Bob Charles Receives New Zealand's Highest Honor

Quiet, unassuming Bob Charles didn't have an intimidating presence on golf's biggest stages. But all the lanky, left-hander from New Zealand did was win, racking up 66 victories - including the 1963 British Open - in professional tournaments around the world during a Hall of Fame career.

On December 29, the 74-year-old received his country's highest honor - membership in the Order of New Zealand, an accolade restricted to 20 living New Zealanders.

Charles ended up tied in regulation with American Phil Rodgers in the British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, and won in a 36-hole playoff, becoming the first left-handed player to nab golf's oldest major title. He also accumulated six wins on the PGA Tour, but didn't stop there. After turning 50, Charles won two British Senior Opens, 23 Champions Tour titles and 10 other over-50 tournaments.

For much of his career Charles donated 1 percent of his income to New Zealand golf through the Bob Charles Scholarships, awarded annually to promising junior golfers.

In 1999 Charles was knighted for his services to golf and inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008 in the Veteran's Category.

After accepting the award, Charles was typically humble. "I'm proud, humble and thankful," he said. "Proud to be recognized by New Zealand for my achievements and contributions to New Zealand golf, humble to be joining such an illustrious group of New Zealanders and thankful for the opportunity golf has given me."

In November, Sir Bob was the first person inducted into New Zealand's golf Hall of Fame. He celebrated the event by shooting a 69, five strokes less than his age, at Heretaunga in New Zealand Golf's centenary tournament.