For almost 160 years, the title Champion Golfer of the Year has been the pinnacle of the sport – something for the best to strive for.
Along with the Claret Jug, it’s a unique honour bestowed upon anyone talented enough to win The Open, golf's oldest and most international Championship.
On 17 October 1860, eight professional golfers assembled at Prestwick for a tournament to determine who would be the first Champion Golfer – a tradition that continues to this day.
Wille Park Sr, representing Musselburgh Golf Club, was the first man to become Champion Golfer as he beat the favourite, Old Tom Morris, by two strokes.
“This professional tournament was for the best golfer, the Champion Golfer, the best golfer in the world – and the world of golf at this time was Scotland,” explains Park’s great grandson Mungo Park.
“Tom Morris was the favourite as he had home advantage so it was something of a surprise when the interloper from Musselburgh won The Open.
“Prestwick as the location, really set off The Open as we know it now – from this curious event initiated by gentlemen in Prestwick.
“From that local and rather parochial start, this immense competition of worldwide significance has emerged. I think The Open will continue to be the challenge match that everyone aspires to win.”
As of 2018, 85 different men have earned the title Champion Golfer of the Year and the 2017 honouree Jordan Spieth explains how special that moniker is.
“Champion Golfer of the Year is such a cool title,” said Spieth. “When those words were spoken on the green at Birkdale, it just kind of hit me.
“It was almost like someone had kind of punched me in the gut – in the best way possible. You need to realise how special this is and embrace what it means.”
A year later, Francesco Molinari won The 147th Open at Carnoustie to take the title from Spieth and after joining an incredible roll of players, the Italian was struggling to come to terms with his accomplishment.
“It’s an incredible list of players and to see my name on it seems like a joke! It feels really good knowing that no-one can take my name away from it,” he said the day after his victory.
“It’s a big moment for me and all the people around me. You work all your life to get here and it really gives a meaning to what you’ve done all this time.
“I feel very proud of the way I handled myself under not easy circumstances and hopefully I can show that there are probably a few more in me.”