The great and the good of the golfing world were in attendance for the Players’ Awards Dinner at Sofitel Heathrow tonight as The European Tour celebrated another stellar year ahead of its flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, being held this week at Wentworth Club.
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, welcomed guests from around the globe including stars such as Luke Donald – whose outstanding season last year included ascension to the World Number One berth and the capture of the Race to Dubai trophy – and the three European Tour Major Champions of 2011, Charl Schwartzel (Masters Tournament), Rory McIlroy (US Open Championship), and Darren Clarke (The Open Championship), for an evening of black-tie glitz and glamour.
O’Grady said: “Well they said the 2010 was the greatest season The European Tour has ever had from a playing view, now 2011 wasn’t a bad year either! When you think of the three Majors of Schwartzel, McIlroy, Clarke in that wonderful performance at The Open Championship, and then of course Luke Donald’s achievements, I hardly think you can get much better.
The evening began with Italian prodigy Matteo Manassero presenting England’s Tom Lewis with the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.
Lewis, 21, stormed onto the golfing radar by winning the Silver Medal in The Open Championship at Royal St George’s – after leading following the first round – before securing his maiden European Tour title with a stunning performance at the Portugal Masters in what was only his third start as a professional.
“I didn’t expect it to be as heavy as it was, it’s a big trophy!” said Lewis. “It’s really special, I didn’t realise the night was as big as it was and it’s just amazing to be here.
Luke Donald, of course, scooped the biggest haul of the night, though, in recognition of a magnificent and prolifically successful 2011 season, as Germany’s Martin Kaymer awarded his Ryder Cup team mate with the Harry Vardon Trophy as the 2011 European Number One, the Golfer of the Year Award, and the Players’ Player Award as voted for by Donald’s contemporaries.