feeling great coming into the week and I just wanted to get back competing again. I have done all the practice, I just wanted to get out there.”

The championship was a great showcase for England talent – with English players capturing not only the first two places, but also the Nations Cup by 10 shots. Annabell Fuller, Sophie Lamb (Clitheroe) and Lily May Humphreys (Stoke by Nayland) combined to win the team prize. Lamb had her first hole in one during the championship and was eighth overall.

Donaldson stays ahead in Dubai

MACCLESFIELD’S Jamie Donaldson signed for a three under 69 to maintain his one-shot lead and set the clubhouse target at 13 under par on a fog-delayed day at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The Welshman fired a blistering 62 on day one and while he could not quite hit those heights again at Emirates Golf Club, he continues to lead a field that has just 11 players over par.

China’s Li Haotong heads up the chasing pack at 12 under par after consecutive rounds of 66. South African Branden Grace is one shot further back alongside Alexander Björk of Sweden, who is one of 66 players who will return at 7.30 am on Saturday to complete the second round following a two hour and 50 minute delay due to morning fog.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez rolled back the years with a round of 68 that included six birdies and one bogey, to take the 54 year old 21-time European Tour winner to ten under par, alongside South African Thomas Aiken and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, who will complete his remaining seven holes on Saturday morning.

Six players are currently tied for eighth place at nine under, while England’s Matthew Southgate is part of a group of 15 players one shot further back, after he made the second hole-in-one of the season with a nine iron from 154 yards on the seventh, en route to a round of 68.

Donaldson said: “I played nicely. Drove the ball well. Iron play was good. Took my chances when I was close enough to do so. Hit a lot of really good putts that didn’t go in, whereas yesterday they all went in, but 69 following a 62 is a solid score.

“It can always be better, can’t it, but only one bogey. I wanted to try to go flag hunting a little bit which maybe I shouldn’t have done, but happy with how I played.

 

“I don’t know where it will be at the end of the day, but I’m just concentrating on me and concentrating on putting that ball in those small fairways. You know, taking chances from there. It’s a tricky golf course that you’ve got to manage your way around well. I did that well today again, as I did yesterday.”

Cheshire bid for County of Year award

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CHESHIRE will go head to head with Middlesex in a bid to win England Golf’s County of Year Award sponsored by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc.

The counties are the two finalists for the prestigious prize which will be presented at the England Golf Awards  at the Royal Lancaster London on February 22.

“This is a fascinating contest,” said England Golf chief executive Nick Pink. “It pits North against South and little against large – with Cheshire representing 99 clubs and Middlesex numbering just 34.

“What both counties have in common is their class and the quality of their support for their clubs and members. The judges will have a tough task to separate them and we look forward to applauding a worthy winner.”

Cheshire is celebrating a year of all-round achievement: getting more people playing golf; great support for clubs; and the smooth running of the county organisations.

The county had notable success in attracting more people into golf. Its Driving Junior Golf initiative involved 10 clubs which ran free tasters for almost 200 youngsters; 130 continued into coaching and over 100 have become club or academy members.

Girls Golf Rocks ran for the second year, at eight clubs, and some of the original beginners are now involved in county coaching. Cheshire is now one of England Golf’s priority junior counties, working in partnership to encourage more young players.

Meanwhile, more than 400 women were introduced to golf and 120 took up club or academy memberships. Almost 50 clubs promoted Get into Golf opportunities, leading to 300 new memberships, while disability programmes were run with the Stoke Association and Macmillan.

Clubs are receiving comprehensive support to strengthen their business and meet their customers’ needs. The men’s Union and women’s Association worked with England Golf to develop a county action plan and both organisations also work in partnership with the PGA in the County Development Group.

On the playing front, a Cheshire U16 boys’ team was started to increase opportunities, more girls’ coaching was arranged following the success of Girls Golf Rocks, and top players figured in England squads.

Middlesex took a modernising stride forward in 2017 when the members of its men’s and women’s county organisations voted unanimously to merge.

The foundations of the successful vote were laid in preliminary meetings when the benefits of merger were explained to members and any issues resolved.

Now Middlesex has a board of 10 elected members – with at least 30 per cent representation of each gender – a three-year business plan and a busy programme. This includes improving communications with members, setting up a database of club contacts, upgrading their website content and launching their first Awards dinner to recognise achievement by volunteers, clubs and stewards.

Education for clubs is a priority with a range of courses arranged for 2018, including safeguarding.  Relationships are being developed with golf ranges, whose customers will often progress into club membership, and this could lead to discounts for county card holders.

On the playing front, the merged organisation is very obvious. Men and women work together to run all the county competitions, referees of both genders officiate, and young golfers are offered mixed academy and intermediate coaching and playing opportunities. There’s orders of merits for men, women and juniors and lots of encouragement for club golfers to enter non-elite events.

The county is working to increase the number of junior golfers and to get more players in county competitions. It also provides financial support clubs running open events, providing they have evidence of good safeguarding.

 

Lancashire youngsters speak up for golf

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A GROUP of 11 remarkable young people, which includes two from Lancashire, are set to give golf a fresh, new voice.

They are Young Ambassadors for England Golf and the Golf Foundation and through their own stories, enthusiasm and love of the sport, they will challenge negative perceptions and play a part in getting more people talking about and playing the game.

The ambassadors range in age from 10 to 22 and include school pupils, students, a volunteer coach, a trainee PGA professional, a would-be PE teacher and a trainee doctor.

They’re all prepared to do what it takes to inspire others, whether it’s speaking at meetings, blogging or vlogging, getting involved with national campaigns or helping to organise events.

“They’re an amazing group,” said Lee Dolby, England Golf’s Young People manager. “They’re bringing to life our Children and Young People’s Plan for Golf and helping us achieve our vision of inspiring a love of golf that lasts a lifetime.

“By sharing their stories they’ll help raise awareness of golf, show the positive impact of young people and prove that it’s a game for all.”

Alice Lowe, Golf Foundation Regional Development Officer and lead on volunteering, added: “Each member of the group is so enthusiastic about changing the negative perceptions of golf, and supporting our ambition to help young people enjoy the playing and personal benefits of golf by making it inclusive and fun.”

The Ambassadors are:

Emma Anderson, 20, of Sherwood Forest Golf Club, Nottinghamshire

Ella Baker, 12, of Warley Woods Golf Club, Halesowen

Isabella Bleaken, 10, of Westonbirt Golf Club, Gloucestershire

Warren Clark, 17, from Hampshire and a member of Salisbury & South Wilts Golf Club

Emily Furness, 18, of Gaudet Luce Golf Club, Worcestershire

Morgan Halpin, 19, of Morecambe Golf Club, Lancashire

Ali Jodivawalla, 18, of Hatchford Brook Golf Club, Birmingham

Ysobel Lush, 16, of Langdon Hills Golf Club, Essex,

Hope Neild, 16, of Royal Norwich Golf Club, Norfolk

Jessica Pilgrim, 12, of Harewood Downs Golf Club, Buckinghamshire

Matthew Wilcox, 22, of West Lancashire Golf Club, Lancashire

The ambassadors recently got together for a training session involving the Youth Sport Trust and the Sport and Recreation Alliance. It was a chance to share their stories and experiences and similar themes emerged right across the age range.

They spoke of how golf has given them confidence and inspired their career ambitions, how they want to work to make the game truly inclusive and their passion to show that it’s not an ‘old man’s’ game.

Morecambe’s Morgan Halpin started playing golf with plastic clubs as a three-year-old and is now in the first year of his PGA training. He likes the social aspect of golf and comments: “It’s fun, that’s what it’s all about.”

Morgan is passionate about sharing his pleasure in the game and has particular interest in disability golf, inspired by his sister who has a rare genetic disorder. His mum and a friend founded Unique Kidz, a charity to help families find suitable childcare and social activities for their disabled children, and Morgan has been involved with golf activities.

Abu Dhabi double for fearless Fleetwood

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DOUBLE TOPS:  Tommy Fleetwood with the trophy. Photo Getty Images

LANCASHIRE hot-shot Tommy Fleetwood fired a brilliant closing round of 65 in windy conditions to become only the second player to successfully defend the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

The Race to Dubai champion won the title by one shot from Dustin Johnson and former champion Pablo Larrazábal 12 months ago – a victory which sparked a sensational 2017 European Tour campaign – and he doubled his victory margin this time, finishing two strokes clear of fellow Englishman Ross Fisher.

Fisher had led for much of the final round after an eagle on the second hole followed by two birdies on the front nine, but after a long putt for bogey on the 10th, he was reeled in by Fleetwood, who produced a quite stunning back nine to surge to victory.

Fleetwood made a mockery of the incredibly difficult conditions coming down the stretch, carding six birdies over the closing nine holes, including a superb up and down from the greenside rough on the last. Upon witnessing Fleetwood hole out for victory, Rory McIlroy offered a simple judgement of Fleetwood’s back nine: “That was obscene.”

Fleetwood’s winning total of 22 under par 266 was just two shots shy of the tournament’s record low score of 24 under par 264 set by Martin Kaymer in 2011, and Fleetwood follows the German as the only other player to retain the title at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

It was his fourth European Tour title – and first as a father – capping a fine week for the Southport player who celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday and earlier in the week received the Seve Ballesteros Award after being voted Players’ Player of the Year for 2017 by his fellow European Tour players.

Fisher had to settle for his third runner-up finish in six European Tour appearances after a final round of 69, while McIlroy also missed out again in Abu Dhabi on his return to action after a four month injury absence. The four-time Major Champion recorded his eighth top five finish in ten appearances in Abu Dhabi after closing with a round of 70 to finish four shots back on 18 under par in a share of third place with Ryder Cup teammate Matthew Fitzpatrick, who finished with three consecutive birdies for a 69.

Player quotes

Tommy Fleetwood: “I was saying from the start of the week, I’ve never defended. I’ve never come to a tournament as defending champion before. It’s a really strange feeling because you feel quite possessive over your trophy and you don’t really want to give it back. So that’s always been in the back of my mind this week. Luckily enough, I was playing well and I had a chance to win, and the back nine was a very special nine holes. It’s a very, very nice feeling.

“Last year, I had had the year of my life by a long, long way on the course. And everything we’ve done, everything we’ve talked about, was to make sure that we kept progressing, kept improving.

“I wanted to look at the year like, if Justin Rose had shot level par on that back nine on Sunday in The Race to Dubai, then I wouldn’t have had The Race to Dubai title. So, it was sort of important to look at it that way; to try and prove as if you were hurt and you had not had that whole euphoria of achieving something amazing in your career. So all the practice has been very good. I prepared well last week. I had a great week in Malaysia, and then to sort of validate your position of Race to Dubai Champion, and Player of the Year, so early on is really nice and satisfying in a way.”

 

Lancashire bid to attract women golfers

 LANCASHIRE clubs are being urged to answer a rallying call to help increase the number of women playing golf.

The latest participation figures have shown a healthy four per cent rise in overall statistics but the number of girls and ladies taking to the fairways remains an area for improvement.

Golfing organisations in the county are combining to stage a special conference to help clubs develop a successful approach in helping more females take up the sport.

High-profile guest speakers will outline a practical way forward for clubs to adopt – with England Golf’s club development officers offering further support to help build on the lessons of the day-long event at Mytton Fold Golf Club, near Blackburn, on March 15 (10am).

Registration for the free event is now open.

Full details are available from https://www.lancashiregolf.org/county_conference_2018

A special working party has been looking at how to deliver the new women’s golf initiative in a unique collaboration including representatives from the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs, the Lancashire Ladies County Golf Association, England Golf, the Golf Foundation and the Golf Club Managers’ Association.

Phil Harvey, secretary of the Lancashire Golf Development Group, said: “At the end of the conference clubs will leave with a blueprint for the kind of activities, attitudes and approaches that will make a real difference in encouraging more women to play golf.

“This may range from a different membership structure, creating more family time or developing clear coaching pathways for female players – but clubs will have a practical and useful variety of ideas which they can adopt to best suit their own needs.

“The first step is to register for this conference and to get involved with the important discussion that must be had around women’s golf.

“The conference will discuss why it is so important to grow the women’s game, the obstacles to doing so, how it can be achieved and the help available to all clubs.”

Guest speakers at the conference will include representatives from the world governing body, the R&A, as well England Golf, which oversees the amateur game in this country. They will be looking to inspire and motivate clubs to make the changes that will make the sport even more attractive to would-be female golfers.

 

Harvey added: “Clubs should not miss this conference because it will help them develop the right strategy to get more women playing golf.

“More female players means a more active social side to a club, stronger family ties and an increase in revenue – all of which contributes to the long-term sustainability of our clubs and sport.”

 

Fleetwood receives Seve Award

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PRIZE GUY: Tommy Fleetwood with David Howell and Keith Pelley. Photo: Getty Images

LANCASHIRE’S own Tommy Fleetwood has been awarded The Seve Ballesteros Award – formerly the Players’ Player Award – winning the 2017 vote by his fellow professionals at the end of a superb European Tour season in which he claimed the Race to Dubai for the first time in his career.

The award is voted for by European Tour members and carries the name of the legendary Spaniard, who remains one of golf’s most inspirational icons and will always be considered one of the European Tour’s greatest ever ambassadors.

Fleetwood started the season by clinching his second European Tour title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship ahead of a star-studded field, and continued his good form in the weeks to follow with runner-up finishes at the WGC-Mexico Championship and Shenzhen International.

It was an impressive one shot victory at the HNA Open de France in July – the second Rolex Series event of the year – which had the 26 year old marching towards his best season yet on the European Tour.

Fleetwood was in contention for his first Major win at the U.S Open at Erin Hills, eventually securing a fourth place finish, and then went on to add his name to the history books, carding a course record 63 on the formidable Carnoustie during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

It would be a year to remember for Fleetwood as he broke inside the top 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career and produced ten top-ten finishes overall to see him sit 256,737 points ahead of his fellow Englishman Justin Rose going into the season-end DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

Fleetwood finished tied 21st at Jumeriah Golf Estates in November, and in doing so, became the first Englishman since Luke Donald in 2011 to win the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex and sign off the year as European Number One.

His accomplishments were recognised by his peers, and he was presented with the Seve Ballesteros award by European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley and Tournament Committee Chairman David Howell during his media conference at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, as he prepared to defend the title which sparked his magnificent 2017 campaign.

“Winning the Seve Ballesteros award has actually made me the most emotional out of all the things I’ve won,” said Fleetwood. “It is voted for by the players and for me there’s still so many guys that when I come out, I was looking up to and you watch people on the range and you try to learn from them.

“I’ve made a lot of friends, and I think for people to vote for me as Players’ Player of the Year is just something else. It’s different to anything I’ve achieved before. It’s a very flattering and very humbling.”

Pelley said: “Tommy had a remarkable season on the European Tour and is a truly deserving winner of The Seve Ballesteros Award. He has always been a popular figure among his peers and we have all enjoyed watching his rise through the golfing ranks over the past 18 months.”

Howell added: “Watching the diligent way you’ve gone about being a professional golfer over the years, being so disciplined, dedicated and driven, it’s very fitting that you went on to have the amazing year that you had last year.

“The European Tour’s proud to be a tour that allows people to play and rise to the top of the game. You’ve done that mainly on The European Tour and you’ve become a star of world golf. You’re a great character for the game and it’s with pride that we have you as a European Tour Member. Congratulations, it’s very well deserved.”

The Seve Ballesteros Award – an impressive silver and gold circular plate 46cm in diameter – has the names of all the European Tour members who have won Major Championships, starting with Seve’s own Open triumph at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1979, inscribed around the central image which is of his famous fist-pumping celebrations on the 18th green of the Old Course at St Andrews after his Open win there in 1984.

Javier Ballesteros, Seve’s eldest son, said: “It is great to see Tommy Fleetwood receiving the Players’ Player of the Year Award, now the Seve Ballesteros Award, in honour to our father.

“He’s had a sensational year, not just because he has won twice but mainly for his consistency and the way he has played all season. My brothers, Miguel and Carmen, and I are delighted, we think he is a great competitor who has also achieved the recognition of his fellow professionals”.

It also has the names of all the previous winners of the European Tour Players’ Player of the Year award inscribed around the outer circle, those being: Padraig Harrington (2008), Lee Westwood (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Rory McIlroy (2011, 2014 and 2015), Luke Donald (2012), and Henrik Stenson (2013, 2016).

Finally, around Seve’s central image is a quote from the European Tour’s founding father, the late John Jacobs OBE, whose words sum up how most people in the game felt about the Spaniard: It simply says: “Seve’s supreme talent, flair and passion for golf inspired millions around the world.”