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Sir Michael Bonallack: 1934-2023

Sir Michael Bonallack: 1934-2023

The European Tour group is saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Michael Bonallack, who has died at the age of 88.

Sir Michael Bonallack

Born in Essex, England, Sir Michael was a prolific amateur golfer and went on to become one of the leading figures in the administration of global golf, serving as a board member of the board of the European Tour group.

Sir Michael won the first of five Amateur Championship titles in 1961, defeating Scotland’s James Walker 6&4 at Turnberry. His second victory came at Royal Porthcawl in 1965, coming back from six down after 12 holes, before winning three in a row from 1968 to 1970 at Troon, Royal Liverpool and Royal County Down.

He also won the English Amateur on five occasions, the Brabazon Trophy four times and was the leading amateur at The Open in 1968 and 1971.

He made his first of nine Walker Cup appearances at the Minikahda Club, Minnesota and set the GB&I record for most games played at 25 after his final appearance in 1973.

Sir Michael served as Secretary of The R&A from 1983 to 1999 and was nominated for Captaincy of the Club for the millennium year, 1999 to 2000. He was also President of the Golf Club Managers’ Association, Chairman of the PGA of GB&I, Chairman of the Golf Foundation and President of the English Golf Union.

He was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1971, before being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998, becoming the third golfer to receive the honour after Sir Henry Cotton and Sir Bob Charles. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.

In 2004, he succeeded Mark H McCormack as Chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking, a position which he held until 2016. Sir Michael oversaw the management of the ranking system’s transferral from IMG to a new incorporated company, OWGR, owned by the European Tour group, PGA TOUR, Augusta National, The R&A, USGA, PGA of America and the International Federation of PGA Tours.

Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A and Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, said, “We are deeply saddened to hear of Sir Michael’s passing. He made a huge contribution to golf not only as one of the finest amateur golfers in the history of the sport but also as an extremely effective leader and administrator. Sir Michael was the outstanding amateur golfer of his era and his achievements in The Amateur Championship and the Walker Cup will truly stand the test of time. He led The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at a time of change and did so with great courage, enterprise and foresight.

“In recent years he continued to serve the sport through his work on Committees and I personally am extremely grateful for his gracious guidance and support. He will be a huge loss to all of us in golf but particularly here in St Andrews. On behalf of all at The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and The R&A I would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to the Bonallack family.”

Peter Dawson CBE, who succeeded Sir Michael as Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, said, “Golf has lost one of its very finest. Respected all around the world, Michael was a wonderful player, administrator and ambassador for our sport and he will be sorely missed by so many. His contribution to the game he loved was simply unparalleled.

“Speaking personally, I will be forever grateful for his help and advice over so many years and my world seems a much lesser place without him. My thoughts are with Michael’s entire family who have given him such great support since he lost Angela last year.”

He married Angela Ward in 1958. Lady Angela Bonallack was a renowned amateur golfer in her own right, winning the British Girls Championship, English Ladies Championship and playing in six Curtis Cup teams. She passed away in 2022 at the age of 85.

The Bonallack Trophy, a competition played between teams of amateurs from Europe and Asia-Pacific, was named in honour of Sir Michael and first played in 1998.

Sir Michael is survived by children, Glenna, Jane, Sara and Robert and their ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren who all play golf.

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