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Bonallack to head ranking, One of Britain's greats passes away

Dave BowersBy Dave Bowers,

Sir Michael Bonallack is to succeed Mark McCormack as the new chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking. The ranking was devised and created by McCormack who was chairman of the board until his death in May last year.

His company, IMG, has been responsible for managing and producing the weekly ranking, which is now endorsed by the four Major Championships and the six Professional Tours making up the International Federation of PGA Tours.

One of Britain's greats passes away

John Baker, the doyen of Britain's golf writers, died Jan. 22, at his home in Worthing, Sussex, at the age of 93.

He had just completed a tribute to Stanley Lincoln, his closest working colleague and fellow veteran member of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW), who was 89 on his death only a fortnight earlier.

The legendary Bernard Darwin voted Baker into the AGW in 1946 as he covered a tournament at Southport, and while becoming the oldest and most senior member of the association in the course of the next 58 years, his great contribution to golf was recognised with the award of life membership.

Back to Carnoustie

The Championship Course at Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland, has been chosen to host the 136th Open Golf Championship in July 2007.

Traditionally regarded as one of the most challenging courses on the Championship rota, Carnoustie last staged the event in 1999 when Scotland's Paul Lawrie captured his first Major.

Before 1999, the Open Championship had not been staged at Carnoustie since Tom Watson claimed the first of his five titles in 1975, beating Australian Jack Newton after an 18-hole play-off.

Carnoustie staged its first Open Championship in 1931 when Scotland's Tommy Armour -- the 'Silver Scot' -- took the title with an aggregate of 296.

Subsequent winners were Sir Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Watson and Lawrie.

In announcing the 2007 venue, Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A said: "Carnoustie has always been acknowledged as an outstanding test of links golf with one of the most exacting finishes of any Championship course.

"We are therefore delighted to be returning only eight years after the previous Open when Carnoustie was rightly reinstated to the rota of Open venues."

There is reference to golf being played at Carnoustie as early as 1527. The first known course at Carnoustie was laid out in the first half of the 19th century and consisted of only 10 holes. Old Tom Morris expanded the course to 18 holes in 1873 and in 1926 James Braid made far-reaching alterations which were the basis for today's Championship layout.

Sisters are doing it for themselves ... well almost

Women golfers are to be given a say in the sport's rules for the first time after being allowed to join the governing body.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has finally allowed women to join its prestigious rule-making committee.

The club, which sets the rules for the sport in all golf-playing countries except the United States and Mexico, has decided to allow women on to its most powerful committee as it prepares to celebrate its 250th anniversary. It will now allow women to become full members and join the committees which monitor golf's rules, equipment and amateur status. The change follows years of criticism from women's groups about sexism in the game.

The new regulations came into force on Jan. 1 and separate the club's commercial structure from its rule-making side. The R&A has 2,400 male members and until now only they could join the ruling committees. There are 30 committee members, appointed for four-year terms every September. Peter Dawson, the R&A secretary, said: "This will help us ensure the committee is more representative of the people who play the sport. The R&A is trying to do what is best for the game."

But he said it was unlikely that the first female committee member will be appointed this year.

"We have only just woken up from the reorganisation, we won't rush anything."

Woods for Wentworth?

Tiger Woods is set to make his second appearance in the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, Surrey, later this year.

Woods, beaten by close friend Mark O'Meara in 1998 when the Americans contested one of the most exciting finals in the tournament's 40-year history, is understood to be close to confirming his return.

The sight of Woods on the first tee of the West Course at Wentworth would come as a relief to HSBC, which began a 10-year sponsorship of the event last October by offering the richest first prize in golf of £1m, but suffered from a lcak of interest from the game's big-name players in 2003.

Nicholson funds tour in unique manner

Scot Lesley Nicholson has decided on a novel idea to help cover the costs of her latest campaign on the Ladies' European Tour -- she's going to host her own golf day.

"It's going to be at Haddington on April 10 and it will cost £20 for a member and £30 for a non-member," she explained. "The day will include 18 holes of golf, coaching, a raffle and plenty of food."

The former Curtis Cup player is going into her fourth full season on the pro circuit, and she admits it has not been an easy transition.

"It has been harder than I thought it would be and money has been a stumbling block," she admitted. "It's not easy when you're always worried about having enough cash."

Having struggled to hold on to her European Tour card over the past three seasons, she has an added incentive to try to make the grade this time.

"I met a couple of people when I was caddying at Gullane and they offered to cover the costs of sending me to the LPGA Qualifying School in America at the end of the year," she explained. "If I'm playing well enough, that would be great."

Now, though, she's busy preparing for her golf day:

"It's been hard work to organise, but it will be lovely if I can go into the season without having to worry about money."

No clubs in the cabin please

A Europe-wide list of potential weapons banned from aircraft cabins includes golf clubs.

The list becomes law in all EU countries on Feb. 1, and was drawn up after consultation with the member states.

Most items are already banned -- from firearms and knives to scissors, fireworks and aerosol spray paint. But under the category of blunt instruments, the commission list extends potentially dangerous weapons to hockey sticks, canoe paddles and snooker cues, as well as skateboards, fishing rods, golf clubs and cricket bats.

All such items will be consigned to the holds of aircraft, under what amounts to the first comprehensive agreed list to emerge since the threat to worldwide air travel after 9/11.

Raiders strike at Ryder Cup course

Armed raiders escaped with cash after tying up two security workers at The Belfry golf complex.

Officers said three masked offenders brandishing shotguns stole the contents of a safe at the Belfry Hotel on the historic course near Wishaw, Warwickshire, which hosted last year's Ryder Cup.

A police spokesman said: "The men, armed with what are believed to have been sawn-off shotguns, entered the security offices at the rear of the hotel complex at shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday and threatened two male members of security staff.

"They tied up the two security men and took the keys to another building in the complex, leaving the guards locked inside the security office."

The men then entered another area of the hotel, where they gained access to the safe and stole the contents.

It is not known how much money was taken.

Fire strikes at Richmond

An 80-year-old London clubhouse has been razed to the ground by fire. The historic pavilion had stood on the site since the early 1920s, when the Richmond Park golf course was first opened, but the fire that destroyed it left the Richmond Park Golf Club homeless - and its bar staff without a workplace.

Club secretary Peter Harrington said the blaze was sparked by an electrical fault in the bar just before 8 a.m.

Member David Marsh caught the clubhouse's last moments on film with a disposable camera.

He said: "It was quite horrendous."

Fire crews took two hours to extinguish the flames, which spread quickly through the timber-framed single-storey building.

Firefighters eventually left the scene after seven hours, by which time nothing was left but blackened, smouldering ruins which will have to be written off.

Although the golf club lost its gathering place, Harrington said its historical records were on the Internet and its trophies elsewhere, so the losses were minimised.

Companies pledge Ryder Cup support

Nineteen companies have signed three-year sponsorship deals for an annual tournament at the Celtic Manor, venue for the Ryder Cup in 2010.

The companies have joined the Ryder Cup Club, giving long-term support to the Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open.

Representatives of the 19 companies have been given limited-edition clothing bearing a distinctive Ryder Cup Club logo.

"The club is a way of rewarding and saying 'thank you' to companies that make an ongoing commitment," said Andy Stanton, tournament chairman. "The Wales Open is an integral part of the build-up to the 2010 Ryder Cup and gives sponsors an opportunity to enjoy the prestige and limelight that comes from being associated with golf's greatest team event."

The 2004 Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open is from June 3-6.

Langer course has new management

The residential development Sotogrande has taken on the management and operations of the Panorámica Golf & Country Club, in San Jorge, Castellón, Spain, through its investee company Aymerich Golf Management.

An 18-hole golf course, designed by Bernhard Langer in the early 90s, Panorámica Golf & Country Club is included in the portfolio of European Golf Design, the company that designs golf courses for the European Golf Tour.

The agreement is for the course to be managed for an initial period of 25 years, during which time Sotogrande shall operate the course and the restaurant in the clubhouse.

Sotogrande has a majority holding of 57 percent in the capital of Aymerich Golf Management. Its activity focuses on providing a service of analysing, developing and managing golf courses.

A leading company in the Spanish golf industry in Spain, it currently provides managerial and advisory services to: Club de Golf Lomas-Bosque (Villaviciosa de Odón-Madrid); RSHE Club de Campo (S. Sebastián de los Reyes-Madrid); Casino Club de Golf Los Retamares (Algete-Madrid); NH Almenara Hotel-Golf-Spa (Sotogrande-Cádiz); Club de Golf Palomarejos (Toledo); Club Zaudín (Tomares-Sevilla); Club de Golf Alhaurín (Málaga); Aldeamayor Club de Golf (Valladolid); La Reserva de Sotogrande (Sotogrande-Cádiz).

Sotogrande now operates four courses: NH Almenara Golf, La Reserva de Sotogrande, Casino Club de Golf Los Retamares and Panorámica Golf & Country Club.

Aymerich Golf Management is also actively involved in advising on the development of new golf projects in: Malaga, Alicante, Murcia, Toledo, Logroño, Santander, Madrid, Tarragona, and other places in Spain.

Woosie by name...

Former Masters champion Ian Woosnam was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly just before Christmas.

The former Ryder Cup hero was stopped in the street after a night out in Jersey, where he now lives.

Woosnam was held for several hours by Jersey police before being released at around 6.30 a.m.

A file on the case has now been sent to Jersey police's criminal justice unit which will decide what further action to take, if any.

One of his most memorable moments was winning the US Masters competition in August 1991, his only triumph in one of golf's majors.

Woosnam was also the first player to capture the Cisco Matchplay Championships in three decades.

The 45-year-old learned his sport at Llanymynech Golf Course, Shropshire, England.

Dalmahoy in market for Tour event

Dalmahoy golf course, in Scotland, is to undergo a £750,000 expansion aimed at securing a major European Tour event for the club.

New 17th and 18th holes will be added to the East course with a section of the adjacent Muir O'Dean woodland cleared to make way.

The changes will allow television cameras and spectator grandstands to be accommodated at the climax of the course.

Another six holes will also be lengthened, with tees and greens built as part of the proposed changes at the Kirknewton club.

Managers are currently in top-level discussions with PGA tour officials in a bid to land a big-name tournament, with the British Masters one possibility. Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club and its two existing 18-hole courses, known as the East and West, are run by the Marriott group.

David McClaren, director of golf for Marriott, refused to be drawn on potential tournaments, and said: "Marriott currently has the rights to host the British Masters at our Forest of Arden course until 2005. We are working to return top class tournament golf back to Dalmahoy and of course we would like to host the British Masters."

The improvement programme at the course would get under way next summer for completion in spring 2005. It could then host the BBC-televised British Masters in 2006.

Dalmahoy's courses were designed by five-times British Open champion James Braid.

The East course, built in 1927 and measuring 6677 yards, is considered to be more testing than the West course, which was created eight years later. The new holes will be created by the European Golf Design group, which is responsible for a number of renowned courses on the continent.

"We want to make certain that Dalmahoy remains competitive as a golf resort," said McClaren.

He added that the new holes were also being built due to the increasing driving length of modern golf clubs, which had reduced Dalmahoy's difficulty.

Dave lives on the south coast of England with partner Jackie and their three children. Originally a football writer in his homeland, he even rose to the giddy heights of public relations manager for an English professional Premiership side. But he'd been bitten by the golf bug and returned to his roots in journalism as executive editor for Golf Management Europe magazine and as a sports sub-editor/golf writer on one of the country's largest regional daily papers. Like all of us, he plays golf whenever he can - which isn't as often as he would like - and has even performed stand-up comedy in a top comedy club.

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