Dave Thomas, a four-time Ryder Cup player and renowned course designer, has been awarded Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour.
Thomas was presented with the silver Membership card by George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, in the company of Board Member and life-long friend, John O’Leary, special guest Brendan Foster CBE and representatives of the Association of Golf Writers during a special luncheon at Shepherd’s Restaurant in London.
During an illustrious playing career which began in 1949, Thomas was twice runner-up in The Open Championship - in 1958 at Royal Lytham & St Annes when he tied with Peter Thomson before losing in a 36-hole play-off and eight years later at Muirfield when he finished tied second to Jack Nicklaus.
He played in four Ryder Cups in 1959, ‘63, ’65 and ’67, won many of Europe’s biggest tournaments and represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf, before arthritis ended his playing career and Thomas immersed himself in his other great passion of golf course architecture.
Together with Peter Alliss, he designed The Belfry’s famous Brabazon Course and his CV includes Slaley Hall in Northumberland and the Roxburgh in Scotland in addition to continental venues such as the latest European Tour Destination St Leon-Rot, San Roque, the Almenara Hotel, La Baule and Cannes Mougins, and courses in Japan, China, Taiwan, Africa and South America.
Thomas was also Captain of the Professional Golfers’ Association during its centenary year in 2001 and five years later he was made an honorary life member of the PGA.
In making the presentation, O’Grady said: “Dave Thomas is a four-time Ryder Cup player, has tied the Open Championship and finished second, was chosen by the British Professional Golfers’ Association to be Captain in their Centenary Year, an Honorary Life Member of the PGA, designer of many courses including The Belfry, an iconic Ryder Cup course. Wherever we have gone in the world – the north of England, The Belfry, Spain - we have played on his courses, but above all that he is a great guy.
“It has been remiss of us not to have presented this award a long time ago but today we are righting that wrong. We have recently honoured Tommy Horton, Brian Huggett and Peter Alliss, and Dave is in that league in helping build the game in Britain and all over the world. We would like to recognise that with Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour.”
Thomas, born and raised in Newcastle, recalled his first taste of The Ryder Cup when he watched some of the game’s greats including Sam Snead during the 1949 match at Ganton at the age of 15 having just turned professional.
“I cannot tell you even today the impression it left on me as a player to be, and how could I achieve the standards that I watched in that Ryder Cup at Ganton?” he said. “There was Sam Snead, Lloyd Mangrum and to watch them play was inspirational. To think just ten years later I played in my first Ryder Cup in Palm Springs in California and played against Sam Snead and Cary Middlecoff.
“I have very fond memories of my playing career but by 1969 my back had gone and it was time to do something else, and what do you do? Someone suggested some design and architecture. Peter Alliss was involved and we became designers. Who would have thought all these years on I would be close to designing 150 courses.
“I have seen how the game has grown, how The European Tour has developed and it has been wonderful to have been part of it all for the last 60 years. I am honoured to receive this award.”