The era of Canadian captaincy at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has officially begun.
On Friday the traditional driving-in ceremony for the new Captain took place on the first tee at the Old Course, officially starting the reign of Bruce Mitchell of Toronto.
Mitchell is the first Canadian to be the Captain of the club that dates back to 1754. While serving that role with the club he will also act as an ambassador for the R&A, providing support for the growth of golf efforts around the world for the next year.
Mitchell hit his opening tee shot to begin his captaincy at 8 a.m. in front of a crowd of former captains and many onlookers.
“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,” said Mitchell who 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.
“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.”
Mitchell, is a member of the Toronto Golf Club, where he served as President in 1996 and 1997. He is also a past club champion at Windermere Golf and Country Club. He became a member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1988 and currently plays to a handicap of 14.
The 71 year-old is a graduate of both Queen’s University (BSc engineering) and Harvard University (MBA) and has served on various Boards of Directors. He is currently Vice-Chair of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, on the Board of St Michael’s Hospital Foundation and a Trustee of the Ridley College Foundation.
In the past, the Club Captaincy at the R&A 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 “driving-in” 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. “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.”