World Golf

Golf’s original “European Invasion” happened long ago

Photo by Colorsport/Imago/Icon Sportswire

Tony Jacklin was the first true Trans-Atlantic player from Europe to try his hand on both tours after his win in the Open in 1969 was followed the next year by a win in the US Open at Hazeltine. Two years earlier he had become the first European victor on the PGA Tour in over 40 years when he won the Jacksonville Open Invitational.

The late 1970s saw the arrival of the mercurial Seve Ballesteros who announced himself to the world at the 1976 Open when he finished second to Johnny Miller. He went on to win three Opens, two Masters and attracted fans from around the globe with his swash-buckling style and incredible powers of recovery play.

It was the combination of Jacklin’s captaincy and Ballesteros’ leadership that saw the rise of the European team in the Ryder Cup and after a narrow loss at the 1983 event at Palm Beach, would remain undefeated for the rest of the decade.

This opened the door for many of the team to compete regularly on the PGA Tour in spite of some misgivings from the home players about opening their events to visitors from across the Atlantic. South African and Australian players such as Gary Player, David Graham and Greg Norman had been competing and winning for several years, but the thought of Europeans joining in the success was a little too much for some to bear.

But they came all the same and after the original 1960s musical invasion of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the next wave of foreigners arrived bringing with them their own brand of mannerisms and play.

German Bernard Langer won the Masters in 1985 and 1993 and became the World’s first official No.1 player in 1986. He has also gone on to dominate the Senior tour winning seven of their majors. Brits Nick Faldo (three Opens and three Masters) and Sandy Lyle (one of each) came with him and they were followed in later years by the like of Ian Woosnam, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie.

As the golf world becomes smaller in terms of players and tours going everywhere around the globe, the distinction between the continents becomes less every year. And the next wave of young European talent is barging its way into the World Top 50 hoping to follow in the footsteps of those who blazed the trail all those years ago.

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