Ex-British Open champion Charles receives New Zealand's highest honor

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Bob Charles played a huge role in paving the way for both left-handers and players from the southern hemisphere.
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Associated Press

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Published: Thursday, December 30, 2010 | 7:44 p.m.

Bob Charles, the first left-hander to win one of golf’s major tournaments, has been awarded New Zealand’s highest civil honor.

Charles was admitted to the Order of New Zealand, an honor restricted to only 20 living New Zealanders. He won the 1963 British Open and finished his career with 66 tournament victories.

The 74-year-old Charles won the British Open after a 36-hole playoff with American Phil Rodgers and was a six-time winner on the PGA Tour. He was knighted for services to golf in 1999 and has been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“Back then we played 18 holes on the Wednesday, 18 holes on the Thursday and 36 on the Friday and the playoff was then another 36 on the Saturday,” Charles said of his British Open victory. “It was a little bit of an endurance contest and I think that was the end of the 36-hole playoffs.”

Charles won 23 times on the Champions Tour, a mark surpassed by only four players, and continued to take on a heavy schedule of professional tournaments until the middle of this year.

Although officially retired, he practices three times a week and said he would continue to play selected events including the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in the United States, which he won for the second straight year in 2010 with Gary Player of South Africa.

Charles was credited with blazing a trail for left-handed players. Until his arrival on the professional tour, club manufacturers produced little specialist equipment for left-handers and courses were often set up for right-handed players.

“Golf has been very good to me. It was the reason I got a knighthood and various other awards in my golfing life which has spread over 50 years,” Charles said.