Great British Golfers

Nick Faldo

One of the most successful British golfers in history, Nick Faldo has won three Open Championships and three US Masters titles, and has been ranked No.1 on the official World Golf Rankings for an outstanding total of ninety eight weeks. After being inspired by watching Jack Nicklaus play golf in the early seventies Faldo had his first introduction to the game, quickly achieving success in 1975 by winning both the English Amateur Championship and the British Youths Championship.

In 1976, Faldo became a professional golfer, making his mark by finishing in eighth place on his first European tour and in 1977 he became the youngest player ever to play as part of the Ryder Cup team. During the eighties, Faldo took some time out of competition to improve his swing under the instruction of golfer turned tutor David Leadbetter.

Following the changes made to his game, Faldo returned to competitive golf and won his first major championship title in the 1987 Open Championship. Since then, in addition to his championship success, Faldo has won a series of high profile competitions and tour events including the French Open, Irish Open, Spanish Open, the PGA, the British Masters and the European Open. He has also had several team successes including the Alfred Dunhill Cup, the World Cup and the Ryder Cup.

Colin Montgomerie

Affectionately known as ‘Monty,’ Colin Montgomerie is a legendary Scottish golfer and is widely recognised as the leading golfer to have emerged in European competition over the last fifteen years. Montgomerie was a successful amateur golfer, winning the Scottish Youths Championship in 1983, before turning professional in 1988 and winning the Rookie of the Year title on the European Tour that same year.

He won his first professional title in 1989, when he won the Portugese Open and since then, he has won more European titles than any other British Golfer. During the nineties, Montgomerie went on to win numerous tournaments on the European Tour including the Scandinavian Masters in 1991, the Volvo German Open in 1995, the Murphy’s Irish Open in 1996 and 1997 and the Volvo PGA Championship in 1998.

Between 1993 and 1999 Montgomerie won a record breaking seven ‘Order of Merit Titles’ on the tour and twenty high profile tournaments during that time, winning five titles in 1999 alone, being known as the most consistent golfer in the world during his most successful period. Since his seven year European winning streak, Montgomerie has continued to prove himself, most notably in the year 2000 when he made the record books again by winning the Volvo PGA Championship for the third time.

In 2001 he won the Australian Masters and in 2002 he won his first Asian title in the TCL classic in China. Montgomerie has taken part in eight Ryder Cups during his career, as well as other team tournaments, including the Dunhill Cup, the World Cup and the UBS Cup. Whilst never having won a major championship title, despite coming a close second at both the US Open and the US PGA, Montgomerie is regarded as one of the finest sportsmen in Britain, officially marked in 2004 when he was awarded an OBE for sporting achievement.

Lee Westwood

Regarded as one of England and Europe’s finest golfers, Lee Westwood began playing golf at the age of thirteen before winning his first amateur tournament, the Pete McEvoy Trophy aged seventeen. After winning the British Youth Championship in 1993, Westwood turned professional, winning his first professional competition four years later at the Volvo Scandinavian Masters.

Whilst Westwood has not won any major championships, he did attain fourth place in the official World Golf Rankings when he came forth in the 2000 British open. He has also won several high profile competitions, including the Freeport McDermott Classic in 1998, the Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters in 1996 and for the following two years, and the Cisco World Match Play Championship in 2000. Westwood has performed particularly well in European Tour events, having won a total of 18 tournaments, and in 2000 he achieved the European Tour Order of Merit, ending Colin Montgomerie’s seven year run of victory.

Sandy Lyle

One of the most significant British golfers during the eighties, Sandy Lyle was born in Shrewsbury as Alexander Walter Barr Lyle, but living in Scotland, chose to represent Scotland during his professional career. Lyle was introduced to the game when he was just three years old and went on to win several amateur competitions in Scotland and England before turning professional in 1977.

During his career, Lyle has had twenty seven professional wins, including seventeen on the European Tour, six on the PGA tour and two major championships. Lyle rose to international victory in 1985 when he won the Open Championship but he is best known for winning the Masters, becoming the first British golfer to win the championship.

After winning high profile events on the European Tour, Lyle won the European Tour’s Order of Merit in 1979, 1980 and 1985, and in 1985 he was also part of a victorious team in the Ryder Cup. Unusually for golfers, Lyle’s victorious streak was relatively short-lived, and in 1989 he began to move away from regular competition but he is well-known for being an inspirational player with a cool temperament and a natural talent for the game.

Darren Clarke

A professional golfer from Northern Ireland, Darren Clarke has won several tournaments on the European Tour in the last decade, including the Linde German Masters, the Benson & Hedges International Open, the Smurfit European Open and the Compass Group English Open. He has achieved second place on the European Tour Money list three times and has been listed in the top ten in the official World Golf Rankings.

Turning professional in 1990, Clarke has won seventeen professional titles since embarking on his golfing career and has represented Northern Ireland in the Ryder Cup, the World Cup and the Alfred Dunhill cup. Although Clarke has never won a major championship title he came very close to victory in 1997 when he achieved second place at the British Open. Clarke made one of his biggest achievements in 2003 when he won the high profile WGC-NEC Invitational although he is perhaps best known for his defeat of Tiger Woods in the final of the WGC-Anderson Consulting Match Play Championship in 2000.

Ian Woosnam

Despite being born in Oswestry, England, Ian Woosnam was born to Welsh parents and has represented Wales during his professional career. Woosnam began playing golf in his local club in Powys and turned professional in the 1970’s despite doubt from fellow club members that he was good enough to ‘make it.’

Woosnam’s professional career was slow to begin but in 1982 he won the Swiss Open on the European Tour, his first high profile tournament. He topped the European Tour money list in 1987 after winning eight tournaments and his victories continued to increase. Woosnam won the British PGA championship in 1988, and in 1991 he entered the official No.1 spot in the World Golf Rankings.

Later that year, Woosnam went on to win his first major championship when he earned the US Masters title, a victory that few British golfers have ever achieved. Woosnam has also represented Wales more than fifteen times in the World Cup and in 2006 he was chosen to captain the European Team in the Ryder Cup.

Sir Henry Cotton

Born in 1907, Henry Cotton is regarded as one of the most legendary golfers in British history. After leaving his public school at seventeen, Cotton embarked upon a professional career and practised so hard it is rumoured that his hands bled on more than one occasion. During the 1930’s Cotton had a series of European Victories, before winning his first major title in 1934 at the British Open.

Cotton went on to win the Open twice more, once in 1937 and once in 1948, remaining the only Brit to win the tournament until 1989. Between 1947 and 1953 Cotton was the captain of the Ryder Cup team before his retirement in the mid fifties. Whilst being remembered for his numerous successes, Cotton is also famed for his flamboyant lifestyle and during his career he spent a large amount of time campaigning for better treatment of professional golfers, once remarking that ‘the best is always good enough for me.’

During the Second World War, Cotton joined the Royal Air Force organising a series of exhibition matches in aid of the Red Cross and earning him an MBE at the end of the War. In 1980 Cotton was inducted into the World Hall of Fame and, before his death in 1987, he accepted a knighthood which was awarded posthumously to him in the 1988 New Year’s Day Honours.

Harry Vardon

Born in 1870, Harry Vardon grew up on Jersey and began to play golf in his teens, turning professional at the age of 20. Vardon made his mark in 1896 when he won the first Open Championships and went on to win a record breaking five further Opens over the next two decades, a record that stands to this day. In 1900, Vardon toured America as a golfing celebrity, winning eighty matches and finishing with a victory at the US Open.

He won an outstanding sixty two tournaments during his life time, including the high profile British PGA Matchplay Championship and the German Open. Vardon was an influential player during his lifetime and his legacy lived on after his death in 1987.

Vardon introduced what is now referred to as the ‘Vardon grip,’ a way of gripping the golf club so that the little finger of the trailing hand (lowest hand on the club) is placed between the index and middle finger of the lead hand (the highest hand on the club) with the thumb of the lead hand fitting in to the lifeline of the trailing hand. He also inspired the ‘Vardon Trophy’ which is awarded each year on the PGA tour to the golfer with the lowest adjusted scoring average.

James Braid

One of the pioneering players of modern Golf, James Braid was born in 1870 and, after turning professional in 1896, represented Scotland in a number of major championships and high profile tournaments. Braid played golf from an early age but, even when he became professional, he was still struggling with his putting skills.

In 1900 he switched to an aluminium putter, going on to win his first Open Championship in 1901. Braid went on to win four more Open Championships, winning his last in 1910 against fellow Scotsman Sandy Herd. Braid also made his mark by winning four victories at the British PGA Matchplay Championships between 1903 and 1911 and in 1910 he won the French Open title.

He would perhaps have won more titles on foreign soil had he not been afraid to travel further than France. After retiring from the game in 1912, Braid was involved with golf design and famously designed the King’s and Queen’s course at Gleaneagles as well as inventing the ‘dogleg,’ a type of hole often used on inland courses.

John Henry Taylor

Along with Henry Vardon and James Braid, John Henry Taylor was one of the three British golfers to dominate the game during the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. Orphaned as a young boy, Taylor worked as a caddy and labourer at Westwood Ho Golf Club after leaving school at eleven, before becoming a professional golfer at the age of nineteen.

Taylor won the Open Championships an outstanding five times between 1894 and 1913, and in 1933 he captained the British Ryder Cup team to victory against the U.S, although he famously didn’t play in any of the matches. Taylor was known for his short, punchy swing which coped well with the winds on the British courses. After his retirement he went on to design a number of golf courses across the country and became the founder and original chairman of the British Professional Golfer’s Association.