Luke Donald has been awarded Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour in recognition of his outstanding achievements during a record-breaking 2011 season.
The Englishman became the first player to head the money lists on both The European Tour and the US PGA Tour in the same season -topping The Race to Dubai with record earnings of €5,323,400 – and reached World Number One for the first time, a position he held for the majority of the year.
His elevation to the pinnacle of the Official World Golf Ranking came as a result of his thrilling victory in the BMW PGA Championship 12 months ago, and it was at Wentworth Club, where Donald launches his defence of the title tomorrow, that European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady awarded him with a silver engraved Honorary Life Membership card.
O’Grady said: “Luke’s achievements in 2011 were quite extraordinary. To reach the Number One position in the world last May in such dramatic circumstances at Wentworth was one thing, but to follow that up with another superb victory in the Scottish Open on his way to winning The Race to Dubai and the US PGA Tour Money List was deeply impressive.
“Luke’s record in 2011 speaks volumes for his consistent high standard of play during the whole year and it is a great privilege to honour him in this very special way with this Honorary Life Membership, the highest award we as a Tour can bestow.”
On receiving the Honorary Life Membership card, Donald said: “This is special. As I said at the Players' Awards dinner last night, it is very inspiring what The European Tour has done in the last few years, and it's nice to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats that have played this Tour, and this is very special. This means a lot, and I really thank you for it.”
Donald hit the ground running early in 2011 and continued to set new standards, culminating in his successes in The Race to Dubai and in the US PGA Tour Money List.
Having played a crucial part in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory over the United States in October 2010, Donald again showed his quality in match play golf, beating Germany’s Martin Kaymer in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship to make the perfect start to 2011.
His next triumph came in The European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, when he thrilled the home crowds by seeing off fellow Englishman Lee Westwood in a play-off, going one better than the previous year when he was tied second.
The World Ranking proved an exciting sub-plot to that victory, as it was Westwood whom Donald usurped as World Number One, and he held that position for 40 weeks, reinforcing it with another win, in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in July.
The 34 year old’s impressive consistency continued through the late summer and autumn, and he added top ten finishes in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA Championship to set up an enthralling climax on both sides of the Atlantic.
The first half of an historic double arrived in United States. Trailing Webb Simpson in the US PGA Tour Money List and needing to win the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, Donald was two shots behind the American halfway through the final round, but duly delivered six consecutive birdies on the back nine for a round of 64 which gave him the title and the US PGA Tour Number One crown.
He then turned his attentions back to The European Tour, where he finished third in the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World to hold off Rory McIlroy in The Race to Dubai and claim the Harry Vardon Trophy for the first time in his career.
From 13 European Tour appearances in 2011, Donald won three times and finished in the top ten on a further seven occasions, and his tremendous achievements were recognised with a glut of end of season awards.
He was voted The European Tour Player of the Year and won the 2011 Golf Writers’ Trophy, and in America he was named the US PGA Tour Player of the Year – the first Englishman to win the award since its inception in 1990 – and also won the American Golf Writers’ Award and the Vardon Trophy, which is given to the player with the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Donald follows in the footsteps of 2010 Ryder Cup team-mates Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, McIlroy and Westwood, who have been awarded Honorary Life Membership in the last two years, as well as South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel and Northern Irishman Darren Clarke.