Top 10 French Golfers of all Time
Golf is a sport played and loved by millions of people worldwide.
Historically, never the most popular sport in France, its popularity has greatly increased in recent times. The country has still managed to produce many famous French golfers.
Here is my list of the best French golfers of all time.
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Arnaud George Watson Massy was born on July 6, 1877 in Biarritz, Pyrenees-Atlantiques, France. He was the first non-British winner of the Open Championship, in 1907.
Arnaud Massy remains (as of June 2021) the only golfer from France to win one of the men’s major championships. Indeed up until Seve Ballesteros, he was the only golfer from continental Europe to have won one of the four men’s major championships.
Despite only ever playing in the Open Championship he also managed a further nine top 10s in his 21 attempts.
Arnaud managed to win his National Open on four occasions Between 1906 in 1925. He also picked up three Spanish Opens and a number of other tournaments in England and Belgium.
He died in poverty in 1950 and is actually buried in Newington Cemetary in Edinburgh.
Jean van de Velde
Jean van de Velde is arguably the most famous professional golfer from France after his exploits in The Open Championship of 1999.
Coming to the final hole he only needed a double-bogey 6 to capture the claret jug and become the first Frenchman to win a major since Arnaud Massy.
What happened next went down in golfing history as one of the biggest car crashes ever seen. Van de Velde hacked and paddled his way to a seven before succumbing to Paul Lawrie in a three-man play-off.
You could argue that his career never really recovered.
Born on 29th May 1966 in Mont-de-Marsan, France. Jean van de Velde became a professional golfer in 1987. He won the Roma Masters as his first European Tour victory in 1993. His second European Tour victory came in 2006 at the Madeira Island Open.
Van de Velde has managed five other professional wins.
Jean managed to finish twice in the top twenty in the European Tour Order of Merit during his career and his world ranking peaked at 70.
Thomas has come as close to winning a major as any of his countrymen since Arnaud Massy.
He lost a play-off for the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield. Four players finished tied the lead after 72 holes. After a four-hole mini play-off, he was still level with Ernie Els of South Africa and lost out at the first extra hole.
Since turning professional in 1988, Levet has won six European Tour titles. He also grabbed one senior European Tour title and six other professional events including two French PGAs.
He managed a career-high world ranking of 41 back in 2005.
Thomas has now played more than 550 events on the European Tour and has amassed career prize money of almost €8 million.
Levy managed to win the French Amateur in 2009 and the French International Amateur in 2010 before turning professional.
Following a couple of years on the Challenge Tour, he managed to earn his playing rights on the main tour for 2013.
He got off to a fairly fast start with two wins in 2014 at the Volvo China Open and Portugal Masters.
He then won the Porsche European Open in 2016 at Bad Griebasch and became the youngest French golfer to win three European Tour titles at the age of 26.
Levy won the Volvo China Open in 2017, making him the first two-time winner in the tournament’s history.
With five European tour wins in total he now stands one behind Thomas Levet who has the most European Tour wins of any French player.
Originally born in Orange, California in August 1990 his French parents moved back to France in 1994.
So far his highest world ranking has been 46. His major championship performances haven’t been particularly good with only two cuts made from 11 attempts.
Victor was born in Cannes on 22 April 1990.
He enjoyed a successful amateur career including being the number one ranked amateur in the world. He joined the professional ranks in 2010.
The first five years on the European Tour saw significant progress finishing sixth in 2013 and fifth in 2014.
A second-place finish in the 2014 WGC Matchplay meant he was eligible to play on the PGA Tour.
It looked like he was going to take full advantage when he earned $671,000 in the 10 events he was able to play in 2014. However the two subsequent years he failed to achieve a similar level of success.
Trying to split his time between two tours clearly had its effect on him as his European Tour ranking dropped down into the 30s as well.
Issues with his sinuses and a perforated eardrum meant he was unable to play for much of 2018 and that has clearly hampered his progress. Since returning to the tour in 2019 his ranking has been around 100.
His only wins to date on the European Tour both came at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Raphaël was born in Lyon on 8 May 1974.
He won the French Amateur Championship in 1995 and then turned professional.
Like many modern pros, he started on the Challenge Tour. After two victories in the 1997 season, he graduated to the main tour by virtue of his fourth-place finish on the money list.
Jacquelin took a while to find a way to win on the European Tour. In fact, he played 237 events without a win before claiming his maiden title at the 2005 Open de Madrid.
Since then he has added a further three European Tour events.
Raphaël has now played 650 tournaments on the European Tour and banked just under €12 million for his efforts. His best season was 2003 when he finished 20th in the Order of Merit.
He hasn’t managed to make it into the world’s top 50 yet with his highest ranking being 55 back in 2007. For a short period, he was the highest-ranked French golfer.
His major performances have been few and far between with only 16 to his name. Currently, his 8th place finish in the 2011 Open Championship is his best.
Farry is a professional golfer from France born on July 3rd, 1959. Born in Paris, he started golfing at the age of seven.
After turning professional in 1979 he turned his hand to teaching golf in Florida.
He was a member of the European Tour from 1989 to 2004 But only managed one win during that time the BMW International Open in 1996.
Somewhat more prolific on the French tour with a total of 16 wins including two French PGA Championships.
Shortly after becoming eligible for the Senior Tour he did manage to pick up a couple of titles there.
Farry is also famous for being the first European Tour golfer to fail a drug test.
The French Ministry of sport decided to conduct some voluntary drug tests at the 2003 Open de France. Farry was one of those selected and his sample came back positive for prednisolone, an anti-inflammatory.
The fact that Farry had been prescribed this by his physician along with there being no drugs policy in place meant that no action was taken.
Probably not that well known outside of golfing circles in France, Jean was a prolific winner of professional events in his homeland.
He won his national PGA championship on no less than 12 occasions including seven in a row during the 60s!
Prior to the formation of the European Tour, he added his name to the national opens of France, Spain and Germany (twice).
He played on no less than 25 occasions for France in the World Cup before his retirement in 1982.
However, that hasn’t stopped him from playing in a number of events that have been held in France since.
He managed to qualify for the Masters on a couple of occasions but didn’t manage to make the cut and he has one top 10 in the Open Championship from 11 attempts.
Since turning pro in 1999 off a handicap of +3, Havret played more than 500 European Tour events. He has earned more than €8,000,000 while winning three tournaments.
His highest finish of 19th on the Order of Merit was in 2007, he now has an Official World Golf Ranking of 788.
Born in La Rochelle in November 1976, Gregory did come close to a major in 2010 when finishing second at the US Open to Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
His highest world ranking was way back in 2008 when he reached a position of 82.
Gregory’s appearances in major championships have been few and far between and apart from that second place at the U.S. Open he has little to show.
He did manage to win his national amateur championship in three consecutive years though!
Bourdy was born on April 25, 1982, in Bordeaux.
He joined the professional ranks in 2003 and played on both the challenge tour and the Alps tour.
He eventually made it onto the main tour in 2005 and fairly quickly won his maiden event at the 2007 Mallorca Classic.
Gregory has gone on to win a further three times on the European Tour including the UBS Hong Kong Open where he held off the challenge of Rory McIlroy.
Has had an official world Golf ranking as high as 75 but currently languishing at 1832.
In his professional career of nearly 20 years has now played more than 400 European Tour events and earned prize money of over €8 million.
Marie-Laure de Lorenzi
Arguably the best French female player of her generation.
She played on the Ladies European Tour from 1987 to 2004 and lies third on the all-time list of winners with 19.
She twice won the Order of Merit and represented Europe in three Solheim Cups.
Top 10 French Golfers of all Time: Conclusion
That’s my list of the Top 10 French golfers of all time.
Considering that France has such a large population it is surprising that they haven’t had more players challenging for major honors.
However, you should remember that even today there are only just over 600 golf courses in France. Compare that to England which has almost 1900 and even Scotland has 560 with only a tiny fraction of the population of France!