Ahead of the 60th edition of the BMW PGA Championship – and tenth since title partners BMW came on board – there was a special anniversary photo-call at Wentworth Club as six decades of PGA Champions met six decades of iconic BMW automobiles.
Veteran BBC golf commentator Peter Alliss, who played in the inaugural PGA Championship in 1955 and later went on to win the event three times in 1957, 1962 and 1965, was joined at Wentworth by fellow PGA Champions Bernard Gallacher (1969), Neil Coles (1976), Paul Way (1985), José María Olazábal (1994), David Howell (2006), Luke Donald (2011, 2012) and defending champion Matteo Manassero (2013).
Among the cars on show were a classic 1955 ‘Isetta’, a 1958 BMW 507, a 1978 M1, a 1989 835Ci, a 1980s M3 and a 1999 Z8.
Alliss said: “I remember it all very well. 1957 was the year I won my first of three. I had started as a joint-professional at the Parkson Golf Club with my brother on April 1st 1957. On the Monday I went to my club and helped him unload a few things for the shop and then the next day I went up to Llandudno, where the championship was being held that week, and I won it! So my first year as a pro there I went home as a PGA Champion, it was wonderful! To see what the tournament has become, it’s brilliant.”
Gallacher said: “It was always a big tournament and it was the first I ever won so that makes it hugely important. That always stays with you, it’s on your CV, but when you compare it to what it has grown into today with Wentworth, the course, the prize fund, the huge crowds – it’s a truly massive event now.
“But I look back very fondly on my victory and we are still celebrating it today, here we are!”
“The BMW PGA Championship is our flagship event and it’s an impressive field lined up for this week,” said Coles. “I won at Royal St George’s in 1976, following a play-off with Gary Player and Eamonn Darcy, and I really enjoyed it. It was my biggest prize up to that point – £10,000 for winning, which is not a lot in today’s money, but it was a major event which has continued to grow year on year.”
Way said: “I remember playing with Seve Ballesteros the first two rounds and was struggling the first day and ended up shooting 75. The next day I was on the verge of missing the cut and shot 72, so improved by three shots, and then the third I was level par with two to play and birdied the 17th and eagled the last so I shot 69. And then of course the last day I shot 66 so managed to improve by three each day but still ended up in a play-off with Sandy Lyle.
“He said to me: ‘I hope this doesn’t go on too long – I’ve got a barbecue waiting at home!’ Fortunately, I managed to win on the third extra hole and, along with the European Open, it’s right up there with my best achievements.”
“It was fantastic,” Olazábal remembered. “That was the year I had won the Masters just a short while before we came here and for me I felt similar emotions winning this championship as to when I won the Green Jacket because it’s our flagship event. To have won it makes me very proud.
“The weather was very good that year and the golf course was playing hard and fast so I very rarely took a driver – which played into my hands. This is a course you need to keep it in play and I was able to do that hitting three woods and one irons off the tee.
“Remembering the walk up 18 at Wentworth to win – that was very special.”
“If you’re a member of The European Tour you want to play in the biggest event we have and that is the BMW PGA Championship,” said Howell. “It’s The Tour’s flagship event and, as I live in Surrey, it’s also my home tournament, so it was a big thrill for me to win in 2006 and an achievement I’m very proud of. There is a real Major Championship feel about the BMW PGA Championship.
“It’s the mix of a superb venue at Wentworth, great crowds throughout the week, an amazing atmosphere, the tournament’s heritage and the way BMW put the event on; not to mention the exceptionally high quality field this year. It’s a fantastic sporting event, let alone golf tournament, and if you’re a golf fan it’s a superb opportunity to see Europe’s best players in action.”
Donald said: “It’s a very special place for me, having won here a couple of times and having gotten me to Number One in the world in 2011. So I have many great thoughts when I return here and hopefully I can have a few more to come. It’s the flagship event, it has so much history and so many great former winners, I’m very proud of my performances here.”
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