Thomas, Ryder Cup player and architect, honored by European Tour

Dave Thomas with George O'Grady
Courtesy of the European Tour
Dave Thomas received his silver lifetime membership card from European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady, who said the honor should have been bestowed "a long time ago."
By news services

Series: European Tour

Published: Monday, February 18, 2013 | 6:00 p.m.

LONDON -- 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 European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady, in the company of Board Member and lifelong friend, John O’Leary, special guest Brendan Foster CBE and representatives of the Association of Golf Writers during a special luncheon.

During an illustrious playing career that began in 1949, Thomas was twice runner-up in the British Open – in 1958 at Royal Lytham & St Annes when he tied with Peter Thomson before losing in a 36-hole playoff and eight years later at Muirfield when he tied for second behind Jack Nicklaus.

He played in the 1959, 1963, 1965 and 1967 Ryder Cups, won many of Europe’s biggest tournaments and represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf before arthritis ended his playing career, at which time he immersed himself in his other great passion, golf course architecture.

Together with Peter Alliss, he designed The Belfry’s famous Brabazon Course and his legacy includes Slaley Hall in Northumberland and the Roxburgh in Scotland in addition to continental venues such as St. Leon-Rot in Germany; San Roque and the Almenara in Spain; La Baule and Cannes Mougins in France; and courses in Japan, China, Taiwan, Africa and South America.

Thomas also was 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.

“It has been remiss of us not to have presented this award a long time ago, but today we are righting that wrong,” said O’Grady. “We have recently honored 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 recognize that with Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour.”

Thomas, born and raised in Newcastle, England, 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 – having just turned professional at the age of 15.

“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 10 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 honored to receive this award.”