Golfer McDowell and referee Webb in British honours list

LONDON: US Open golf champion Graeme McDowell and World Cup final football referee Howard Webb were among the sports figures whose achievements were recognised yesterday in Britain’s New Year’s honours.

Northern Ireland’s McDowell, who also struck the winning putt in the final match as Europe beat the United States to win the Ryder Cup in October, was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire).

Just months before his Ryder Cup success, the 31-year-old McDowell had become the first European golfer in 40 years to win the US Open, one of golf’s four major titles.

“It is a huge honour for me to be included on the New Year honours list,” he said.

“For my achievements as a professional golfer to be recognised in this way is truly special”, added McDowell, whose victory at Pebble Beach gave Europe its first US Open champion since England’s Tony Jacklin won the title in 1970.

The 39-year-old Webb, also made an MBE, had already enjoyed a memorable 2010 after taking charge of both the Champions League final and the World Cup final.

Unusually for a referee, the English official received widespread public sympathy despite showing 14 yellow cards and a red during a World Cup final where Spain beat Holland 1-0 in Johannesburg, with the Dutch seemingly intent on kicking their opponents off the field.

“It has been an unbelievable 12 months and this honour tops off an amazing 2010,” said Webb, who put his career as a policeman on hold to concentrate full-time on refereeing.

“The World Cup final was the highlight of my career and although it was a tough game to referee, it will live with me forever in a very positive way,” added Webb, the first Englishman to take charge of the showpiece match since Jack Taylor in 1974.

Former England rugby union back Mike Catt, who only retired as a player in May aged 38, was made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), a rank up from an MBE.

Now the attack coach of Premiership club London Irish, the South Africa-born Catt, a World Cup-winner with England in 2003, said he felt “privileged” to receive an OBE.

“I am delighted and honoured to have been awarded an OBE,” Catt, who won 75 England caps in a variety of positions, said.

“I have been fortunate to have had an enjoyable and successful career in rugby and to now be recognised in such a way makes me feel very privileged.”

There was an OBE too for Toby Balding, the Grand National-winning horse race trainer, while former Glamorgan and England cricketer Peter Walker was made an MBE.

George Kerr received a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), one level below a knighthood, for his services to judo.

In February, the 73-year-old from Edinburgh became only one of 19 people since 1935 - and only the second Briton - to achieve the elite status of 10th Dan in the Japanese martial art.

Kerr, a European judo champion back in 1957, refereed in Olympic judo finals and coached Austria’s Peter Seisenbacher to Olympic Games golds in 1984 and 1988.

“I am ecstatic, I could not believe it,” said Kerr, nicknamed ‘Mr Judo’, who is also due to receive the Order of the Rising Sun, one of Japan’s highest honours, next month. – AFP

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