The European Golf Association has appointed former German Amateur champion Michael Thannhäuser as its new general secretary.
The 42-year-old Hamburg native takes up his new position on March 1. He replaces Richard Heath, who left the organisation at the end of last year.
Thannhäuser, a 2005 University of Cologne graduate, has extensive experience in the world of sport and media. He spent 10 years with the Sportfive/Lagardère group, with a key role in the sale of 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games media rights in over 20 European countries.
More recently, he worked with Sport Trade Marketing International as an intermediary between several brand categories and retailers.
The Geneva resident is well known to amateur golf followers. He represented his country in six European Championships at boy, youth and men’s level, including three World Amateur Team Championships. He also played for the Continent of Europe in the 1994 Jacques Léglise Trophy and the 1998 and 2000 St Andrews Trophy matches and shared medallist honours with Ireland’s Tim Rice at the 2000 Amateur Championship at Royal Liverpool before losing in the first round to Scotland’s Craig Watson, the 2019 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captain.
Thannhäuser joins the EGA in a boom period for amateur golf in Continental Europe. Eleven women and four men currently occupy top-20 spots on the respective World Amateur Golf Rankings.
“We are delighted to welcome Michael who combines a strong business experience in brand management and sports and media rights with an impressive career as an international golfer,” EGA president Haukur Örn Birgisson said. “We look forward to his experience and skills benefiting the EGA and its entire membership.”
“I am enthusiastic about joining the team in Épalinges and working with the EGA to implement its strategy and enhance the excellent work done over many years in promoting championship golf across the whole of Europe,” Thannhäuser said.
Thannhäuser’s appointment coincides with the EGA’s decision to cut the minimum age limit for its men’s and women’s Mid-Amateur Championships from 30 to 25.
Lee Westwood is the Association of Golf Writers’ Golfer of the Year for a record fourth time.
The veteran Englishman topped the 2020 AGW poll with 53% of the vote just weeks after capturing the European Tour No. 1 title for a third time. Germany’s Sophia Popov, the AIG Women’s Open champion, took second place with 20%, with Jon Rahm (13%), Justin Rose (7%), Tyrrell Hatton (4%) and Emily Pedersen (3%) also featuring in the polling.
“I’m honoured to be voted AGW Golfer of the Year and even more so to now win the award for a fourth time,” said 47-year-old Westwood, who previously won the award in 1998, 2000 and 2009.
“It is always a special award because it’s voted by the dedicated golfing press who are out there reporting on the various tournaments. We all know 2020 was a very different year, but they are the ones who continually keep a close eye on what has been going on in the golf world.
“The good thing about the AGW Golfer of the Year award is it takes into account all Europeans, whether they’re men or women, competing at individual or team level, or whether they’re professional or amateur and no matter where they tee up around the world.
“There were some great performances in this shortened year with Sophia Popov’s AIG Open victory very impressive, while Jon Rahm played well in the States and Justin and Kate (Rose) are to be congratulated for organising the Rose Ladies Series.
“So, I feel very fortunate and honoured to have won.”
World No. 1 Rose Zhang heads a strong group of 12 US golfers called up for a Curtis Cup practice session at Lake Nona, Florida, later this month.
Seventeen-year-old Zhang, the 2020 US Women’s Amateur champion, joins Rachel Kuehn and Megan Schofill (both 19), Auston Kim, Gina Kim and Aneka Seumanutafa (all 20), Emilia Migliaccio (21) and 22-year-olds Allisen Corpuz, Lauren Hartlage, Brooke Matthews, Kaitlyn Papp and Kennedy Swann.
Zhang, Corpuz, Hartlage, both Kims, Migliaccio, Papp, Seumanutafa had all being named in a previous practice session, scheduled for last December, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. None of 12-strong group has Curtis Cup experience.
The 41st Curtis Cup, postponed last June, will be played at Conwy Golf Club, Wales, August 26-28. Three-time US Mid-Amateur champion Sarah Ingram, also a three-time Curtis Cup player (1992, 1994 and 1996), captains the US team as it defends the trophy won in record style at Quaker Ridge in 2018.
1989 Open champion Mark Calcavecchia has undergone back surgery to fuse two discs in his lower back.
“Fusing his L4 and L5,” wife Brenda told her Twitter followers. “It’s over a 5-hour surgery and (he) will be staying in the hospital a couple days. If all goes well, best case scenario is playing in 6-7 months.”
The good news is that Calcavecchia is now out of hospital and has begun the long recovery process.
Former R&A Chief Executive and Royal and Ancient Golf Club Secretary Peter Dawson was made a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to golf.
Dawson succeeded Sir Michael Bonallack as R&A secretary in 1999 and presided over one of the most important eras in the organisation’s development. He was instrumental in 2004, the club’s 250th anniversary, in forming a separate group of companies to run The Open. As joint secretary and then president of the International Golf Federation, he played a key role in securing golf’s return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Dawson retired from the R&A and Royal & Ancient Golf Club in 2015, when he was awarded an OBE. A year later he was appointed chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking. Last month, the IGF announced he was stepping down as president, with Annika Sörenstam succeeding him on January 1.
Martin Slumbers, Dawson’s successor at the R&A, said: “On behalf of all of us at the R&A and the club I would like to congratulate Peter on being made a CBE. It is thoroughly deserved recognition for the sterling work he has done over many years in supporting the game, not only here at the home of golf in St Andrews, but throughout the world.”
Veteran Australian Richard Green, who turns 50 in February, saw his hopes of battling his way onto this year’s PGA Tour Champions dashed when the US organisation elected to scrap its 2020 Qualifying School because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Compatriots Stuart Appleby (May 1) and Robert Allenby (July 12) are eligible to take up membership of the Champions Tour as former PGA Tour winners when they turn 50. Green’s hopes of joining them have been postponed at least until the Q-School returns at the end of this year.
“I had planned on going to Q-School because you’re eligible to go in your 49th year”, the left-handed three-time European Tour winner told the PGA Australia website.
“Not to be, unfortunately.”
Green is now contemplating switching his sights to the newly-rebranded Legends Tour in Europe, although the pandemic might also scupper those plans too.
“I’ll be eligible to play in Europe without any qualifying, so my plan was to go back there and play some senior events,” he explained. “But I’ve travelled for 30 years of my life around the world playing golf in a time when it was relatively comfortable, without any of the hassles that we’ve now got going on.
“That’s a whole different ball game.”
English golfers were hoping a third petition would keep golf courses open as most of the United Kingdom went into a third COVID-19 lockdown on January 5th. Entitled “Allow golf to be played with appropriate safety measures,” the petition argues: “The Government should allow golf courses to remain open during the second lockdown, and any future restrictions. Shops and clubhouses can close, but courses should be allowed to remain open, with social distancing in place.”
The petition had received the essential 100,000 votes as GGP went to press, meaning MPs are required to debate the issue in parliament. A similar petition in November garnered over 250,000 but did not persuade MPs to make golf an exception to the stay at home mandate.
As things stand, golf is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not in Scotland where play is permitted, albeit only in two-balls.
France’s Elodie Chapelet broke into the World Amateur Golf Ranking top 80 for the first time when she won the GCAA Amateur Series Winter Classic by nine shots at Talking Stick Golf Club in Arizona on New Year’s Eve. It was the second victory in three starts for the Baylor University student. She also won the Cowgirl Classic in October, and finished second in the Kissing Tree Invitational in November. The Souraïde, France, native starts 2021 as the world’s 78th best player, and French No. 4.
GolfRSA has announced that next month’s African Amateur Stroke Play Championship has been moved from Leopard Creek to Glendower.
The decision was made to cut down travel at a time when South Africa is facing up to a second wave of COVID-19.
“Since the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship will be preceded by the South African Stroke Play and followed by the South African Amateur Championships at venues in Johannesburg, were decided to move this year’s African Amateur Stroke Play to Glendower Golf Club so the three events can be played consecutively in the same province,” explained GolfRSA CEO Grant Hepburn.
“The venue change removes the necessity for long distance travel and ensures that competitors and staff can remain in one community. GolfRSA staff can also implement our Risk Mitigation Guidelines and Protocols more efficiently and should any cases of COVID-19 arise, we will be able to manage the situation efficiently.”