Old Course welcomes new captain

New R&A captain Bruce Mitchell, left, presents a Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin to caddie Oliver Mennie (picture by the R&A).
New R&A captain Bruce Mitchell, left, presents a Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin to caddie Oliver Mennie (picture by the R&A).

The traditional driving-in ceremony for the new captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews took place today (Friday) on the first tee of the Old Course.

Bruce Mitchell started his year in office with a drive at precisely 8am, as a cannon fired alongside the tee.

A large crowd, including past captains of the club gathered to watch the ceremony.

In addition, Mr Mitchell will also serve in an ambassadorial role for the R&A to support its work in developing golf around the world.

The first Canadian to be made captain he will attend R&A championships in the professional and amateur game.

After hitting his tee shot, Mr Mitchell said: “I felt huge excitement and a lot of nerves as I addressed the ball but, as the cannon went off and I saw the ball go airborne, I felt a huge relief.

“It’s a massive honour for me to become captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, as it is such a prestigious role. I look forward to representing the club in the year ahead.”

A renowned businessman, now based in Toronto, Mr Mitchell is the founder, owner and president of Permian Industries, a management and holding company, with sole or significant shareholdings in two food companies and two computer software providers.

He has also been a major shareholder of companies in the automotive parts, oil and gas, advertising and water purification industries.

Mr Mitchell has served on the board of directors of the Bank of Montreal and a number of other public company, private corporation and not-for-profit Boards. He is currently vice-chairman of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, on the board of St Michael’s Hospital Foundation and a trustee of the Ridley College Foundation.

A member of he Toronto Golf Club where he served as president in 1996-97, Mr Mitchell is a past club champion of Windermere Golf and Country Club where he was a trustee and then co-chairman in 2007-08. He became a member of the R&A in 1988 and, in 2001 ,won both the Queen Victoria Jubilee Vase and The Royal Sydney Plate (match play knockout competitions played during the club’s Autumn Meeting). He currently plays to a handicap of 14.

Born and raised in western Canada, Mr Mitchell graduated from Queen’s University (BSc engineering) and Harvard University (MBA). Aged 71, he lives in Toronto with his wife, Vladka. He has four children and eight grandchildren. An avid skier, he and his wife enjoy adventure travel and biking trips.

In the past, the club captaincy was bestowed on the winner of the annual Challenge for the Silver Club but, by the early 19th century, the captaincy had become an elected office.

Part of the tradition is that the new captain buys his golf ball back from the caddie, who retrieves and returns it. Mr Mitchell elected to buy his golf ball back with a Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin.

Oliver Mennie, in his third season as a caddie on the links, returned the captain’s ball after attending the driving-in ceremony for the very first time.

He said: “It was difficult to see the ball because of the sun, so when the captain teed off, no one really knew where it was going.

“I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time when it landed. I got on my knees and slid in for the ball. It’s my first year attending the driving-in ceremony, so it’s a case of first time lucky too.”

New R&A captain Bruce Mitchell presents a Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin to caddie Oliver Mennie.