Brian Huggett, Herefordshire and Ryder Cup ambassador
PUBLISHED: 17:00 17 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:50 20 February 2013
The third largest sporting event in the world, the bi-annual golfing Ryder Cup, takes place at the Celtic Manor resort in Newport, from October 1 to 3 and there in his role as Ryder Cup Ambassador will be Brian Huggett
The third largest sporting event in the world, the bi-annual golfing Ryder Cup, takes place at the Celtic Manor resort in Newport, from October 1 to 3 and there in his role as Ryder Cup Ambassador will be Brian Huggett. The golfing legends connection with the event stretches back more than 47 years but this years competition, held in his homeland for the first time, will be tinged with sadness, as he told Rachel Crow. Pictures by Shaun Thompson
Ive been an ambassador for the Ryder Cup for the last nine years, since Wales won the bid and I dont know what Ill do when that passes because it has prolonged my career, really, says Brian Huggett. Although Im looking forward to it, there will also be sadness because it will spell the end of my main involvement with the Ryder Cup and it has been a big part of my life.
Not only was Brian a member of the winning bid committee for this years event and an advisor on the redesign of the course at Celtic Manor in preparation, but he also played an instrumental role in the final discussions back in 1978 to add Continental Europe to the Ryder Cup competition, thereby transforming it into one of sport's most exciting spectacles.
It was nice to be there for the final negotiations in the 1970s and to see what has happened to the match since, he agrees. In my playing day, we used to lose the Ryder Cup all the time because America had all of the strong players but after the decision to turn GB and Ireland into a European team, it has turned into the most fantastic event. The game has changed enormously; the equipment and balls are so much better now and players are more like athletes. The European players are probably the best in the world at the moment. I am very, very confident that we will win in Wales. We will have the best team we have ever had.
Born in Porthcawl, South Wales, in 1936, golf was part of Brians life from an early age. His father, George, was a golfing professional at Royal Porthcawl and as Brian explains: In those days the pro was also the club steward. I grew up living in the clubhouse, half way up a hill so there was nothing else to do but play golf. My father started something off because my brother is also a golfing pro in Cambridge.
After turning professional when he was 15 in 1951, Brians illustrious career spanned six decades. He won 16 European Tour events between 1963 and 2000 and played in six Ryder Cup teams, the first in 1963, before he captained the GB & Ireland Team in 1977. I earned 12 Ryder Cup points, which was a pretty high ratio in my day because you were always up against somebody good when you played America, so I was very pleased with that, he says.
Its a tough call for him to pick out the highlights over his career as there have been many from winning the British Masters at Lytham and St Annes in 1970 and breaking the course record to capturing the prestigious Senior British Open Championship at the age of 61.
That showed me that my game and the swing my father taught me all those years before had really stood me in good stead. To win when I was 11 years into my senior career ranks along with the wins on major tours as far as Im concerned. Ive had a very good career and Ive been very lucky.
Awarded an MBE for services to golf in 1978, Brian, now aged 73, still remembers receiving the letter from Prime Minister James Callaghan as if it were yesterday. Thats something you never expect really and certainly took me by surprise. It was very special and mum and dad were
No longer able to play due to arthritis in his thumbs, there are many reminders of his golfing past, photos, framed course flags and trophies, dotted about the Herefordshire home that he shares with his wife of 49 years, Winnie.
With their two young daughters, Sandra, an actress who played Doctor Holly Miles in Casualty for many years and Yvonne, now a teachers assistant, they moved to the village of Weston-under-Penyard at the end of the 70s to be near St Pierre Park in Chepstow, where Brian became the pro on retiring from the professional circuit.
The family lived in a farmhouse in the village until 13 years ago, when Brian and Winnie moved to their Border Oak-build home, which Brian designed. The attractive oak-framed house belies its young age but possibly the most arresting aspect of their home is the spectacular view afforded out over the Herefordshire landscape.
Brian was proud to be asked to be a Herefordshire Ambassador by Visit Herefordshire and, just as he has passionately represented the Ryder Cup over many years, so he is now flying the flag for his adopted county.