The winner of The Open at this venue in 1980, Watson received the award from the charity that changes the lives of young people through golf, in front of a packed audience at the R&A Swingzone in Muirfield’s tented village. Foundation President Colin Montgomerie was there to lead the welcome for Tom and warmly praised his contribution to the sport.
Also starring in the zone was a group of young local children. The boys and girls played in a ‘Tri-Golf’ challenge against Tom and then asked him questions about how he started in the game as a young boy in Kansas, encouraged to play by his father.
The Golf Foundation works to make golf more accessible to children from all backgrounds through its HSBC Golf Roots programme.
Tom follows a stellar list of Spirit of Golf Award recipients. This includes Gary Player (2007), Tony Jacklin (2008), Lee Westwood (2009), Ian Poulter (2010), Ernie Els (2011) and Peter Alliss (2012).
In presenting the crystal and silver claret jug to Tom Watson, Golf Foundation Chairman Charles Harrison said: “The Golf Foundation believes that the ‘Skills for Life’ benefits of golf can be of tremendous value to young people as they develop as people. Nobody in the game embodies the spirit of golf better than Tom Watson. From the constant excellent example he has set the rest of us as a golfer through the years to his own considerable charity work back at home, he is a wonderful ambassador for this sport and highly deserving of this award.”
Before receiving his award Tom Watson faced some tough competition with children from Ratho Park Golf Club, near Edinburgh. The game was Tri-Golf, a colourful and fun skills format for 5-11s that has helped the Foundation reach hundreds of thousands of youngsters in recent years. Following this game, Tom was challenged to a return match on behalf of the youngsters by Colin Montgomerie.
But it was in answering the questions of the children that Tom Watson delighted all present. Asked why golf was such a “good sport” he replied: “Golf is a wonderful game that you can play for your whole life. It provides a great lesson because you earn credit for your good shots and learn to accept the blame for your bad shots… Golf really helps to shape your character: the honesty in the game makes you want to behave well, not in the way of behaving well just because others want you to, but for yourself.”
The winner of eight majors was asked what was his proudest moment in golf. Tom said it wasn’t his five Open wins, his two Masters titles or the US Open victory he had dreamed of as a boy. “It was my win in the Kansas state amateur which made me realise I could go on to win and compete with great players.”
He added: “I am very honoured to win this Award. I hope I have inspired young players just as I was inspired when taking up the game at the age of six with great support from my father. I wish all the youngsters here the best for their golf. You should all enjoy other sports as well and work hard at school; don’t forget that!”
Mike Round, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said later: “From the moment Tom walked into the R&A Swingzone to the moment he left more than an hour later, after a host of golf games played, questions answered and autographs signed, he was very much the inspirational great of the game that all of us golf fans know and love.
“The assembled crowd hung on his every word because he is so respected. This is a player who could win under the severest pressure with a smile on his face. As a charity we help young people to embrace these strong principles of competition, sportsmanship, honesty and respect for others.”
The Golf Foundation is a highly progressive development organisation which is increasing golf participation in schools and creating stronger links between schools and golf clubs and driving ranges in support of the national bodies for England, Scotland and Wales.
The Foundation’s HSBC Golf Roots programme reaches hundreds of thousands of youngsters in England, while the Foundation supports Scottish and Welsh golf development projects through strategic funding. HSBC Golf Roots Ambassadors include Lee Westwood, Ken Brown and Alison Nicholas.
The prestigious Spirit of Golf trophy was designed, made for the Golf Foundation, and kindly donated by Derek Burridge.
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org