LEE Westwood is looking forward to driving sheep down Bridge Street, free pints and exemption from council tax now that he has the Freedom of Bassetlaw.
The Worksop golfer’s tongue was firmly in cheek as he made his acceptance speech at Retford Town Hall on Tuesday, after receiving the honorary title, certificate and jewel of office.
A ceremony presided by Bassetlaw Council chairman David Challinor made Westwood the first ever recipient of the honour.
The resolution to bestow the title on Westwood was passed by a unanimous vote, before the golfer, council chairman and chief executive David Hunter signed the ‘Freeman’s Declaration’ and the official presentation took place.
In a speech to assembled dignitaries, family, friends and members of the public, golf’s world number three said: “What a great honour this is – thank you to Bassetlaw Council and all the people of Bassetlaw for bestowing this upon me.”
“It’s very nice to be honoured by the community in which you live.”
“It’s been suggested I’m now allowed to drive sheep down the main roads in Worksop and Retford, or get free pints in public houses, but the one I’m looking forward to is not having to pay my council tax,” he quipped, before adding: “It’s a fantastic honour and I will try to represent the title to the best of my ability around the world over the coming years and hopefully the rest of my life.”
Westwood also thanked Lindrick professional John King for guidance as a coach for the first part of his career, Worksop Golf Club for giving him a course to hone his skills as a youngster, and his family.
Parents John and Trish had front row seats to see their 38-year-old son receive his new title.
John, who was invited to Buckingham palace recently for the presentation of Lee’s OBE by the Queen, told the Guardian the Freedom of Bassetlaw was a special honour.
“It was wonderful, we’re going through a really good spell at the moment,” he said.
“We went to London for his OBE, but this is the icing on the cake. To be recognised by your own community is very special. We’re thrilled, very proud.”
Mum Trish, who still helps organise the annual Lee Westwood Worksop Guardian Junior Golf Championship, added: “It’s fantastic to see this honour from his own local people. I know they support him because when I do my supermarket shopping it takes a long time, people want to give their best wishes about how well he’s done.”
“Every mother is proud of her child, but he works very hard and he has achieved. There’s nothing else I could wish for.”
Leader of the council Graham Oxby called it a ‘proud day’ for the district authority.
Speaking after the ceremony, as Westwood signed autographs and greeted well wishers, Coun Oxby said: “The reason we’re honouring him is for the eminent service he has given, not just to Bassetlaw and Great Britain but the whole world through his sporting prowess.”
“Bassetlaw is on the map now, and equally important Worksop is on the map, because of Lee Westwood.”
Also watching on was Westwood’s long term manager and friend Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler.
The International Sports Management supremo said the Worksop Golf Club export was keen to maintain links with his home town.
“Lee is extremely proud of his roots and to be recognised by the local community in this way means a lot to him.”
“Wherever he is in the world he is never slow to promote Worksop and its surroundings.”
“He has become an excellent ambassador for the region and I know how excited he is to receive the Freedom of Bassetlaw – he had the date of the ceremony inked in capital letters on his schedule. He wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Bassetlaw MP John Mann, who nominated Westwood for the honour, was unable to make the ceremony due to parliamentary business.
He said: “I know that the people of Bassetlaw are very proud of Lee Westwood’s achievements and I am proud that Bassetlaw are celebrating a local sports hero in such an honourable way.”
For the full story and pictures see this week’s Worksop Guardian