Rolex Extends its Support to Golfers to Maintain the Tradition and Standard of the Sport
It was June 18 in 1960, American golfer Arnold Palmer was tied for 15th position after three rounds in the US Open, trailing seven shots behind then-leader Mike Souchak. The odds were heavily stacked against him but Palmer’s brilliance on the green eventually shone through: hitting six birdies in the first seven holes to card 30 on the front nine, he parred the last four holes to close on a 35 on the back nine. That exceptional performance at the Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado, earned him his first—and only—US Open title.
Like Palmer’s remarkable last-day performance at the 1960 US Open suggests, golf is an intriguing game filled with strokes of brilliance, epic meltdowns and, of course, dramatic finishes. And such memorable moments are not restricted to big international tournaments; they occur all around the world, regularly across every level of the game, from junior and amateur ranks to the professional circuit.
The need to maintain the traditions and standards of golf everywhere is why Rolex has been supporting the game and its development, as well as exceptional golfers worldwide for more than five decades. The Swiss brand’s long-standing support of golf began in 1967 with Palmer, American Jack Nicklaus and South African Gary Player, quite possibly the most talented golfing trio on the tour back then. Widely known as The Big Three, they became the first Rolex Testimonees—a label bestowed upon personalities the brand has a close working partnership with—in golf.
For the next two decades, the trio challenged one another on the green, dominated the scene and in a way, changed the face of golf. With their constant and tireless pursuit of perfecting their play, they became global ambassadors of the game, introducing the sport to the younger generation. In their long careers, Palmer secured seven major championships, Player took home nine major wins, while Nicklaus’ record of 18 remains unsurpassed till today.
Despite the fierce rivalry among The Big Three, their relationship was one built on mutual respect and admiration. “We wanted to win so badly,” Player famously once said. “But at the same time, when one of us won, the other two would put out their hand and say ‘Well done, you beat me today, but I’ll get you tomorrow.’”
Such is the competitive yet gentlemanly sporting values that Rolex would like to encourage among golfers in the wider community.
Over the years, the watchmaker continued to partner with more professionals and talents whose achievements have placed them in the highest echelons of the game. Like The Big Three before them, these players share a common ambition to be the best in the game. Major winners Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods from the US, Adam Scott from Australia, and Swede Annika Sörenstam, one of the greatest women’s golfers of all time, are just some of the notable names closely associated with Rolex.
In the Eighties, to level the playing field and make golf more accessible to all, Rolex extended its network of support. It started working with prestigious tournaments such as The Open in the UK and the US Open; and governing bodies the likes of The R&A—the organiser of The Open—USGA and Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), as well as the American Junior Golf Association.
(Related: Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Allows Industry Veterans To Pay It Forward)
That Rolex started supporting the LPGA in 1980 shows that the Swiss watchmaker’s backing of golfing talent is sincere and inclusive, never mind the women’s game was a much smaller entity—in terms of talent, potential and reach—as compared to today. One to benefit from Rolex’s support is Sörenstam. The former professional golfer won 90 international tournaments before calling it a day in 2008 with 10 majors under her belt. “Women’s golf has always been a second thought in a lot of companies’ minds but not in Rolex’s,” she said. “It has been there from the beginning and supported the game at different levels.”
Today, the Genevan watchmaker counts top women’s golfers such as Canadian Brooke Henderson, Korean-born New Zealander Lydia Ko and American Lexi Thompson as part of its Rolex Testimonee family. It also continues to back the LPGA, serving as the official timekeeper at all five women’s major championships.
Besides its strong support for elite male and female athletes of the modern game, Rolex has also cast its eye on developing the next generation. Collectively called the Rolex New Guard, these prodigious talents are at a nascent stage of their professional careers and are looking to emulate the achievements of the legends. The current crop comprises those born in the 1990s, who have just made their professional debuts in recent years. It is imperative that they continue to receive support in order to scale greater heights. American Cameron Champ, already a two-PGA Tour winner, and Chilean Joaquín Niemann form part of this group, along with Mexico’s Maria Fassi, who has been making headlines on the women’s circuit.
(Related: What I Learnt From The Rolex Perpetual Planet Campaign)
Many of these up-and-coming talents would go on to join the bigger Rolex Testimonee family later on in their careers. Recent former members of the New Guard include Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Henderson and Ko, all of whom have gone on to achieve more major honours in the game. It is all thanks to Rolex’s support to ensure a continuity in the proverbial talent production line.
Since Rolex invented the first waterproof wristwatch in the world in 1926, the brand has been on a relentless pursuit of superior performance for its watches, while respecting the traditions and craftsmanship of watchmaking. Its commitment to achieving a high level of horological accuracy and precision represents a philosophy that has translated to its support for golf. Only then will golf’s traditions and values, as well as the expertise and knowledge of the game continue for generations to come.