The traditional driving-in ceremony for the new Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews took place on the first tee of the Old Course today.
Pierre Bechmann began his year in office with a drive at precisely 8am as a cannon fired alongside the tee. A large crowd gathered to witness the ceremony and saw Mr Bechmann hit a long drive down the middle of the fairway running to around 30 yards short of the Swilcan Burn.
Mr Bechmann becomes the first Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club from Continental Europe. His role will see him representing The R&A and supporting its work in developing golf around the world.
He will attend R&A Championships in the professional and amateur games and assume an ambassadorial role for the Club.
After hitting his tee shot, a relieved Mr Bechmann said: “It is a daunting prospect teeing off in front of such a large gallery but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I am greatly looking forward to my year in office and hope I can contribute to the important work The R&A does for golf around the world. I have been heavily involved in supporting the development of talented young players and I look forward to continuing that work in my new role.”
Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris in 1957, Mr Bechmann is particularly active in amateur golf, sitting on the Executive Committee of the French Golf Federation and the Championship Committee of the European Golf Association.
A lawyer and member of the Paris Bar, Mr Bechmann has been President of his home club, Golf de Chantilly, since 2010. He is a former member of the R&A’s General Committee, and has served on the Championship and Rules of Golf Committees as well as The R&A Coaching Panel. In 2008/09 he was Captain of Royal St George’s Golf Club. Mr Bechmann lives in Chantilly and plays to a handicap of nine.
In the past, the Club Captaincy was bestowed on the winner of the annual Challenge for the Silver Club but by the early 19th Century the Captaincy had become an elected office.
Part of the tradition is that a gold sovereign is paid by the new Captain to buy his golf ball back from the caddie who successfully retrieves and returns it.
This year’s recipient of the sovereign was Scott Bechelli. The 44 year old from St Andrews said: “I have been caddying here since I was 13 years old and this is a real honour for me. My brother received the sovereign in 2008 so it’s nice to follow him.”