Global Golf Post senior writer Lewine Mair has become the first woman to be appointed president of the Association of Golf Writers. Her appointment was confirmed at the association’s annual general meeting held at Royal St George’s in the lead-up to the Open Championship.
“I am delighted that Lewine has agreed to become the first woman president of the AGW,” chairman Martin Dempster said. “Lewine is a highly respected figure in the game, having already served as the AGW’s first woman chairman from 2007-2010.
“She has been a trusty committee member for a lengthy period of time. We could not have a more worthy first woman president. I’m sure her late husband, Norman, would have been very proud of this moment as, of course, will be the case with her children and grandchildren.”
Mair becomes the 14th president in the association’s 83-year history, and takes over following the passing of Jock MacVicar, who died in April.
“I can’t tell you how honoured I feel to be named as the first woman president of the AGW and to be following in the footsteps of so many well-known AGW writers,” Mair said. “There are too many to mention, though I do want to single out my immediate predecessor, Jock MacVicar, whose time in the role was so unfairly cut short.
“It has been an enormous honour to serve the association as chairman and now, with 43 years of AGW membership under my belt, I hope to be of some use to Martin Dempster, our excellent chairman, and his team.”
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers admitted to a range of emotions as he talked to members of the media ahead of the start of the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
“After such a difficult time in the last year or so for the whole world, I have to admit we are relieved, thrilled and a little bit emotional, I suppose, in being able to stage the Open once again,” Slumbers said. “It’s a great privilege to welcome the best men’s golfers around the world and a large number of fans to the championship.
“It’s been quite a challenge to get to this point, and we’re under no illusions of the complexity of the problems that are caused by the pandemic, specifically when you’re trying to stage a global sporting event with players from 27 different countries participating and bringing them all into the country.
“We have worked extensively with golf and health authorities to be able to make that work, and a lot of that is what’s driven the restrictions on players and all of those who are deemed to be in the inner bubble, which includes myself.
“We have seen some player withdrawals, but they have been for many different reasons when you look at it. Some of them are actually not related to COVID-19.
“At the end of the day, what counts is that we’ll have 156 of the world’s best players teeing off tomorrow morning, and on Sunday we’ll present the Claret Jug to the next champion golfer of the year.”
Slumbers went on to confirm that the cancellation of last year’s Open did not have a detrimental effect on the amount of money the R&A annually pours into the game around the world.
“I’ve said many times that it was probably one of the most difficult decisions we had to make, but we had no choice at the end of the day,” he said. “But the insurance we had in place enabled us to mitigate much of the financial exposure and actually enabled us to increase our investment into the game as part of that, and we launched last year a £7 million COVID recovery fund which went straight into grass roots golf.”
The Golf Foundation has launched an ambitious new programme designed to allow 2 million school children the chance to have their first go at golf.
Golf Foundation ambassador Nicola Bennet launched the Golfway programme ahead of the Open at Royal St George’s. The initiative will be rolled out to 7,500 schools across the UK in the next five years.
Golfway is described as a fun method for school kids to learn golf and has been designed so teachers can get to grips with it easily and enhance the outreach work of PGA professionals in schools and communities.
The programme uses special equipment designed and produced by the Masters Golf Company, with the Golf Foundation supplying the equipment to schools.
A local competition framework also has been created to encourage schools to deliver competition with neighbouring schools, either through physical fixtures or online virtual leagues.
The programme links schools and PGA professionals and provides four coaching sessions which progress children through to a fifth session at accredited local golf clubs.
“The Golf Foundation schools programme has been designed to inspire, motivate and reward young people as they start learning to play golf at school,” said Andy Leigh, who leads on schools for the Golf Foundation. “We are delighted that Golfway offers fantastic equipment to take our work to a whole new level in schools for the future.
“We really feel this new, reimagined way of presenting golf is ready to take golf to the masses by engaging with more schools.”
Greg Norman has appealed to the R&A to change the rules governing golf balls ahead of next year’s Open Championship over the Old Course at St Andrews.
The Australian believes the iconic course could be rendered obsolete unless new legislation is brought in to rein in modern golf balls.
“It’s my favourite course on the rota and it would be heartbreaking to see it become outdated, but it’s in danger of becoming the reality,” the 1986 and ’93 champion told the Daily Mail. “I can’t see what they can do to lengthen it anymore.
“I can see why the ball manufacturers might be upset, but it’s the only way we can keep St Andrews on the rota and for it to play remotely how it’s supposed to be played.
“It’s not as if people are going to stop buying golf balls. For the sake of the Old Course, it’s just vital the golf balls have different specifications next year. We’re on the edge as it is.”
The R&A is expected to publish findings from its Distance Insights Project soon.
Ernie Els reached a major career milestone last week when he made his 30th appearance in the Open.
It was a run which started when he missed the cut at Royal Troon in 1989 and includes victories in 2002 and 2012, and three second-place finishes, 1996, 2000 and 2004.
The charismatic South African has amassed 13 top-10 finishes in the championship, nine of them top-fives.
Els has always professed a deep love for the championship and links golf in general. Speaking after his win at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012 he said: “It’s not the biggest trophy in the world, but it’s definitely the oldest one we play for and definitely the most special one. This is it. This is where it started. Everybody that’s anybody ever in the game of golf has got his name on this, so it means a lot.”
Els’ first experience of links golf came back in 1987 as part of a South African amateur squad.
“I don’t know if you’re born with it or you learn it,” he said. “All I know is that I took to it like a duck to water. Links golf is the foundation of the game, and I just think I had a feel for it from the start.
“Even with today’s equipment, if the weather is bad on a links course, that’s a true leveller.”
Colin Callander and Alistair Tait