5 Greatest Welsh Golfers of All Time
Researching the 5 Greatest Welsh Golfers of All Time was a strange one. If you take their fellow UK countries, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland, Wales is dwarfed in terms of golfing success. In total, Scottish golfers have won 55 major championships, English golfers have won 35, Northern Irish golfers have won 7 and Welsh golfers have only managed a paltry 1.
That isn’t to say that Wales has been without its stars. It can boast a former world number 1, Ryder Cup stars and multiple European Tour winners. The big issue is that their main stars either played in a time long past or are now senior tour players, meaning there are currently a limited number of players flying the flag for them on a global stage.
We have previously talked about how it can be difficult to compare different generations to each other. How does a player who played in the 1930s compare to someone of the modern day? But when it came to this list, the top 5 was quite clear so we will have no such issues.
That’s the exposition out of the way, let’s get on with the show.
As always we have an honourable mention and there is a lot of competition for this. In the men’s game there’s Mark Mouland, World Cup winners Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge and on the ladies you have players like Becky Brewerton and Amy Boulden. But for me the honourable mention is quite clear and it goes to Dave Thomas.
Thomas was one of Britain’s leading golfers during the 50s and 60s. Born in 1934, he turned professional in 1949 aged just 15. He had a strong career where he won at least 18 professional events though these all came prior to the creation of the European Tour in 1972.
In majors, he played mainly in the Open Championship which accounts for 14 of his 19 major championship starts. And it is not a record without its highlights either, he recorded 4 top tens at the Open, two of which were runner up finishes; ’58 and ’66. In ’58 he was actually tied with Peter Thompson after 72 holes but was then beaten by four shots in a 36-hole playoff. In 66 he again finished a single shot behind eventual winner, Jack Nicklaus.
He has a great claim to be higher on this list but for now he has to settle for an honourable mention.
5. Phillip Price
As far as longevity goes, Price boasts a pretty impressive career. His European Tour tenure lasted 570 tournaments spanning from 1989 to 2016. During that time he won 3 events, finished runner up an impressive 9 times, had 3 third place finishes and a further 32 top tens. His most successful season on the European Tour was in 2000. Despite not managing to win, he had four runner up finishes and ended up 8th in the European Tour Order of Merit.
Price never made any great dent in the majors, playing in 18 with one top ten, though he did finish runner up in the 2000 WGC-Fed Ex St Jude Invitational. In late 2016 he transitioned onto the European Senior’s Tour and made an immediate impact. He finished runner up in his first tournament, T4th in his second and only had to wait until his fifth start for his first win. He won the Order of Merit in 2019 after capturing his second win. In his sixth start he finished T6th in the Senior Open Championship.
Price’s crowning glory will be his sole Ryder Cup in 2002 at the Belfry. He only played two matches, the first in a losing foursomes effort alongside Pierre Fulke against Phil Mickelson and David Toms, and in the singles he again took on Phil Mickelson, triumphing against the world’s number 2. It wasn’t quite the winning point, but it was an invaluable one.
4. Jamie Donaldson
Donaldson seems like a pretty awesome guy to be honest. Whenever I’ve seen him interviewed he’s happy, he’s smiling, he’s down to earth.
Jamie is currently the number 1 ranked Welsh golfer in the world – and by some margin too – at 194 in the world. It’s not a bad return for someone aged 45 as he still remains hugely competitive and last year recorded a runner up, T3rd and two T5th finishes on the European Tour.
In his career he has managed 8 professional victories; 3 on the European Tour, 3 on the Challenge Tour, 1 on the Asian Tour and a win in Mauritius. He also had some strong performances in other big events, chief among them his T2nd at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. But it is likely that his lasting legacy won’t be any of these performances but rather another bit of magic he produced.
In 2014, he reached a career best of 24th in the world and qualified to play in Paul McGinley’s Ryder Cup team in Gleneagles. Being a rookie, there were questions over whether he was capable and could withstand the pressure, especially since he was in a team that contained four of the world’s top 6 players. The answer quickly became clear.
He partnered Lee Westwood in both fourball matches, winning both. His only blemish came in the Saturday foursomes where he and Westwood fell to the might of Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan. Donaldson was put out 10th in the singles against Keegan Bradley, a match that Donaldson dominated 5&3.
The best part about it? The sumptuous wedge shot to a foot on the 15th that won the Ryder Cup for Europe followed by the celebration and look of a man who has just pulled off the best shot of his career.
3. Brian Huggett
We again take a step back into yesteryear to see our number 3, Brian Huggett. And just from his nickname alone, the Welsh Bulldog, you know he deserves to be on this list!
Huggett won a total of 34 professional events during his career. The first of these came in 1957 and his successes on the main tour would end in 1978. As we have seen with other players in other lists, Huggett’s wins on the European Tour were limited given it was only founded in 1972.
He would, however, have enjoy a successful stint on the European Seniors Tour where he won 10 times, leaving him fourth on the all-time list. One of these victories was the 1998 Senior British Open where he defeated Northern Ireland’s Eddie Polland in a playoff. In terms of regular majors, Huggett only ever played the Open Championship, bar one unsuccessful trip to Augusta in 1969. Out of a total of 20 major starts, he managed a T2nd and T3rd.
Huggett played on 6 Ryder Cup teams from 1963 to 1975 – only missing the ’65 edition – and was a non-playing captain in 1977. He recorded 12 points out of 25 games, a decent record especially considering how dominant Team USA were at the time. In 1973 he won 3.5 of his 4 points and on his debut in ’63, he won 2.5 points, more than any other play on the GB side at the time.
2. Dai Rees
Dai Rees is a legendary figure in Welsh golf. A player who found success on either side of World War 2, he won a total of 43 events. The first of these came aged 22, the last came aged 62.
He played in 30 Open Championships in a span of 40 years. No doubt this number would have been greater had it not being for the cancellation of the event for 6 years from 1939-1945 due to World War 2. In his 30 starts, he had seven top tens, including 3 runner up finishes where he fell short to some of the greatest players of the age; Ben Hogan, Peter Thomson and Arnold Palmer.
Rees played on nine Ryder Cup sides and was captain five times, four as a player and once as a non-playing captain. No doubt the highlight came in 1957 when Rees and his team triumphed 7½ - 4½ with Rees winning both of his matches, handing America what would be their only loss in the event from 1935 - 1983.
A great player with huge longevity, it’s amazing that he wasn’t the first Welsh golfer to win a major.
1. Ian Woosnam
Which brings us to number 1 and the man who is the only Welsh golfer to have ever won a major! Measuring in at a diminutive 5 feet 4½ inches, Woosnam perfectly illustrates the old adage, “it isn’t about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog”.
One of Europe’s most talented and successful players, Woosnam won 52 professional events during his career, 29 of which came on the European Tour. This record puts him in 6th on the all-time tour win list, sandwiched between Nick Faldo and Ernie Els.
He reached the world’s number one spot in April of 1991 and would hold it for almost a full year before relinquishing it to Fred Couples. His biggest triumph during this reign came a week after reach that top spot, when he claimed the 1991 Masters Tournament, finishing a single shot clear of José Maria Olazábal.
Woosnam made 8 appearances for Team Europe in the Ryder Cup as a player and 1 as a non-playing captain and was on the winning side 5 times and tied once. He recorded 16.5 points out of 31 matches and his best performance was in 1993 when he won a superb 4.5 points from 5 matches.
Ian Woosnam is one of Europe’s greatest and most distinct players of all time and without question the best Welsh golfer in history.
While we’re pretty confident there can be no arguments over the top spot, we are interested to hear your thoughts on who you think should be in the top 5. Get in touch on Facebook or Instagram!!!