Three of the world’s greatest golfers were honoured by Scotland’s oldest university yesterday on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship in St Andrews.
In an emotionally charged ceremony before a capacity audience of 1000 in Younger Hall, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington were awarded honorary Doctor of Law degrees by the University of St Andrews in recognition of their outstanding achievements and contributions to the sport of golf.
Also honoured were Jim Farmer, Honorary Professional to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and Johann Rupert, CEO of Richemont and long term supporter and sponsor of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The degrees were conferred by University Chancellor Sir Menzies Campbell.
Palmer (80), with seven majors one of the greatest golfers the game has ever seen, told the audience:
“I’m pleased to be here and thankful for the opportunity to see what I have seen today.
“Little did I think that in 1960 when I told my father and a friend I was coming to the Open and they said ‘really, are you ready?’ what might happen 50 years later.
“It is a thrill to be back here and a real honour to be recognised by the University of St Andrews. Walking down the street in St Andrews I feel like I’m at home. Thank you all.”
Tom Watson, a five-times Open winner, revealed that as a youngster he had idolised Arnold Palmer and that the “King” had been the inspiration for his legendary battles with fellow St Andrews graduate Jack Nicklaus.
Turning to Palmer in the Younger Hall, Watson said: “I want to tell you…The reason I beat Jack all those times was because he beat you too many times Arnold!”
“This is indeed an honour and I’m very humbled to be here in St Andrews. St Andrews University is one of the world’s greatest seats of learning. I am just a golfer and I stand here before my idol Arnold Palmer.
“To the people of St Andrews – your golf in Scotland has defined me and I am very very grateful.”
Double Open winner Padraig Harrington revealed he almost came to St Andrews to study as a student.
“To receive this award at St Andrews is very special. I always love coming to St Andrews and I very nearly came to university here in 1989, so I’ve come full circle to get an honorary doctorate.
“My dad would have been very proud.”
Jim Farmer, whose name is synonymous with golf in St Andrews and who has taught and mentored generations of amateur and professional golfers, said:
“This is a huge honour and one of the proudest days of my life to be honoured here in St Andrews.”
Johann Rupert, whose philanthropy has transformed hundreds of thousands of lives in South Africa, said he was delighted to be honoured by one of the world’s oldest universities.
“I love this place,” he said. “This is a very special honour and a very special day.”
University Principal Dr Louise Richardson said:
“The five men we have just honoured exemplify many of the qualities we try to impart to our students, though few of us have the talent for teaching daily demonstrated by Jim Farmer or have done as much as Johann Rupert to share the benefits of sport.
“Padraig Harrington’s discipline and hard work, Arnold Palmer’s gusto and determination, Tom Watson’s intensity and grace under pressure are all qualities that our students will need if they are to realise their ambitions.”
See also Graduation closing addressPublic interest stories