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Ceremonial hit kicks off Hilton's Royal & Ancient captaincy
21 Sep 2018
by Royal & Ancient

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A cannon fires as Chris Hilton drives (R&A photo)
A cannon fires as Chris Hilton drives (R&A photo)

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (Sept. 21, 2018) – The traditional driving-in ceremony for the new captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews took place Friday on the first tee of the Old Course.

Chris Hilton started his year in office with a drive at precisely 8 a.m. as a cannon fired alongside the tee. A large crowd, which included past captains of the club, gathered to watch the ceremony.

As captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Hilton will serve in an ambassadorial role for the R&A to support its work in developing golf around the world and will attend R&A championships in the professional and amateur game.

After hitting his tee shot, Hilton said, “I was a little apprehensive before the tee shot this morning so I was pleased to make a decent swing at the ball as the cannon went off. It’s a wonderful tradition and it was nice to see so many people around the first tee.

“It is a huge honor to be the captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and I look forward to representing the club and the R&A in the year ahead.”

A renowned maritime lawyer, Hilton was a board member throughout the establishment of what is now the global firm Eversheds Sutherland, leading its early international development and heading its shipping law department until his retirement in 2010. As a result, he has spent much of his adult life travelling around the world.

Hilton has held various non-executive roles, including serving as vice-chairman of the Council of Newcastle University, where he received an honorary fellowship, and was chairman of Newcastle Building Society. He is currently a director of a Luxembourg-regulated marine insurance company and of a Cardiff-based ship owning company with a significant presence in China. He also chairs a board of pension scheme trustees.

Hilton became a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 2000 and chaired the Rules Committee from 2011 to 2015 when he played an important role in developing the rules modernization initiative with the USGA with the revised Rules of Golf set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019. He is currently a member of the General Committee.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Hilton is a past captain of his home club, The Northumberland, and is a member of the Golf House Club, Elie, the New Club of St Andrews and Bamburgh Castle Golf Club. He is also a member of the Senior Golfers’ Society and has served as the captain and oresident of the Quayside Golfing Society, which celebrated its centenary in 2010.

Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he has been based for most of his life, Hilton was educated at Fettes College, Cambridge University and, as a Rotary Foundation scholar, Adelaide University. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear.

Hilton, 68, is married to wife, Liz, and has a son, Michael, and daughter, Caroline, who resides in Auckland, New Zealand. An avid golfer, Hilton plays to a handicap of eight and he and his wife enjoy regular visits to St. Andrews where they own a property.

In the past, the club captaincy 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 tradition is that the new captain buys his golf ball back from the caddie who retrieves and returns it with a gold sovereign.

Oliver Mennie, in his fourth season as a caddie on the links, successfully returned the ball for the second year in a row.

"It was a case of being in the right place at the right time again," said Mennie. "I'm absolutely chuffed to bits to have returned the ball to the new captain again."

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