Coles to step down as chairman of European Tour

17/05/2013

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PGA Chairman Dr Phil Weaver OBE is among those to have paid tribute to Neil Coles MBE who has announced his decision to step down as chairman of the European Tour's board of directors.

Coles, 78,  (pictured second left next to PGA chief executive Sandy Jones) took on the role in November 1975 and, over the past 38 years, has overseen not only significant growth and development of The European Tour, but also the formation and subsequent establishment of the European Challenge Tour in 1989 and the European Senior Tour in 1992.

“I took the decision last Christmas at the same time as I agreed with the board for the entire structure and the constitution of The European Tour to be reviewed by an independent body,” said Coles. “This was done to ensure the Tour, and its constitution, was equipped to face the many and varied challenges of the modern age.”

The successor to Coles will be determined by a selection committee who will take into consideration a number of factors including the candidates’ involvement in a modern, international sporting arena as well as their experience in dealing with diverse sporting, business and political issues.

Coles added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as Chairman and it has been an honour and a privilege to serve such a prestigious organisation in a sport which has been my life, both inside the ropes and inside the boardroom.”

Dr Weaver added: “Since the inception of The European Tour, Neil Coles has had a profound influence on its growth and development. Indeed his steady hand on the tiller helping to steer the Tour along a course on continual success has, in turn, bought international recognition and acclaim.

“Neil has been a leader in professional golf throughout his long and distinguished career both inside and outside the ropes. On behalf of all professional golfers who play and love the game I want to express my sincere thanks for all his efforts to make our game better.”

George O’Grady CBE, chief executive of the European Tour, commented: “For as long as I have worked in professional golf, Neil Coles has been a constant figurehead, giving stability to The European Tour at all times.

“Since I became chief executive in 2005, he has given me personally, great consistency and confidence in implementing the policies of the Tour in a fast changing world, as the Tour has expanded to embrace golfing organisations and countries throughout the world.”

Coles turned professional at the age of 16 in 1950 but soon progressed to become one of the dominant figures of his age, winning a total of 25 European Tour titles and representing Great Britain and Ireland in eight Ryder Cup Matches between 1961 and 1977.

During his European Tour career, his consistency was legendary. Between 1973 and 1979 he played 68 consecutive tournaments without missing a cut before, in 1982, he won the Sanyo Open at Sant Cugat at the age of 48 years and 14 days to become the oldest winner in Tour history, a record that remained until it was surpassed, firstly by Des Smyth in 2001 and subsequently by Miguel Angel Jiménez in 2012.

After turning 50, Coles’ assault on the record books continued apace, winning 15 European Senior Tour titles in total including the 2000 Microlease Jersey Seniors Open, a victory which saw him become the first professional golfer in history to win in six different decades.

His final victory on the European Senior Tour came in the Lawrence Batley Seniors in June 2002 when he beat David Creamer and Steve Stull in a play-off at Huddersfield Golf Club. At 67 years and 276 days, the victory not only extended his own record as the oldest man to win on the Senior Tour, he also comfortably confirmed his place as the oldest winner in Senior golf worldwide, a record that stands to this day.

Outside his many playing achievements, Coles, an Honorary Member of The European Tour, was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000 and is also a respected and internationally acknowledged course designer.

Ken Schofield CBE, who was Executive Director of Tour for 30 years from 1975 until 2005, said: “Neil Coles was the player to whom John Jacobs turned to provide the authority upon which John founded today’s modern PGA European Tour. Neil continued to provide that massive authority throughout both my tenure and George O’Grady’s continuing tenure as Executive Directors for the better part of 40 years. No sports administrator or sports organisation could have asked for a finer Chairman to be at the helm.

“Every past, present and future Member of the PGA European Tour owes Neil Coles a debt of gratitude that cannot be overstated – and must never be underestimated.”

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