Lionel Freedman, World Hickory Open Founder, 1934-2017

Lionel Freedman near the clubhouse for Musselburgh Old Course.

Lionel Freedman, Founder of the World Hickory Open, passed away earlier today, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. He was 83.

Mr. Freedman was born in Chiswick, London in 1934. He attended boarding school from 1940–51 and was in National Service from 1952-54. His basic training was in the Suffolks, where he was attached to the 17th Training Regiment of the Royal Artillery, with the rank of Sergeant. He entered the London Stock Exchange in 1954 and became a Member in 1961. He retired in 1970, but remained active with several business endeavors.

He retired to Scotland in 1995 and was divorced 1997. He remarried in 1998 to Beth Lady. “An article in the Scotsman described me as marrying a ‘Musselburgh Lass’. We have between us two sons, two daughters and seven grandchildren,” he said in a 2011 interview.

Mr. Freedman was a top amateur in the U.K. for many years, holding his own with well known British professionals and other amateurs.

“I had a wonderful match with Henry Cotton, whom I lost to in the 1961 Gleneagles-Saxone at the last in a scratch foursomes knock out,” he recalled. “And a singles match against Bobby Locke where I was beaten 3/2. I also took lessons from Richard Burton, the last winner of The Open before the war (1939). I have great memories as well of Syd Scott who was runner up to Peter Thomson in the 1954 Open and the 1955 Ryder Cup.”

Lionel Freedman, left, with Archie Baird at a dinner in Scotland several years ago.

In recent years, he played out of golf clubs in London, Surrey, and Berkshire-Wimbledon Park, Roehampton, Henley, Coombe Hill, St Georges Hill, and Wentworth where he resided with his wife on the 15th hole of the West course.

Mr. Freedman was Captain of both The Musselburgh and Musselburgh Old Course. He was Musselburgh Old Course Secretary and Treasurer in 1999-2005 and is considered to be “the man who revived the Old Links.” (Stories in the very first two Wee Nips of the Society of Hickory Golfers (SoHG) recount his efforts on behalf of Musselburgh Old.)

He was a member of the British Golf Collectors Society and served as an international liaison with the SoHG. He helped coordinate such international matches as an American hickory golf team that plays in a triangular match with a World Team and the BGCS, as well as the International Hickory Cup of the SoHG.

A poster for the 2012 World Hickory Open.

He founded the World Hickory Open in 2005 and was a member of Craigielaw Golf Club in Aberlady, East Lothian. He was Captain of the club in 2007-09.

“I have played only once in the WHO,” he said in 2015. “I find it difficult to play when running an event. I also try the annual match between England and Scotland and have played for both sides.”

Mr. Freedman also served as the honorary starter for the inaugural World Hickory Match Play, held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in 2014.

Mr. Freedman said that his favorite hickory weapon was an old baffy. He also treasured the international community that has been created through hickory golf. “I love the people you meet and the playing of hickories that brings back our many traditional courses built in the late 19th century and through to the Second World War,” he said. “Hickories allow us to play these courses in the way they were set up and meant to be played.”

In September 2011, Mr. Freedman created a monthly online magazine called World Hickory Golfer (www.worldhickorygolfer. com). Though production was halted after December 2011, it was a wonderful compilation of essays and photographs exploring hickory golf around the world. Those early editions can still be found at www.worldhickorygolfer.com.

In 2015 he was presented with the SoHG’s Mike Brown Award, annually given to an SoHG member who exemplifies respect for the traditions of hickory golf, dedication to growing the sport, and a passion for promoting lasting friendships through the sport and golf collecting. “I am humbled to be added to the list [of award winners],” Mr. Freedman said in November 2015.

Lionel and Beth Freedman with the trophy they created for the SoHG International Hickory Cup.

Never one to stand entrenched in tradition alone, Mr. Freedman supported makers of modern hickory golf club replicas. In his 2015 interview he noted that such companies “are an important ingredient to the continued growth of the hickory game and deserve to fit well with the enthusiast who prepares and restores the older clubs. All of these parties are essential ingredients for the continued growth of hickory golf and while I am involved with the World Hickory Open, I will embrace them all.”

Mr. Freedman was very pleased that the World Hickory Open continued to grow and attract new players, especially such as the recent Champion, Sandy Lyle, a former Masters Champion. More than 100 players turned out for the 2015 championship held in Carnoustie.

Lionel Freedman with Randy Jensen, center, and Perry Somers at the Grand Match, staged in October 2012.

When not promoting hickory golf, or serving as an honorary starter for prestigious hickory outings, Mr. Freedman enjoyed time with his family and any of several books from his large library.

Note: We shall add further information as to the Freedman family’s wishes when that information is available.

(See the Wee Nip archives on the SoHG website for Autumn 2011 and Autumn 2015, for full stories on Mr. Freedman from which the above information was derived.)