Hopeful hickory golf competitors track a ball in the air.

The LinkedGolfers World Hickory Open Championship delivers a compelling mix of new world and old school.

It is with great pleasure for me to officially announce that LinkedGolfers, a top-ranked golf community (with more than 50,000 members on LinkedIn alone) and a growing force in golf- and travel-related media, events, and special-interest networking, has joined forces with the Scotland-based World Hickory Open Championship, widely considered the most prestigious international championship for tens of thousands of hickory golfers who compete worldwide.

As part of the collaboration, LinkedGolfers will be recognized as the first-ever Title Sponsor of the World Hickory Open Championship (est. 2005). Scheduled for play between Oct. 10-14 at Panmure Golf Club in Scotland’s historic Carnoustie Country, the 2016 LinkedGolfers World Hickory Open Championship will immediately follow the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which is played nearby over three courses: the Old Course St Andrews, Kingsbarns, and Panmure’s direct neighbor Carnoustie.

Two-time Major winner, World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee, and 2014 World Hickory Open Champion Sandy Lyle will lead a growing list of professionals and amateurs competing for the rights to the world’s top hickory title. My hat’s off to Sandy Lyle and others of his ilk who have elected to compete in this hallmark event.


Co-Founder and Winner

World Hickory Open Championship Co-Founder Lionel Freedman with two-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee Sandy Lyle on the first day of the 2014 competition at Panmure Golf Club in Carnoustie Country, Scotland. Copyright Andy Thompson Photography / ATIMAGES


Taking the time to support the game and its heritage, and to test their own skills against the most accomplished of tens of thousands of amateur golfers–some of whom have used nothing but hickory clubs for years–demonstrates a passion for the game and a competitive spirit that extends well beyond appearances, autographs, and paychecks.


“I’m really excited to be returning to the World Hickory Open,” said Lyle, who clinched the 2014 title when the tournament was last held at Panmure, which is one of several highly rated links courses in Carnoustie Country. “I was a relative hickory novice when I first played in this tournament two years ago but I’ve now been playing with hickories for almost five years so I’m looking forward to testing my hickory skills across Panmure’s historic fairways and greens once again.”


Sandy Lyle, in truth, is an outstanding hickory player. If the best of today’s modern tour players decided to take over the full field, I’d put my money on Lyle, who may himself actually play better with hickories in competition.


Sandy will be joined at Panmure by several other previous winners, including hickory specialist Paolo Quirici from Switzerland; Rick Valentine, Director of Golf at Loretto School Golf Academy; and last year’s winner, Norfolk-based golf professional Andrew Marshall. “There are several other golf professionals, hickory experts and low handicap golfers who can’t be ruled out of becoming the overall champion,” stressed Lionel Freedman, co-founder and chair of the World Hickory Open.

Sandy Lyle, in truth, is an outstanding hickory player. If the best of today’s modern tour players decided to take over the full field, I’d put my money on Lyle, who may himself actually play better with hickories in competition.

I dare any current PGA Tour player who feels they are at the apex of their game today to try to knock Lyle off his throne. By my estimation, not only would any players who accept that dare likely lose to Lyle, they might not even crack the top 10.


A Festival for Everyone

The 2016 LinkedGolfers World Hickory Open Championship is a week-long event comprising three tournament formats (a team three-ball, two-day individual, and international “triangular”), divisions for professionals and amateurs, men and women, and a Best Overall category that gives amateurs a shot at the pros.

Thankfully, in addition to the trophy for the overall winner of the World Hickory Open, amateurs have a top award of their own–the Archie Baird Trophy. “The past winners of this trophy – Rymer Smith from Buckinghamshire Golf Club and Cliff Martin of Bel Air Golf Club in Los Angeles – will both be competing in this year’s World Hickory Open, along with many other excellent amateurs,” added Freedman. “As in previous years, the Archie Baird Trophy will be as hotly contested as the overall title.”


World Hickory Open Lineup


Fierce rivalries are the motivation for many top competitors, but for plenty of new or improving hickory players, competition is more casual–but no less profound. The World Hickory Open is a fully immersive experience that takes place on Scotland’s most historic courses, using the same clubs employed by the legends of the game, and with a full field of competitors that dress the part–flat caps, plus fours, sweater vests–the whole picture.

Whether a participant aims to lift the trophy that represents hickory’s highest honor, or merely seeks a seat around the dinner table at the storied “Home of Golf,” everyone will have the chance to test their skills against their peers, against contemporary pros, and against the scorecards of past legends who were among the first to shape the game of golf we play today.

Even non-golfing guests of competitors often find themselves immersed in this unique event, which not only comes with all the drama of serious competition but is also something of a living museum crisscrossing lands that have remained virtually unchanged for centuries.

Few opportunities exist where the soul of the game is more palpable.

Pivotal Years

Started in 2005, when a small field of some 30 players assembled for a friendly competition on the historic Old Course at Musselburgh, the World Hickory Open Championship today enjoys a reputation among the international community as the ultimate test for the world’s best hickory players. The annual tournament attracts a full field of competitors from more than 20 countries, quickly growing media representation, and a different kind of competition–between sponsors.

Lionel revealed that entries to this year’s tournament have been flooding in from all over the world, including the UK, the USA, Scandinavia, Asia and Europe, as well as the winners of a hickory golf competition in Dubai. “We’re fully expecting to reach our limit of 120 competitors,” he said,

International broadcast companies, sponsors, and others have felt the unique majesty of the event, too. The number of proposals expressing interest in developing a live broadcast event, a TV series, and even an annual point-producing tour stop, is clearly on the rise.

Back to the Future

Its popularity can largely be attributed to the tireless efforts of Freedman, a longtime amateur player and golf history aficionado who not only participated during the first event at Musselburgh but who also has shared the stage with some of golf’s true legends (Henry Cotton being just one).  Lionel’s passion and careful regard for the game earned him the support of hickory associations across the globe.

By tightly associating LinkedGolfers with the well-respected World Hickory Open Championship, I believe both LinkedGolfers and the World Hickory Open Championship are together taking an important step to ensure that the largest possible international community will have every opportunity to learn more about the ethics, pleasures, and people tied to the roots of the game we cherish today.

A title sponsorship is more than just a line-item; it’s the ultimate endorsement. It’s an honor to be centrally associated with an event of this caliber.







Sean T. Kelly
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