The past and present of both BMW and The European Tour was celebrated in an historic gathering at Wentworth Club today.
The famous Surrey course will play host to the BMW PGA Championship – the Tour’s flagship event – next month from May 24-27, but it was the 40th anniversary of both organisations which was honoured before a special golf challenge match over the West Course between representatives from BMW, The European Tour, Wentworth Club, BBC Television and Sky Sports.
On Thursday April 12, 1972, the first round of official European Tour competition began – in the Spanish Open at Pals Golf Club in Girona – a tournament won four days later by the host nation’s Antonio Garrido. Following on from that, a month later – May 1972 – saw the establishment of BMW M GmbH, one of whose first models was the iconic M1.
To recognise both occasions, John Jacobs OBE, the founding father of The European Tour and the Tour’s first Director General in 1972, was joined by the Tour’s current Chief Executive George O’Grady CBE and professionals Sam Torrance OBE and Michael King, who both played in the early years of the Tour, for a commemorative photograph around an original gleaming red BMW M1 parked outside the Wentworth Clubhouse.
“This is a very special occasion and I can’t quite believe it is 40 years ago this week that The European Tour began – time does fly, doesn’t it,” said the now 87 year old Jacobs who aside from being instrumental in the birth of the Tour, is also recognised worldwide as one of the game’s great coaches.
Jacobs was at the helm for three years until handing over the reins to Ken Schofield CBE on January 1 1975. The Scot guided the Tour for 30 years before stepping aside for O’Grady on January 1 2005, and Jacobs paid a glowing tribute to his two successors.
“I moved aside because I wanted to get on with my own career but Ken was a natural and I knew the whole business was in safe hands,” he said. “If you look at where the Tour started when Ken took over and where it was when he left, it is almost unbelievable, and George has followed that on by moving things even further forward. Great credit must go to both of them.”
One of the players who benefitted from Jacobs’ foresight in the early years was Torrance who finished 37th on the 1972 Order of Merit before going on to record 21 European Tour victories in a glittering career which, to this day, sees the 58 year old Scot still hold the record for most European Tour events played with 706.
“I am very honoured to have been a European Tour professional for 40 years and very proud to be here today to help celebrate this unique anniversary,” said Torrance who now plies his trade on the European Senior Tour where, on three occasions, he has claimed the Order of Merit trophy which bears John Jacobs’ name.
The result of the golf match saw the combined team from The European Tour/BMW/Wentworth Club defeat the combined team from BBC Television/Sky Sports by 5 ½ - 4 ½.