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Those she knighted and how different the golf world was when Elizabeth became Queen

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Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning British monarch, died peacefully at her summer home, Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on Thursday. She was 96.

From her accession to the throne at age 25 until her death Thursday, The Queen was a part of the golf world, even though she was not a golfer herself.

“Following her accession in 1952, Her late Majesty graciously accepted the Patronage of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, as has been the custom of reigning Monarchs since HM King William IV in 1834,” The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews said in a tribute statement.

The sport of golf looked very different when Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor began her reign.

From 1949, when she was still a princess, to 1954, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan dominated the post-World War II men’s golf scene. Meanwhile, 13 women co-founded the LPGA in 1950; the tour replaced the Women’s Professional Golf Association. The legendary Frances Ouimet became the first American Captain at The R&A a year before Elizabeth succeeded her late father. The U.S. Open wasn’t nationally televised for the first time until 1954, two years after her crowning.

Golf world mourns death of Queen Elizabeth

The golf world mourned the loss of Britain's longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, at age 96.

The late Arnold Palmer, who died in September 2016, didn’t earn his first professional victory until 1955 at the Canadian Open, during his rookie season. Three years later, in 1958, Amen Corner was born as Palmer won the Masters for the first time; Sports Illustrated golf writer Herbert Warren Wind came up with the term for the famous stretch of holes – Nos. 11, 12 and 13 at Augusta National – that year.

Since then, the golf world has undergone a seemingly constant and rapid evolution in the face of the technological boom of the late 20th and early 21st centuries – graphite shafts didn’t even come on the scene until the 1970s.

Queen Elizabeth reigned from the time of Snead, Palmer and Nicklaus to the Tiger Woods glory years, and even through the golf revolution of present day.

The knights and dame of golf

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During her reign, The Queen awarded four knighthoods to notable players.

A knighthood is awarded to notable citizens who have made considerable achievements – in this case, expanding beyond civilian and military wartime behavior. They are inducted into the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The reigning monarch is the sovereign of the Order and oversees all appointments with counsel and recommendations from her government.

Those knighted during Elizabeth II’s reign were:  

  • Sir Henry Cotton (1988): Considered the leading British player of his generation, Cotton won The Open in 1934, '37 and '48. Cotton accepted the knighthood before his death in 1987, and it was made effective from the date of his death, despite being formally awarded at the New Year Honors 1988.
  • Sir Bob Charles (1999): The first lefty to win a golf major, the 1963 Open, the New Zealander won more than 70 worldwide titles and beat his age twice as a 71-year-old. He is now 86.
  • Sir Nick Faldo (2009): The former world No. 1 won six majors, including three Open Championships. Following his retirement, Faldo was a golf analyst for multiple networks, including Golf Channel, until he retired from the booth at the conclusion of the 2022 PGA Tour regular season.
  • Dame Laura Davies (2014): Davies is considered Britain’s most accomplished female player and is still active on the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour, which she joined in 1988 and 1985, respectively. She was the first golfer, male or female, to win tournaments on five continents in one year. She owns four major titles.

A new patron ascends the throne

The Queen’s son, Charles, will henceforth be known as King Charles III as he assumes the mantle that he has trained for his entire life, becoming the oldest king in British history at 73.

As has been customary for the reigning monarch since 1834, Charles is expected to become the next patron of The R&A. The eldest of four children born to Queen Elizabeth and her late husband, Prince Philip, Charles is reported to be an occasional participant in the game.