History Made at St. Andrews

For the first time in its lengthy history, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has appointed a captain from Continental Europe. Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris in 1957, Pierre Bechmann will serve as the captain for 2012-13.

A lawyer and member of the Paris Bar, Bechmann has been president of his home club, Golf de Chantilly, since 2010. He is a former member of the R&A's General Committee and served on the Championship and Rules of Golf committees as well as the R&A Coaching Panel. In 2008-09, he was captain of Royal St. George's Golf Club.

Bechmann will now represent the R&A and support its work in developing golf around the world. He will attend the association's professional and amateur championships and serve as ambassador for the club.

Bechmann has been particularly active in amateur golf in France, sitting on the Executive Committee of the French Golf Federation and the Championship Committee of the European Golf Association.

To the traditional accompaniment of a cannon firing to herald his captaincy and in front of several hundred onlookers, Bechmann hit a long drive down the middle of the first fairway about 30 yards short of the Swilcan Burn.

After hitting the tee shot, a relieved Bechmann said: "It is a daunting prospect teeing off in front of such a large gallery but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I am greatly looking forward to my year in office and hope I can contribute to the important work the R&A does for golf around the world. I have been heavily involved in supporting the development of talented young players and I look forward to continuing that work in my new role."

In the past, the club captaincy was bestowed to the winner of the annual Challenge for the Silver Club. But in the early 19th century, the captaincy became an elected office.

Another part of tradition is that a gold sovereign is paid by the new captain to buy his golf ball back from the caddie who successfully retrieves and returns it. This year's recipient of the sovereign was Scott Bechelli. The 44-year-old from St. Andrews said after bringing the ball back, "I have been caddying here since I was 13 years old and this is a real honor for me. My brother received the sovereign in 2008 so it's nice to follow him."