World Golf Hall of Fame Profile: Neil Coles
Neil Coles championed the cause of European unity through golf for the past 29 years and continues to do so in unparalleled acts of dedication and service to his fellow professionals.
In recognition of his tireless effort, Coles was selected by the World Golf Foundation Board of Directors through the Lifetime Achievement category for his remarkable contributions to the international development of the game.
A leading pioneer in the inception of the European PGA Tour in 1971, Coles became its first chairman. He continues to hold that office which maintains the proud image professional golf gives to British sport throughout the world. "I wanted to see the European Tour develop into something better for the tournament players where everybody earned a good living," said Coles. "I think that ambition of the early days has now come to fruition and it has given me a great sense of pride and pleasure to see the thing grow."
The demands of administration have grown dramatically for the European Tour as it has grown to command ever-increasing international respect, and Coles has contributed tremendously to the success achieved with his dedicated involvement. "Neil has been the bedrock for the tour's development over all these years," said Ken Schofield, Executive Director of the European PGA Tour. "He sets the highest of examples for all and willingly continues to shoulder the responsibilities of Chairman of the European PGA Tour to ensure that golf remains a successful portrayal of European unity at work."
As a member of eight Ryder Cup teams between 1961 and 1977, Coles represented his country in 40 matches, second only to Hall of Famer Nick Faldo. He is among the visionaries who saw that this historic and prestigious event should be expanded to involve Continental professionals and so strengthen European unity in sport. The immense worldwide interest in the match is the result, and the benefits for golf have been widespread.
Now a champion on the burgeoning European Seniors Tour, Coles is extending a remarkable career that spanned 50 years as a professional and 45 tournament victories, including one in 2000. By winning the Jersey Seniors Open, Coles became the first player to win a tournament in six different decades.
Coles was the only member of the Class of 2000 who didn't attend the induction ceremony. He has not flown since 1963 and other means of transportation from his residence in Walton-on-Thames, England, were not available. His self-imposed limitation of not flying is the primary reason he did not win any major championships and never established himself as a household name outside of the European golf community. "I suppose I have missed a number of opportunities to play in the winter in Spain and to pop away for a week or two to play in the sun," said Coles. "I've missed opportunities to go to the States for big events. Being invited to team events such as the Chrysler Cup in Florida, which I missed, has probably been the one regret of my career."
Coles last visited the United States in 1971 to compete in the Ryder Cup at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis. "I had to leave quite early, 10 days or so before the event to catch the Queen Mary across the Atlantic. It was a lovely trip to come up the Hudson and see New York and then Jaguar gave me a car which I drove to St. Louis, and again I saw a lot of the country," remembers Coles.
Although he was absent when he and the Class of 2000 were feted at the induction ceremony, Coles was honored to join the elite names in golf history. "I was absolutely delighted to receive the invite to become a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame with such an illustrious group of people from golf. It is an honor that I shall remember and treasure always. When the seniors tour gives me up, maybe I will have time to go over and have a look at the Hall of Fame. I would like that."