“No one can be absolutely certain where golf was first played, but like most other popular sports it evolved from the same basic principles, such as hitting or kicking a moving ball, throwing a ball or hitting a stationary ball with a stick. However, we do know that the game has been played over the same area of land in St Andrews for over half of the last millennium.
As a result, this ancient Scottish town is regarded, worldwide, as the Home of Golf and golfers find themselves drawn to it in the same way that pilgrims are drawn to Mecca. It is no coincidence that many ex RAF personnel, having experienced a posting to RAF Leuchars and enjoyed the special close relationship with the people of St Andrews and having become familiar with the Links courses, either retire to the area or become members of one of the St Andrews Clubs. I myself would never have imagined that the last 17 years of my working life would be in St Andrews and that my wife and I would retire there.
My first golf shot was played, at the age of 10, on the beach at Croyde Bay in North Devon, almost as far as you can get from St Andrews and still be in the UK. Luckily I connected with the ball and so was hooked. Seven years later I won the British Boys Championship, which led me to giving up most other sports to concentrate on golf. On leaving school, my 2 years National Service were spent with the Army, when I played golf and cricket for the whole of the summer and football and rugby, with the odd game of golf, in the winter.
As a result of winning the Army Golf Championship in 1955, I was picked for the Army team to take part in the Inter Services Championship at Sandwich. Modesty prevents me from recalling the results but the RAF team came second! Mind you, I have to admit that 3 of the RAF’s top players were unable to play; Bill McCrea, Cecil Beamish, both Irish Internationals and one of the best young golfers I have ever seen, Paddy Hine, now of course better known as Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine.
Having finished National Service, I spent the next 19 years working in the motor industry at the same time managing to continue with my golf and was fortunate to win a number of Championships, which led to my being selected for the English and British Amateur golf teams playing in many different countries. Also through golf, I met my wife Angela who was and still is the possessor of one of the best swings I have seen in ladies golf. With this joint interest in the game, it did not take too much thought to decide that I should apply for the position of secretary of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club when it was to be vacant on the retirement of Keith Mackenzie in 1983 after 15 years in the post. Luckily for me, I was selected for the role and so began my time in “The best job in the world”. From Keith I inherited a marvellous team to which I added a number of young men and women who are today the driving force behind the R&A’s many different responsibilities in golf.”
With best wishes to the RAF, Michael Bonallack.
As reported to the RAFGA Magazine, Summer 2001.
Sir Michael Bonallack is an English amateur golfer who was one of the leading administrators in world golf in the late 20th Century, a rare example of an outstanding golfer who remained an amateur in the era when professional domination of the sport became firmly entrenched. He won the British Boys Championship in 1952 and went on to win The Amateur Championship and the English Amateur five times each and the Brabazon Trophy four times. He was a member of nine Walker Cup teams and played in the Eisenhower Trophy seven times. His best finish at The Open Championship was eleventh in 1959. He was the leading amateur at the Open in 1968 and 1971. Sir Michael was Secretary of the R&A between 1984 and 1999 when he handed over to current incumbent – albeit with a name change to Chief Executive – Peter Dawson. Sir Michael was also Captain of the R&A in 2000.
Order of the British Empire (OBE) (1971)
Knight Bachelor awarded by Queen Elizabeth II (1998). Sir Michael became the third ‘golfing knight’ after Sir Henry Cotton and Sir Bob Charles. Sir Nick Faldo subsequently joined the select group in 2009.
Association of (British) Golf Writers – Golf Writers’ Trophy Award (1968)
United States Golf Association – Bobby Jones Award (1972)
American Society of Golf Course Architects – Donald Ross Award (1991)
England Golf – Gerald Micklem Award for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Golf in England (1991)
Northern Ohio Golf Charities – Ambassador of Golf (1995)
Golf Association of Philadelphia – Arnold Palmer Lifetime Service Award (1997)
Spanish Golf Federation Golf – Medal of Honour (1999)
Association of (British) Golf Writers – Award For Outstanding Services To Golf (1999)
World Golf Hall of Fame entry – Lifetime Achievement in Golf (2000)
Czech Republic – Golf Shield of Honour (2000)
Metropolitan Golf Association – Lifetime Service Award (2000)
GOLF EUROPE legend award (2004)
BIGGA Lifetime Achievement Award (2005)
Honoree at The Memorial Tournament (2006)
Other Golf Positions
President, Golf Club Managers’ Association (1974-1984)
Chairman, PGA of Great Britain and Ireland (1976-1981)
Chairman, Golf Foundation (1977-1982)
President, English Golf Union (1982)
President, British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) (1999- )
President, The Society of One Armed Golfers (1995- )
Chairman, Golf Foundation (2000-2003)
Non-Executive Director of the European Tour (2000-2015)
The Professional Golfers Association of Europe (2002-2004)
President, PGA of Europe (2003-2004)
Chairman of the Official World Golf Rankings Governing Body (2004-2016)
Patron, Artisan Golfers Association (2007)
President of the National Association of Public and Proprietary Golf Courses (NAPGC) (2008- ).