This year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, Surrey, will be a landmark occasion in the event’s illustrious history with the simultaneous celebrations of two important anniversaries.
The 2014 edition of the BMW PGA Championship will mark the 60th anniversary of the prestigious golf tournament, first played in 1955. BMW, who joined the party in 2005, will also celebrate its tenth anniversary as title Partner of the Championship; an association which has seen the tournament develop into the European Tour’s flagship event, attracting many of the world’s leading players.
The British PGA Championship, as it was first known, was initially contested by British golfers. However, in the 1970s it began to attract players from all over Europe and quickly developed into one of the top international golf events on the European Tour calendar.
The Tournament today bears little resemblance to its inaugural year, when Englishman Ken Bousfield enjoyed the honour of becoming the first ever champion in 1955. Boulsfield finished 17 under par and took home £400 in prize money for finishing first. By comparison, last year’s champion Matteo Manassero finished his four round total of ten under par and collected a record first prize of €791,660.
The BMW PGA Championship has been played exclusively on Wentworth’s West Course since 1984. In 2010, former US Open winner and Wentworth resident Ernie Els worked closely with the Club to re-design elements of the course, developing `the West’ into one of the most challenging courses on the Tour.
Previous champions include legends of the game such as Peter Allis, Bernard Gallacher, Tony Jacklin, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam. However, it is England’s Nick Faldo who currently heads up the champion’s leaderboard, having won the championship an impressive four times. Scotsman Colin Montgomerie, the only player to win the tournament three times in a row (1998-2000) is another BMW PGA record holder and now the next generation of golfers are coming to the fore, including current champion Matteo Manassero – the youngest ever winner of the BMW PGA Championship who took the 2013 title at just 20 years of age.
Looking back over the last 60 years, Peter Alliss, three-time winner of the Championship (1957, 1962 and 1965), said: “I played in the very first PGA Championship at Pannal in Harrogate in 1955 and am very proud to be a three-time winner of the event, having won at Maesdu in Llandudno in Wales in 1957 then again at Little Aston in 1962 and Prince’s three years later.
“I can still recall vividly starting work at Parkstone Golf Club on April Fool’s Day – Monday the 1st - and getting into the car the very next day to drive to Wales to play at Maesdu, not an easy journey even now! I recall the last day being very windy but I managed to win the championship and it was a very proud day for me.
“Of course, the Championship has become synonymous with Wentworth Club and the famous West Course since the 1980s and it has, quite rightly, evolved into the flagship event of the European Tour. It’s hard to believe we are approaching the 60th edition and I wish the event well for the next 60 years.”
Tim Abbott, Managing Director of BMW UK, said: “BMW’s decade long partnership with one of the most prestigious golfing events in the calendar has been one of the great sporting partnerships. Both entities have a long and distinguished heritage and represent the essence of premium in their respective worlds. I’m delighted to say that this year’s tournament should be as exciting as ever on and off the course with the BMW PGA Championship Village promising some of the most desirable vehicles we’ve ever showcased.”
Jamie Birkmyre, BMW PGA Championship Director, explained: “This is a special year for the BMW PGA Championship, with two anniversaries to celebrate. In addition to the event’s 60th, we are looking forward to celebrating BMW’s ten year association with the tournament, as title Partner.
“The event has come a long way since its modest beginnings in 1955. The BMW PGA Championship is now a Blue Riband event on the British sporting calendar, attracting a world class field and we have some exciting plans to celebrate this year’s Championship, which will be one of our biggest and most thrilling yet.”
To commemorate the 60th milestone, BMW and the European Tour will be staging a number of activities and events for spectators attending this year’s BMW PGA Championship, including anniversary themed displays in the Championship Village and appearances from previous champions.
Current BMW PGA Champion, Matteo Manassero, added: “I am really looking forward to coming back to Wentworth, especially after the win last year. It holds a really special place in my heart and I want to go back and defend the title as well as I can. There are so many unbelievable players that have won the trophy, including Costantino Rocca. I’m the second Italian and not the first, but it’s such an honour to be the second Italian after Costantino – I am just one of the guys on a long and important list of players to have done it and it’s a great honour.”
The BMW PGA Championship offers six days of high quality entertainment, including Official Practice Day, Celebrity Pro-Am and four rounds of compelling competition from May 20-25. Tickets are available on the European Tour website: www.europeantour.com\tickets. Further details of the BMW PGA Championship’s 60th anniversary celebrations will be announced in due course.