By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 25/09/20 12:57pm
Four Open champions have been made honorary members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
Two-time champions Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els have accepted the invitations along with 1994 winner Nick Price and 2009 Women’s Open champion Catriona Matthew.
The Scot led Europe to a memorable victory at the Solheim Cup last year and insisted the achievement topped her Open triumph at Royal Lytham, where she claimed a three-shot win just 11 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter.
Matthew, 51, enjoyed 11 professional victories worldwide and also made nine playing appearances in the Solheim Cup, with three wins, and she joins the likes of Dame Laura Davies and Annika Sorenstam as women members of the R&A.
“I am absolutely thrilled,” Matthew said. “I feel very privileged to be joining such an illustrious group of Honorary Members who are such renowned figures in the game of golf.
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“I was fortunate enough to be one of the first recipients of an R&A Scholarship at the University of Stirling and it gave me some fantastic opportunities to develop my career as a young golfer.
“The Club and The R&A do so much to grow the game and I’m hugely supportive of the work they are doing to support women’s golf and particularly the AIG Women’s Open.”
Harrington snatched his maiden major title after a play-off against Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie in 2007 and successfully defended the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale before again getting the better of Garcia at the PGA Championship the following month.
The three majors are among 31 professional wins for the current European Ryder Cup captain, and he said: “I have had a long association with The R&A and was fortunate enough to crown my career by winning The Open in 2007 and 2008, a dream for any golfer, shortly before becoming an ambassador for The R&A.
“So now becoming an Honorary Member brings the relationship full circle. As an ambassador, I have witnessed The R&A working tirelessly behind the scenes all over the world, performing a wonderful role in the promotion and development of the game.
“Golf is a huge part of my life and I live by its traditions, rules and etiquette, so I am very proud to become a member of this esteemed club and flattered to join the other illustrious names on the list.”
Els was already a two-time US Open champion before winning The Open in 2002 and unexpectedly adding a second 10 years later, the South African also racking up 73 career victories around all parts of the globe.
“This is a great honour and I’m very grateful to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” said Els. “My whole career I have always had the utmost respect for everything The R&A does, administering the rules and doing an incredible job supporting and promoting golf at every level around the world.
“The R&A runs some of our greatest championships, including The Open, and I’m proud to have been able to play a part in its celebrated history. To be given Honorary Membership is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
Price, like Els, is also a former world No 1 and was in a class of his own in 1994, winning six titles including the Open at Turnberry and his second PGA Championship title a month later.
“Playing in The Open each year was a week I always looked forward to and particularly a week at St Andrews,” said Price. “Winning The Open was a highlight of my career and I will always savour the year that I held the Claret Jug.
“I am delighted and extremely grateful to accept this invitation to become an Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. I feel very fortunate to be joining so many other Honorary Members who I have respected and admired throughout my career.”