Nick Faldo's career from Welwyn Garden City to a Knighthood

GOLF writer Alan Booth looks back on the illustrious career of Sir Nick Faldo, WGC's favourite sporting son. NICK Faldo became only the second professional golfer in the game's history to be awarded a

GOLF writer Alan Booth looks back on the illustrious career of Sir Nick Faldo, WGC's favourite sporting son.

NICK Faldo became only the second professional golfer in the game's history to be awarded a Knighthood when he headed the list of sportsmen and women named in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

The award, which follows an MBE in 1998, is a fitting recognition of his golfing achievements, first in amateur and then professional events, which have seen him become Britain's all-time most successful golfer.

And it is a proud moment for Hertfordshire golf, for it was at club and county level that his game progressed to selection for English and British national events, and later as tournament professional to achieve the distinction of being World No 1.

It is singular that at the time his Knighthood was announced, the Hertfordshire Amateur Championship was taking place at Ashridge Golf Club.

For it was there in 1975 that Nick Faldo's career really took off after winning the county title.

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And it was at Ashridge where the first tournament player to be knighted was club professional for eight years from 1937, the late Sir Henry Cotton.

I first watched Nicholas Faldo play in the Porters Park Junior Open in 1974 - and pulled his golf trolley for a few holes - and became the first to write about him in the Welwyn & Hatfield Times.

He finished runner-up, as he had done a few days earlier at Moor Park, and downcast he said: "When am I going to win?"

He provided the answer the next year, first winning the Herts Boys, then in an outstanding display at Ashridge he beat defending champion Bob Durrant of Moor Park for the Hertfordshire Championship.

He went on to win the English Amateur Championship, the British Youths, South African Stroke Play, Berkshire Trophy, the Champion of Champions, Royston Junior, and Welwyn Garden City club championship all in the same year.

The Walker Cup team having previously been chosen, he turned professional.

His first tour event was the 1976 French Open at Le Touqet where he completed all four rounds.

Then he gained his first big success, winning the first of his four European PGA titles at Royal Birkdale in 1978.

I saw him play in France, in his US Masters debut in 1979, then in two of his three Masters wins, all three of his Open Championship titles, and many of his other triumphs, two of which stand out for me.

After a final round of 18 pars to win his first Open at Muirfield, his second Open title in 1990 was a dream come true - walking down the 18th fairway at St Andrews to the cheers of the packed grandstands, knowing that he had won the coveted title at the home of golf.

The third came again at Muirfield in 1992.

The other stunning victory came in 1996 at Augusta when he started the final day six strokes behind Greg Norman, shot a brilliant 67 and won his third Green Jacket by five strokes.

So his Knighthood is a deserved honour for the former all-round sporting youngster from Welwyn Garden City, a county swimmer and cyclist, who at the age of 14, decided golf was to be his game when on television he saw Jack Nicklaus winning the 1972 US Masters against the colourful backdrop of Augusta National.

Supported by his parents, George and Joyce, he became a junior member of Welwyn Garden City Golf club, and completely dedicated to the game.

He was rarely away from the practice ground, being coached by club professional the late Ian Connelly

That dedication has led to his six major titles, 29 European titles, European Golfer of the Year and US PGA's Player of the Year, as well as being the most successful Ryder Cup player in appearances and performances, and finally Ryder Cup captain last year.

Not forgetting he tied for first place in the US Open, losing the 18 holes play-off to American Curtis Strange in 1988.

In recent years he has also been keen to support junior golf, setting up coaching centres and launching the Faldo Series tournament competition.

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