Legendary French Golfers
Many amateur golfers dream of making a living from the game. In order to obtain a professional card and join the national tour, a player must first play in a qualifying tournament organised annually by the Fédération Française de Golf (FFG). Many are called, but few are chosen! The ultimate goal, of course, is the international tour. Furthermore, the national professional rankings are based on the amount won at tournaments.
A brief look at some French golfers who have left their mark on the history of the game
Born July 6, 1877 in Biarritz – died April 16, 1950 in Etretat.
A pioneer of golf in France, Arnaud Massy was – and still is – considered by his peers to be the greatest French golfer of all time. His career only really began in 1906 when he won the first International Omnium de France championship. He won it again three more times, in 1907, 1911, and 1925. He was the first non-British European to win the British Open, in 1907, and to this day remains the only Frenchman to have won it. He also won the Belgian Open in 1910, the Spanish Open in 1912, and in 1913 contributed to the French victory in the first Franco-American match. After World War One and his years of glory, Massy had trouble finding a home club. In the early 1930s, he retired to Morocco. Later he fell ill and returned to France, and died a few weeks later at Etretat on April 16, 1950.
Born October 2, 1934 in Ciboure.
The best European golfer of 1969 and 1970, Jean Garaïalde had played his first professional tournament in 1950 at the age of sixteen. The very next year he won his first professional title, the Omnium at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and played in the golf World Cup for the first time in 1954, in Montreal. He participated in the World Cup twenty-five times during his career. In 1957, Garaïalde won the first of the 17 Omnium de France titles he would eventually claim. However, it was not until several years after winning his first Omnium title that his talent was suddenly recognised internationally. He won the first of his 12 career French Professional Championships in 1968, and then in 1969 he won the French, German, Spanish, Swedish and Moroccan Opens. The next year, Garaïalde again won the opens in Sweden and Germany, finishing the year 1970 ranked sixth worldwide. In 1987, at the age of 53, thirty-one years after his first victory, he won his final Omnium de France. The end of his career was marked by one last major international win in Switzerland, at the 1992 Léman Seniors Open.
Jean Van de Velde
Born May 29, 1966 in Mont-de-Marsan.
Jean Van de Velde won the French amateur championship in 1986 and launched his professional career the following year. He won his first tournament on the European tour in Rome in 1993, and triumphed at the French professional championship in 1998. The next year, Van de Velde attracted worldwide media attention at the 1999 British Open. Having emerged from the qualifying rounds, he won second place after having dominated the board until reaching the final hole. Thanks to this excellence performance, he won his first Ryder Cup selection that year, becoming the first French player to make the team. Following a few years plagued by injury, Van de Velde again scored a win on the European tour at the Madeira Open. Today, the former No. 1 French golfer is an ambassador for the French candidacy to host the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Born on the January 16, 1979 at Châteauroux.
Karine Icher began her professional career on the European tour in 2001. In her very first year she won two tournaments, the Palmerston Ladies German Open and the Mexx Sport Open. She swiftly confirmed her talent in 2002 by winning the Spanish Open and the Solheim Cup (with the European team), followed by the Catalonia Ladies Masters twice, in 2004 and 2005. In 2005, Icher left the European tour in order to the join the LPGA tour in the U.S., where she was ranked among the top thirty players by the end of the year. Now based in Orlando, Florida, Icher lives in the U.S. full time. She is currently the leading French female golfer.
Born April 25, 1982 in Bordeaux.
The current No. 1 player in France, Grégory Bundy, turned professional in 2003 and joined the European tour during his second year as a pro in 2004. In 2006, he played his first international tournament, the WGC American Express Championship. Bundy’s breakthrough came in 2007, when he first played in the HSBC Champions event as well as at the British Open, ending that season with his first victory on the European tour at the Mallorca Classic. He was ranked 39th in Europe. Bundy confirmed his potential the following year by participating in the HSBC Champions event a second time and also by winning the Portuguese Open. In 2009 he won the UBS Hong Kong Open, and in 2010 placed sixth in the French Open.