Ronnie White

26th March 2017

Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) lost all four Walker Cup matches between 1947 and 1953 securing a disappointing total of 12 points in the process. It may therefore come as surprise to learn that one of our player’s achieved a record of P8 W6 L1 H1 during this same period.

That player was Ronnie White. His loss and a half both coming in foursomes matches played with Joe Carr. All four of his singles were won.

A name rarely mentioned by anyone nowadays White was arguably the best amateur golfer in the world in the initial post World War II period.

Ronnie White

Ronald James White was born on 9th April 1921 in Wallasey on The Wirral in England.

When Ronnie was 5 he started accompanying his Dad, a member of Southport & Ainsdale GC, to golf, quickly picking up the game and it’s etiquette. Inevitably it wasn’t long before he started playing himself.

Ronnie attended the Merchant Taylors’ school in Crosby and soon developed into one of the country’s leading Juniors. In 1936 he played in the Boys Amateur Championship held at Birkdale. the club he had joined aged 12 three years earlier. He lost 5&3 in the fourth round to William Innes of Lanark. Innes went on to lose the final 11&9 to the famous Irish player Jimmy Bruen.

White fared better in 1937 when he won the U18 Boys’ Carris Trophy, in those days played exclusively at Moor Park, with rounds of 72 and 75.

Fortunately for young Ronnie the Ryder Cup came to town in 1937 and he had the opportunity to see his hero Sam Snead up close. In an interview in 2001 he said “Snead was my role model. I was there for every moment of practice and competition, and was greatly impressed both by the way in which he and the other Americans played, and their style”.

His golf continued to improve and between 1936 and 1938 he was selected for the English Boys Team for their annual match against Scotland. He captained the team in 1938. He played six games winning four, halving one and losing the other.

Ronnie had just started a law degree when Great Britain entered World War II. He volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was first stationed, somewhat fortuitously, at RAF Leuchars for his initial 3 months of training. This enabled him to carry on practicing his golf at nearby St. Andrews. His intelligence and leadership skills saw him selected for flying instructor training. He qualified as a pilot at the British Flying Training School in Texas and appears to have seen out the War well away from the front line.

Understandably very little competitive golf was played whilst the country was at War so just as White was coming into his peak years all of the major championships and events were cancelled (1940-45). The world was a different place after the war too with families devastated, food and petrol rationing in place and responsibilities altered. As Britain tried to rebuild itself as quickly as it could golf was certainly well down the list of most people’s priorities.

White was demobilised in 1946 and moved back to the Birkdale area of Southport where he would stay for the rest of his life. Now aged 25 he re-commenced his law studies and qualified as a solicitor in London in 1949.

White’s commitment to his family and the law meant he was a true amateur playing only a limited schedule, often as close to home as possible. However, he practiced regularly at Birkdale and was ambitious for himself – “the ladder of fame was empty” after the War and I was determined “to reach the top in amateur golf.”

After the 1946 season came to a close White set about remodeling his swing. “Experience had made me appreciate that if I were to achieve success my ambition must be consistency. The star players were all consistent”. He therefore set about gaining more knowledge, used photography and mirrors and practiced hard to create a ‘grooved’ swing. Whilst he never reached his unattainable aim of being as consistent as a golf ball testing machine he was to reap the benefits of this effort in the years that followed.

Unusually at the time he also aimed to spend at least an hour a day on his physical and mental fitness, normally early in the morning. He would run along the shoreline at Birkdale as well as skip and weight lift at home. “Tired legs are the death knell of a competitive golfer, because when the legs get tired concentration lapses follow, and I was always determined to avoid this, particularly towards the end of a championship. I felt as good at the end of a 36-hole match or 72 holes over a weekend as I did at the beginning” he reflected in later life. He sought to manage his nerves by regularly practicing his breathing and by strengthening his stomach muscles.

According to Leonard Crawley his mechanical approach enabled White to become “the most accurate hitter of a ball between tee and green since Henry Cotton” although he went on to say he was a “comparatively poor putter”.

Surprisingly during his career White only played in two Amateur Championships, in 1946 and 1949. He lost in the fourth and fifth rounds respectively in close matches. He was perhaps a victim of his own success. In those days the Amateur was often scheduled around the Walker Cup (trials and match – in 1947, 1951 and 1955) or the Home Internationals (1948 and 1952). With a family to support he was simply unable to take extended leave from his studies and later work as a solicitor and thus sacrificed his own individual competition entries. Of course White was criticized by frustrated onlookers at the time for consistently missing our major amateur Championship.

White did play in many other national events although many of these, certainly his victories, appear to have been in close proximity to home and work. In addition to his starring role in the Walker Cup it was his performance in these that secured his standing in the game.

He won the Lancashire Amateur championship (1948 Birkdale), the English Amateur (1949 Formby), the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase (1949 Birkdale) and the Brabazon Trophy (the English Open Stroke Play title) in both 1950 (by 8 shots after rounds of 75, 72, 75 and 72 at Birkdale) and 1951 (by 4 shots after rounds of 77, 69, 73 and 74 at Formby).

His 1951 Brabazon victory summed up his approach to golf. It was widely reported that both before and after each round White was seen rushing off to his office or to Wigan Magistrates’ Court.

White also had some success in the Daily Telegraph Amateur-Professional Foursomes Tournament. He won it in both 1947 with Charlie Ward at Formby and in 1949 with Reg Horne at Moortown. “With a partner like Ronnie White, you just can’t lose” said Horne at the prize giving ceremony.

He represented England in the Home Internationals of 1947-48-49-53-54 and in matches against France in 1947-48.

After the 1953 Walker Cup White largely stopped playing competitively not that he was overly active beforehand. He was therefore surprised to be called up by England in 1954 for the international matches at Porthcawl.

He performed well enough in Wales to merit a final selection for the 1955 Walker Cup match at St. Andrews. This proved controversial as White had declined an invitation to attend the pre-match trials. It was also a shame because he lost both matches and these failures took the edge of his superb overall Walker cup record. Playing first in both the foursomes and singles he came up against E. Harvie Ward in both, who had won the Amateur in 1952 and went on to win the US Amateur in both 1955 and 1956. Ward a full time amateur with a superb game simply had too much for White by then.  White never played an international match again.

White couldn’t resist a final outing when the Open Championship came to Birkdale in1961. Rounds of 71, 79, 80 and 76 were good enough for him to secure the low amateur Silver Medal in tied 38th place. He had previously only played in one other Open, at St. Andrews in 1946, where he finished tied 30th and fourth best amateur.

In March 1953, somewhat unusually for an amateur but reflecting his standing in the game, White published an instructional book entitled ‘Golf As I Play It’. Given the rules on amateur status the book caused something of a furore at the time. Unsurprisingly, given his legal background, it transpired that White had obtained the prior written approval of the Secretary of The R&A before embarking on the project. In this regard a note was included at the beginning stating “the author wishes to make it clear that he is not a teacher of golf.”

‘Ronnie White’s Golf As I Play It’ Book

One question I haven’t been able to answer concerns Ronnie’s club attachment. He joined Birkdale as a Junior, lived virtually opposite the course for most of his life and subsequently became an Honorary Member of this Club. Yet despite this all of his competition entries from 1947 onwards listed him as representing Royal Liverpool. Even his book states ‘by Ronnie White, Royal Liverpool GC and the 117 photos were all clearly taken at Hoylake too. Matters are made more confusing when one looks through Royal Liverpool’s club histories and find’s not a single reference to Ronnie White.

Ronnie won the R&A British Seniors in 1978 and 1979.

When asked, as all great amateurs are, if he regretted not turning professionally White said: “It crossed my mind on a few occasions but the risks were too great. Winning a professional event in the 1950s meant a few hundred pounds in your pocket, not the hundreds of thousands today. I had a family to take care of, and professional golf was too uncertain.”

He died in 2006 aged 85 to little fanfare in the golfing world. This is a shame because for a brief spell he was one of the best golfers in the world, a highly respected (true) amateur on both sides of The Atlantic. Given his approach to the game it was remarkable that he maintained his competitiveness for so long.

______________________________________________________________

APPENDIX 1 – SELECTED QUOTES ON RONNIE WHITE

Tom Scott on the 1949 Amateur Season: “The first national title, the English Amateur Championship (Formby April 25-30), went to R.J White, as we all expected it would. White played superlative golf and won the title with comparative ease by the margin of five and four. White’s victory was most comforting to all of us, for quite clearly he was at peak form, which meant he was the equal of any amateur in the world, British or American. Here was our No. 1 against the Americans and one who could be relied on to hold his own”.

“There are many who unhesitatingly describe him as the outstanding British amateur of golfing history, and some Americans call him the best unpaid striker of the golf ball since the incomparable Bob Jones.” – New Zealand Golf Illustrated , 5th January 1952

“Ronnie White is a genuine week-end golfer who intends to stay that way and considers it a pleasant accident that nature endowed him with the golfing ability of a world champion.” – New Zealand Golf Illustrated , 5th January 1952

“Many of the highest authorities in American golf today are of opinion that he is the soundest British amateur of the last thirty years. That, of course, is just a matter of opinion, but since he is blessed with the three greatest attributes of a golfer – style, physique and temperament – he is unquestionably a tremendous player”- Leonard Crawley, A History of Golf In Britain (1952).

Leonard Crawley in the Foreword to ‘Golf As I Play It’ (1953) said:

“He has become a famous player and even in America they talk of him as the best amateur in the world today. I think ‘they’ are right, since if ever there was a real amateur he is one. As I know him he is a kindly but hardheaded Lancashire man with certain obvious tracks to his mind from which no one can shake or divert him. He has as his first object a life to live with his family, as his second a living to earn for his family, and as his third, and only when time permits, his golf to play as his hobby.”

“A very keen golfer from the South of England who had never seen him in action recently asked me what type of player he was ? I replied ‘He has a classical but fully modern style. He is as a strong as a horse, and he fears no one.’”

Reflecting on golf in 1953 Pat Ward-Thomas said “Had it been necessary at that time to examine an amateur golfer’s character to the limit he would have been sent to play Ronnie White over 36 holes on his own course at Birkdale with much at stake. I still think that White was one of the finest amateurs ever to emerge in Britain, certainly as a striker of the ball. His swing was so solid and true that there was a sense of the inevitable about his shots. The ball flew from the clubface with an unerring flight that few professionals, apart from Cotton, and no amateur could consistently match, and what is more, in any conditions.”

Peter Alliss described Ronnie White as ”the most professional-looking amateur I have seen” – ‘Golf Heroes’ (2002)

APPENDIX 2 – RONNIE WHITE’S DETAILED PLAYING RECORD

WALKER CUP MATCHES

1947 St. Andrews – 16th and 17th May – GB&I 4 USA 8
F4. RJ White and C Stowe v. RD Chapman and FR Stranahan WON 4&3
S6. RJ White v. AF Kammer WON 4&3

“Charlie was the ideal partner for me to have, never a dull moment, always able to see the humour of life and yet a dogged competitor” recalled White in 2001.

Fred Kammer was a semi-finalist in the US Amateur of 1946.

1949 Winged Foot GC – 19th and 20th August – USA 10 GB&I 2
F1. JB Carr and RJ White v. W Turnesa and R Billows WON 3&2
S1. RJ White v. W Turnesa WON 4&3

Willie Turnesa was the 1938 and 1948 reigning US Amateur champion and runner-up in the Amateur championship; arguably the best player on either side.

Henry Longhurst said “(The team) managed to get just two points – and without Ronnie White, whose form in the warm, windless conditions of American summer golf was so consistent that his team-mates christened him ‘One Height White’ (because every shot he hit, whatever the club, was the same height), we should assuredly have come home without a point at all”.

“Everything about his game has the same professionally polished air – the safe and sound driving, the long iron shots that look as good as Cotton’s the immaculate short game, the confident putting. With half a dozen White’s we would have won that Walker Cup with the greatest ease”.

1951 Birkdale – 11th and 12th May – GB&I 3 USA 6
F1. RJ White and JB Carr v. FR Stranahan and W Campbell HALVED
S3. RJ White v. CR Coe WON 2&1

Watching the Foursomes match with a crowd estimated at 10,000, GB&I 3Up and playing well, Bernard Darwin reported: “Poor Joe Carr had a bout of missing short putts and the holes melted away.” Nevertheless it took a 10-footer by Campbell at the last green to deny the GB&I pair a full point.

In his singles White trailed 3 down after six holes against Charles Coe, but he rallied to win, 2 and 1.

In his post match report Darwin said: “Ronnie White’s record of five wins and one halved match in three Walker Cup matches is certainly one of the finest achievements of British amateur golf for many years. No wonder the Union has taken so much trouble – and given other people so much trouble – in order to give him the sole representative of a plus two handicap.”

1953 Kittansett – 4th and 5th September – USA 9 GB&I 3
F2. JB Carr and RJ White v. S Urzetta and K Ventura LOST 6&4
S6. R Chapman v. RJ White WON 1 HOLE

White still playing a restricted schedule gained selection in 1953 after reaching the English Amateur final in 1953, a match he surprisingly lost at Birkdale to teammate Gerald Micklem.

“When Carr and White are a little older it will dawn on them that young successful partnerships are apt to wear out” wrote Leonard Crawley in 1954 having watched them struggle on Day 1. The opposition was tough though; Sam Urzetta was the 1950 US Amateur champion and Ken Venturi went on to win the 1964 US Open.

On Day 2 according to Crawley “White lunched two down having taken 77 to go round (the first 18). At the 30th hole…he was 3 down with 6 to play. He finished 3-3-4-4-3-4 (to) beat his adversary on the last green. It was a tremendous performance”. Bobby Jones, by now quite ill and using his buggy, came to the match and chose to follow the White game. He later praised White for putting on a “great performance.”

1955 St. Andrews – 20th and 21st May – GB&I 2 USA 10
F1. JB Carr and RJ White v. EH Ward and DR Cherry LOST 1 HOLE
S1. RJ White v. EH Ward LOST 6&5

In the foursomes Carr and White were 1Up with three holes to play. On the 34th hole they three putted whilst Cherry chipped in from off the green. More poor play around the Road Hole green cost the GB&I pair before the last was halved. Both players were gutted and criticised heavily in the press. It was no surprise then that they both lost their Single matches heavily the following day.

HOME INTERNATIONAL MATCHES

1947 Royal Liverpool – 24th, 25th and 26th September – England won
Ireland
F1. RJ White and J Rothwell v. J Burke and C Ewing WON 2&1
S3. RJ White v. C Ewing LOST 2&1

Wales
F1. RJ White and J Rothwell v. SB Roberts and JV Moody WON 3&2
S3. RJ White v. AA Duncan LOST 4&3

Scotland
F2. RJ White and J Rothwell v. H McInally and JG Campbell WON 4&3
S3. RJ White v. AT Kyle WON 2&1

E. Harvie Ward went on to play in two further matches and finished with a 100% win record from his 6 games played.

1948 Muirfield – 22nd, 23rd and 24th September – England won
Scotland
F2. PB Lucas and RJ White v. JC Wilson and H McInally HALVED
S3. RJ White v. JC Wilson WON 3&2

Ireland
F2. PB Lucas and RJ White v. JB Carr and BJ Scannell LOST 1 DOWN
S3. RJ White v. W O’Sullivan WON 4&3

Wales
F2. PB Lucas and RJ White v. RM de Lloyd and JV Moody WON 6&4
S2. RJ White v. SB Roberts LOST 2&1

1949 Portmarnock – 16th, 17th and 18th May – England won
Wales
F1. RJ White and C Stowe v. SB Roberts and JL Morgan WON 4&3
S1. RJ White v. AA Duncan WON 5&3

Scotland
F1. RJ White and C Stowe v. AT Kyle and JM Dykes WON 2UP
S1. RJ White v. JC Wilson HALVED

Ireland
F1. RJ White and C Stowe v. J Bruen and SM McCready HALVED
S1. RJ White v. C Ewing WON 3&2

1952 Troon – 24th, 25th and 26th September – Scotland Won
Results unknown.

“England were without R.J. White the best golfer of his generation and regarded even in America as one of the finest amateurs in the world. His absence was deplorable” – Leonard Crawley, 1953 EGU Golf Annual

1953 Killarney – 10th, 11th and 12th June – Scotland won
Ireland
F1. RJ White and D Rawlinson v. BJ Scannell and J Glover WON
S2. RJ White v. WM O’Sullivan LOST

Scotland
F1. RJ White and D Rawlinson v. DA Blair and JR Cater LOST
S2. RJ White v. JC Wilson LOST

Wales
F1. RJ White and D Rawlinson v. JL Morgan and SB Roberts LOST
S2. RJ White v. JL Morgan WON

“For most of the week, White’s golf was very poor, and until he faced John Morgan in the Welsh match, he was but a shadow of the great player we know him to be” wrote Crawley.

1954 Porthcawl – Dates Unknown – England
Results unknown.

ENGLAND v. FRANCE MATCH
1947 Wentworth 21st July – England 8 France 1
F1. C Stowe and RJ White v. M Carlihan and J Leglise LOST 3&1
S3. RJ White v. J Leglise WON 3&1

1948 St. Cloud 5th and 6th June – England 5 France 3 (Halved 1)
F1. GH Micklem and RJ White v. M Carlihan and J Leglise HALVED
S2. RJ White v. M Carlihan WON 7&6

BOYS INTERNATIONAL MATCHES

1936 Birkdale – Scotland 8.5 England 3.5
F4. TS Foggett and RJ White v. DG O’Brien and WH Gibson WON 2 HOLES
S7. RJ White v. DG O’Brien WON 5&3

1937 Bruntsfield Links – Scotland 9.5 England 2.5
F1. P Hunt and RJ White v. RG Inglis and DB Fraser HALVED
S2. RJ White v. C Gray LOST 2 HOLES

1938 Moor Park – Scotland 7.5 England 4.5
F1. RJ White and T Hiley v. C Gray and W Smeaton WON 3&1
S1. RJ White v. C Gray WON 5&4

AMATEUR CHAMPTIONSHIP

1946 Birkdale – 4th Rd lost to Frank Stranahan by 1hole.

“The round between RJ White and FR Stranahan took three hours and forty minutes which is farcical and monstrous. Golf is not a funeral, although both can be sad things” – Bernard Darwin.

Stranhan has the best Amateur Championship record of any player winning 43 of his 50 matches between 1946-54. He won the Amateur in 1948 and 1950 and was runner up in 1952.

1949 Portmarnock – 5th Rd lost to Ernest Millward by 1 hole.

In the 2nd Rd White beat Dr. W Twedell 3&2 and in the 3rd Rd PB ‘Laddie’ Lucas on the 20th hole. Millward won the English Amateur Championship in 1952.

OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

1946 St. Andrews – 76 79 84 77 (T30)
1961 Birkdale – 71 79 80 76 (T38) – Silver Medal winner for leading amateur.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Rodney Foster

13th October 2016

Rodney Foster is one of England’s and for that matter Great Britain’s best ever amateur golfers. After years of international representation this career amateur became a much respected and well liked ambassador for the game of golf.

As Rodney is 75 today I thought I would produce ‘an everything you need to know ‘list to record his more notable achievements in the amateur game.

1. He was born in Shipley on 13th October 1941. A lifelong Yorkshireman he was educated at Bradford Grammar School, before embarking on a career in insurance locally and living in the area to this day. He plays most of his golf at Ilkley nowadays.

2. His mother and father were both members of The Bradford Golf Club, his father being Captain in 1956. It was therefore inevitable that Rodney and his brother George would take up the game and quickly become proficient at it – both became scratch players, representing The Bradford club during their careers. It was at Bradford that Rodney developed his very upright swing for which he was known.

3. He won the Yorkshire Amateur Championship five times, in 1963, ’64, ’65, ’67 and ’70. Locally he is also known for his dominance of the Bradford Open, which he won a record 10 times between 1960 and 1982.

Rodney Foster competing in 1966 (Photo: Getty Images / Ed Lacey)

4. He was capped for both England Boys (1958) and Youths (1959).

5. Rodney became a full Men’s International in 1963 and played for England annually in the Home Internationals between 1963 and 1971 (save for 1965). His elite playing career coming to end slightly prematurely in 1973 after he had a serious accident.

6. Rodney represented England in the European Amateur Team Championship in 1963, ’65, ’67, ’69, ’71 and ’73. England won this event three times with him in their team, in 1963, ’69 and ’71.

7. He won many other major amateur titles, most notably the Berkshire Trophy (1964) and the Lytham Trophy (1967 and 1968).

8. In 1964, probably his best playing year, he lost the final of the English Amateur Championship to Dr. David Marsh by 1 hole at Hollinwell.

9. He reached the semi-finals of The Amateur Championship in both 1962 (Hoylake) and 1965 (Porthcawl), losing firstly to Richard Davies from the USA by 3&2 and then to Michael Bonallack by 1 hole on his way to the title. He played in 20 Amateurs between 1962-82, winning 37 and losing 20 of his 57 matches.

10. He tied with Michael Bonallack for the English Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship (Brabazon Trophy) in 1969 at Walton Heath (no play-off in those days) before successfully defending the title in 1970 at Little Aston.

11. He was a member of the winning GB&I Eisenhower Trophy team in 1964. He played with Michael Bonallack, Michael Lunt and Ronnie Shade in Olgiata, near Rome. He also represented Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) in 1970 in this competition.

img_4188Rodney Foster (Photo: R&A / 1979 Walker Cup Programme)

12. He played in five consecutive Walker Cup‘s for GB&I, 1965, ’67, ’69, ’71 and ’73. However, as was the case with most golfers of this era, his playing record was disappointing – he played 17 games winning 2, losing 13 and halving 2.

13. He also represented Great Britain in the St. Andrews Trophy match against Europe in 1964, ’66, ’68 and ’70. GB won all four of these matches.

14. He was non-playing captain of England in 1976, ’77 and ’78, England winning the Home Internationals’ Raymond Trophy in his last two years.  He went on to become captain of the GB&I Walker Cup team in 1979 (Muirfield) and 1981 (Cypress Point). Both matches were lost, the former 8.5-15.5 and the latter 15.5-9.  In the middle year, 1980, he captained the St. Andrews Trophy Team which won at Royal St. George’s 19.5-10.5.

15. Rodney also played for Great Britain in 1967 (Canada) and 1971 (New Zealand) in the now defunct Commonwealth Tournament, competing against teams from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

16. He set many course records during his career including those at The Bradford (66), Leeds (64), Prestbury (66) and Troon 70.

17. He has honorary membership of many Yorkshire clubs in recognition of his service to the county and international playing achievements. These include The Bradford, East Bierley, Halifax, Ilkley, Keighley, Shipley, West Bowling and Woodsome Hall.

18. Finally, as one would expect he is also a member of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Ronnie Shade MBE

15th October 2016

Ronnie Shade is one of Great Britain & Ireland’s best amateur golfers of all-time and probably Scotland’s very best. Indeed for a while in the mid-1960’s he was considered the best amateur in the world.

Ronald David Bell Mitchell Shade MBE was born on 15th October 1938 in Edinburgh.

He grew up playing golf at Duddingston Golf Club on the east side of the city where is father John was the club pro. He attended the nearby Portobello Secondary School.

Coached exclusively by his father he developed a somewhat mechanical swing but one that he could repeat and rely upon. He was known for keeping his head down well through impact.

“Before each shot, Ronnie goes through a series of seemingly odd contortions. These are his father’s idea. He believes that the muscles have to be ‘reminded’ of their role before each shot. Young Shade can be observed standing away from the ball posing in the top of the backswing position and flicking his hips. This is to ‘remind’ his hips to move first. His most unusual pose is the follow through which he performs and holds three three times before each stroke”  – World Sports Magazine, 1962. 

He quickly showed promise on the links winning the Edinburgh Boy’s Championship in 1954-55-56.

He represented Scotland in the Boys’ International Match in 1954-55-56, captaining the side in his final year.

He took his junior victories onto the national stage in 1954 firstly winning the British Youth’s Under 18 Open Championship by 3-shots at Dumfries and County GC. In 1956 he secured the Scottish Boys’ Amateur Championship beating AJ Hanley at North Berwick 7&6 in the final.

His best finish in the Boys’ Amateur Championship came in 1956 when he reached the semi-finals before losing 4&3 to CW Cole.

He was first selected for Scotland’s Men’s team in 1957, playing one match in The Amateur Internationals (now the Home internationals) against Ireland. He played in the Internationals in 1960-61-62-63-64-65-66-67-68 competing against all the home nations.

He is best known north of the border for winning five consecutive Scottish Amateur Championships between 1963-1967.

1963 – beat N Henderson 4&2 at Troon.
1964 – beat J McBeath 8&7 at Nairn.
1965 – beat GB Cosh 4&2 St. Andrews.
1966 – beat CJL Strachan 9&8 at Western Gailes.
1967 – beat AB Murphy 5&4 at Carnoustie.

When he lost in the fourth round of the 1968 Championship it brought to an end a staggering run of 43 successive match wins, 35 of them coming over 18 holes. His record could have been even better too as he also lost the 1962 final to SWT Murray 2&1 at Muirfield.

img_4165

Ronnie Shade (Photo: The Golfer’s Handbook 1964)

In 1968 Shade won the second Scottish Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship, held at Prestwick, with a 282 total score.

He won the the English Amateur Open Strokeplay Championship (for the Brabazon Trophy) three times, in 1961-63-67.

In 1966 he lost the final of The Amateur Championship to South African Bobby Cole. Shade played in 8 Amateur’s between 1961 and 1968 winning 26 of his 34 games Whilst his 76.5% win percentage is nothing to be ashamed of Shade must have been disappointed that he couldn’t have performed better in our most prestigious event.

1961  Turnberry               –  5th rd loss to J Walker 2&1
1962  Royal Liverpool     – 2nd rd loss to GJ Butler 20th hole
1963  St Andrews            – 5th rd loss to Dr. ER Updegraff 3&2
1964  Ganton                   – 2nd rd loss to PF Brady 1 hole
1965  Royal Porthcawl    – 4th rd loss to W Hyndman III 2&1
1966  Carnoustie            – Runner up losing to RE Cole 3&2
1967  Formby                  – 5th rd loss to RB Dickson 2&1
1968  Troon                     – 6th rd loss to RL Glading 1 hole.

He represented Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) four times in the Walker Cup, playing in 1961-63-65-67. Ronnie Shade played  14 games winning 6, losing 6 and halving 2. In this era this represents a very creditable record.

1961  Seattle                      – USA 11 – 1 GB&I     P2  W0  L2  Ho
1963  Turnberry                 – GB&I 8 – 12 USA     P4  W2  L1  H1
1965  Baltimore                 – USA 11 – 11 GB&I   P4  W3  L1  H0
1967  Royal St. George’s  – GB&I 7 – 13 USA     P4  W1  L2  H1

Shade was selected for the 1962-64-66-68 GB&I teams for the Eisenhower Trophy. During the 1962 event he set a new course record at Kawana in Japan (66), in 1964 GB&I won the Trophy in Mexico (Shade played with Michael Bonallack, Rodney Foster and Michael Lunt) and in 1966 he was the leading individual player (283) with GB&I coming second (this time with Peter Oosterhuis and Gordon Cosh joining up with him and Bonallack).

In 1966 he won the Silver Medal for the low amateur at The Open Championship, finishing tied 16th. His only major championship appearances came in The Open which he played 14 times during his career.

The third Carling World Championship was held at Birkdale in 1966. Shade won the low amateur honours at this mixed pro and amateur event.


Ronnie Shade (Photo: The Golfer’s Handbook 1967)

In recognition of his outstanding 1966 he was awarded The Association of Golf Writers Trophy.

Ronnie was often referred to by his fellow players as “Right Down the Bloody Middle” – based on his initials – due to his consistent driving, which formed the bedrock of his play.

“No one I have ever seen, even to this day, hit the ball as straight as Ronnie did. He was an extraordinary player.” – Bernard Gallacher, The Scotsman, 2009. 

He was awarded an MBE in 1967 for services to golf whilst he was still an amateur and aged just 28.

Ronnie turned pro in late 1968 aged 30 and whilst he didn’t quite make it the move was not without some success. He won both the 1969 Carroll’s International and Ben Sayers Tournament in his rookie season. A smooth transition was not unexpected as Shade had a reputation for meticulous preparation in the amateur game which no doubt stood him in good stead. He finished 20th in the 1969 PGA Order of merit with prize money of £2,689. Fellow Lothians man Bernard Gallacher won the Order that year with £6,793. He got to 14th in the rankings in 1970 and finished in the top 60 every year until the mid-1970’s.

His only other pro wins came at the Scottish Professional Championship (1970) and Mufulira Open in Zambia (1975).

He represented Scotland at the World Cup three times, in 1970-71-72, and in the Double Diamond Internationals five times, in 1971-72-73-74-75.

Shade remained a strong match play exponent in the pro ranks, finishing runner-up at the British PGA Matchplay Championship in 1970 as well as reaching the semi-finals on two other occasions.

Ronnie Shade in 1973 (Photo: Fionnbar Callanan)

In 2005 in a Sunday Herald article by Golf Correspondent Nick Rodger Ronnie Shade was ranked 17th in a list of the Greatest Scottish Golfers.

After a long battle with cancer Ronnie Shade sadly died on 10th September 1986, just over 30 years ago, aged only 47. By this time he had been reinstated as an amateur golfer.

I have now written three profiles of Scottish golfers, Barclay Howard and Freddie Tait being the other two, and all of them have died well before their time.

His failure to lift The Amateur Championship leaves him just short of the greats of the GB&I amateur game in my eyes but his record remains one of the best and as such he deserves to be recognised and remembered.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

‘The Doctor’ – Dr. William Tweddell

21st March 2016

On Friday 20th June 1930 Bobby Jones shot rounds of 74 and 75 at Hoylake to win The Open Championship and secure the second leg of his famous Grand Slam. Despite being only 28 he must have been exhausted. 36-holes on the final day and the mental exertions of winning as the favourite would have taken their toll on anyone. Nevertheless the following day he left the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool and drove himself 120 miles south to Blackwell Golf Club in Worcestershire.

Dr. William (‘Bill’) Tweddell was the reason why.

WT Amateur 1927 Hoylake

Dr. William Tweddell – 1927 Amateur Champion (Photo: Getty images)

Tweddell was born on 21st March 1897 in the prosperous town of Whickham in County Durham, a few miles west of Newcastle under Tyne. He started playing golf when he was 7, playing on the nearby coast at South Shields. Tweddell developed an upright back swing with arched wrists which was far from elegant but that enabled him to score. He was also said to be a slow player but one who had good concentration and a sound temperament, which meant that on his day he could be a match for anyone.

After serving as a soldier in World War I he studied Medicine at Aberdeen University, playing golf for the University in 1922, ’23 and ’24, often at Murcar Links and Royal Aberdeen. Dr. Tweddell later became the first President of the Scottish Universities Golfing Society, which was established in October 1906.

Having qualified he moved to a Manchester G.P. practice before quickly changing course and settling in The Black Country. He served the communities of Wordsley and Kingswinford (interestingly, at least for me, the place I was born and brought up) for the rest of his working life, living happily in the area. A Roman Catholic Tweddell married Dorothy Hillman at the Oratory Church in Birmingham on 2nd May 1930. They left the church through an arch of golf clubs held by guests.

The couple had three children William (like his father known as Bill), Mary-Ann and Michael. Bill also qualified as a Doctor and practiced in Wordsley and Kingswinford too. He was also Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. Club Doctor between 1981 and 1994. Dr. Tweddell Jnr. died recently on 8th December 2015 aged 84. His daughter is the mother of Ben Robinson, the Worcestershire golfer currently studying at Louisiana Tech on a golf scholarship [Ben turned Pro in June 2016]. Michael’s son Matt Tweddell graduated from Hawaii Pacific University in 2014 and now plays golf professionally, mostly in Asia.

Dr. Tweddell joined Stourbridge Golf Club in late 1926 on his arrival in the area. Established in 1892 and located in Pedmore it was his most convenient option at the time. He continued to play well into his 70s, where his sons eventually joined him, and occasionally still posted scores below his age.

Clearly Tweddell’s new working and golfing life in the West Midlands suited him as in 1927 he earned his greatest golfing achievement. He won The Amateur Championship at Hoylake, beating home player D. Eustace Landale 7&6 in the Final.

He played in 24 of the 29 Amateur Championships held between 1921 and 1955 (World War II). He played 77 matches in total, winning 54 and losing 23.  His win percentage of 70.13% is the 9th best for players who competed in at least 20 Amateurs. However his studies, his career and his family were important to him and he seems to have always viewed golf as just a sport to be enjoyed. His relaxed approach and friendly personality made him popular amongst his peers. He had a few good runs and over such an extended period met and competed against many of the great players from the first half of the 20th Century.

He had one other very real opportunity to win The Amateur. In 1935 he lost at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the first time this course had hosted the Championship, to the defending champion and reigning US Amateur champion W. Lawson Little. Herbert Warren Wind writing in ‘The Story of American Golf’ about the Final said about Tweddell:

“He was a consistent low 70s shooter although, at first glance, he looked like a golfer who would have his work cut out to break 85. His arm action was stiff, and on his irons especially he aimed far to the right of his target and allowed for lots of draw. In 1935 he was playing hardly any tournament golf and might not have entered the Amateur had the week of the Championship not coincided with the vacation the doctor’s doctor had ordered him to take. Tweddell lost to Little but it is difficult not to think of him as the hero of their exciting match.”

Little, according to Warren Wind “was odds on favourite to take the final….by 7 and 6, 8 and 7 or some similarly secure margin” but ended up only winning the 36-hole Final by 1-hole.

WT and Lawson Little Amateur 1935

Tweddell with Little at the 1935 Amateur Championship (Photo: Historic Images)

Tweddell played in The Open Championship just once although it was a good one to view first hand – 1927 at St. Andrews with Bobby Jones the winner. He probably felt some obligation as Amateur champion as he appears to have made no effort to do so before or after. Jones won with a 285 total whilst The Doctor was well down the field on 306. He later admitted “I really am unable to play my game, or what I call my game, when I know that Bobby Jones is playing on the same course. Since I watched him at St. Andrews winning the British Open, I have had an inferiority complex.”  

Tweddell was selected for England’s match against Scotland in 1928 (won), 1929 (halved) and 1930 (won). He also played in the Home Internationals in 1935, which only started in 1932 (England, Ireland and Scotland tied).

Dr. Tweddell’s second most noteworthy contribution to golf lies in The Walker Cup, although it can hardly be described as successful. He was playing captain of Great Britain & Ireland in both 1928 and 1936, albeit he chose not to play himself in the latter match. In 1928 at Chicago G.C. Tweddell paired himself with T. Phil Perkins in the Foursomes, another West Midlander and the reigning Amateur champion. They lost 7&6 in their 36-hole match with George Von Elm and Jesse Sweetser. In the Singles Tweddell lost again to Von Elm, this time 3&2. Perkins lost 13&12 to US Captain Bobby Jones – the 26 year old setting the event’s record defeat. At the end of play the 1928 match was lost 11-1.

Bobby Jones and WT Walker Cup 1928 in Chicago

Bobby Jones and Dr. William Tweddell – 1930 Walker Cup at Chicago (Photo: USGA) 

The 1936 Walker Cup match was played at the relatively new and extremely difficult Pine Valley in New Jersey – an inexperienced GB&I team lost 9-0 to USA despite arriving early and practicing on site for 8 days beforehand. Three matches were halved but back then points were only allocated for victories. The record books therefore show the 1936 match as the only whitewash in the history of the competition.

Despite playing in a golfing era closely depicted by cigarette cards he featured only sparingly presumably reflecting his modest playing schedule and relative low profile.

In 1956 Dr. Tweddell captained a British Seniors team in a match against America and Canada played in Bermuda.

His contribution and standing in the game was rewarded when in 1961-62 Dr. Tweddell, by then 64, was elected Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrew’s.

So back to the match at Blackwell. The story goes that Tweddell invited his opposing Walker Cup captain Bobby Jones to play an exhibition match in the Midlands over dinner in 1928. When the date in 1930 had been agreed Tweddell made arrangements for the match to take place at Blackwell G.C., a local club he had been made an honorary member of following his Amateur victory 3 years earlier. Blackwell was (and still is) a much sterner test than Stourbridge, located 5 miles to the north so this decision was entirely understandable, albeit I can imagine it didn’t go down well at his home Club. Tweddell was no fool and paired himself with Jones. They took on two leading local golfers, Stanley Lunt from Moseley and Eric Fiddian, another Stourbridge amateur. Lunt went on to win the English Amateur in 1934 whilst Fiddian was the 1927 British Boys champion and went on to play in the Walker Cup’s of 1932 and ’34. Jones, perhaps not surprisingly arrived late given the exertions of the day before and the lengthy drive – sadly for him the M6 and M5 were still to be built. A photo was taken (see below) before the match quickly got underway. It was a relaxed affair with Jones and Tweddell eventually running out 3&2 winners. Jones enjoyed the course and particularly the par 3 13th hole that it is said he later used as a blueprint for the famous 12th at Augusta.

Blackwell Match 1930

Tweddell, Jones, Lunt and Fiddian at Blackwell G.C. (Photo: Blackwell G.C.)

Dr. William Tweddell was an amateur golfer in the truest historical sense. He died on 5th November 1985 but there seems to have been little celebration of his life in the golfing world at the time.  That’s a shame as his victory in the 1927 Amateur Championship and role in the formative years of The Walker Cup certainly place him above the rank and file. What I particularly like about him, and you can see for yourself, is that in all the old photos I can find he seems to have a broad smile on his face. It seems obvious looking at these as to why he was such a popular character.

At the end of the day any friend of Bobby Jones is a friend of mine.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Lieutenant F. G. Tait

10th January 2016

Lieutenant F.G. (Frederick Guthrie) Tait was a leading golfer at the end of the 19th Century. A hugely charismatic man he starred alongside Johnny Ball, Harold Hilton, Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor. At a time when amateurs and pros played together a lot their combined popularity helped to grow the game in Great Britain and Ireland.

So why haven’t most people heard of him ? Well sadly he only played competitive golf for 9 years before he was tragically killed aged 30 serving his country in the Second Boer War. Despite this his happy demeanour, good sportsmanship and attacking, winning play made him a national hero and left a golfing legacy that endures to this day.

Freddie Tait & Amateur Champ Trophy

Freddie Tait with The Amateur Championship Trophy in 1898

So let’s take a look at the life of this important historical figure: –

1. Freddie Tait was born just under 150 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland on 11th January 1870.

2. His father, Peter, was an Edinburgh University professor and fanatical golfer. As such the family spent most of their summer holidays in nearby St. Andrews. He started playing golf aged 5 and along with his three brothers learned to play the game on the Old Course. The family would often play up to five rounds a day starting at 6.00am. Professor Tait, known as ‘The Governor’ by Freddie, undertook many of the earliest experiments on the physics of golf using his son to produce the ball striking data he required.

3. After completing his education at the Edinburgh Academy he joined the Royal Military College at Sandhurst – where it is said he introduced golf – and became an infantry soldier, eventually serving with the 2nd Battalion of The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). He clearly had some flexibility with his employment and when he was not guarding Queen Victoria during her Balmoral stays he appears to have been able to play golf at will, be it friendlies, competitive matches or tournaments.

Freddie Tait Black Watch

4. He became a member of the Royal & Ancient G.C. of St. Andrews in early 1890 just after he had turned 20. Thereafter he repeatedly set new Old Course scoring records. A 77 in 1890, a 72 in 1894 and then in 1897 a remarkable 69.  From an early age he kept detailed records of all his matches, detailing his scores and play as well as the course conditions and his opponent’s play.

5. He was a 6 foot tall powerful man and one of the longest hitters of his era. He became famous nationwide when on 11th January 1893 he produced a record breaking drive of 341 yards on the 13th hole of the Old Course. His gutta-percha ball flew 250 yards and ran a further 91 yards on the frozen fairway.  This more than exceeded his Father’s “scientifically proven” maximum drive distance.

6. In total he won 28 tournaments between 1893 and 1899, many of them on the Old Course in Royal & Ancient Golf Club competitions. He also won three St. George’s Challenge Cups at Royal St. George’s. In his final 1899 season he won the Prestwick Silver Medal, the St. George’s, the three major Medals at the Royal & Ancient, the Calcutta Cup and was runner-up in the Amateur. In July 1899 he shot a new course record 63 at the old Archerfield Links. This was clearly a man at the top of his game come the turn of the century.

7. His greatest golfing achievements were his two Amateur Championship victories. Having reached the semi-finals in 1893, 1894 and 1895 his first victory came in 1896 when he beat Harold Hilton 8&7 in the final at Royal St. George’s. This was the first year the final was played over 36 holes and Tait went into the Championship as favourite having won the stroke play St. George’s Challenge Cup played immediately before it. Nevertheless his first win was hard fought; the draw seeing him have to beat John Laidlay, John Ball and Horace Hutchinson, all previous multiple Amateur champions, before facing Hilton.

Freddie Tait & Harold Hilton

Freddie Tait tees off against Harold Hilton in The Amateur Championship of 1896

In 1898 Tait beat S. Mure Ferguson 7&5 at Hoylake.  In the fourth round Tait found himself up against local favourite Harold Hilton. The ‘match of the week’ turned into an anti-climax with Tait easily winning 6&5. In the next round he played another Hoylake member, Jack Graham, whose family he happened to be staying with. Tait was fortunate to win by 1 hole, Graham missing two late putts, one of which Hilton kindly described as “about the shortest I have ever seen missed in a Championship”. He was equally lucky in the semi-final where his mixed play saw him taken to the 20th hole.  Despite a comfortable win in the final he endeared himself to the locals with his humble victory speech: “Thank you for the way in which you have received my fluky win. I ought to have been beaten twice yesterday, but I got off. I played better today but I really don’t deserve the Championship”.

Freddie Tait & Mure Ferguson

Freddie Tait with Mure Ferguson at Hoylake in1898

Tait’s record in the Amateur is the second best of those who have played 30 or more matches, beaten only by American Frank Stranahan. Between 1892 and 1899 he played in 8 Amateurs competing in 36 matches. He won 30 and lost 6 giving him a win percentage of 83.3% (Stranahan’s being 86%).

8. In what Bernard Darwin later described as “the greatest, most prostratingly exciting” match he ever saw Freddie Tait lost the final of the 1899 Amateur Championship, his last of course, to Johnny Ball. Played at Prestwick G.C. Tait again beat Hilton, this time by 1 hole in the quarter finals, on the way to the final. It was the final everyone wanted – Scotland versus England with the two most popular and respected figures in amateur golf going head to head. Tait led by 3 holes after the morning 18, albeit he had been 5 Up after 14.  Ball was level by the 6th in the afternoon and went 1 Up with just two holes to play.  On the 17th, the ‘Alps Hole’, Tait failed to carry the sandhills and ended up in the large cross bunker short of the green.  Due to heavy rain the bunker was full of water (see below). However, Tait managed to get the floating gutta-percha ball out of the water and half the hole; Ball having been just short of the green in two himself.  Tait then won the 18th to take the final to extra holes. Sadly for Tait Ball holed out for birdie on the 1st from seven feet whilst he missed from a similar distance.

Freedie Tait 17th Prestwick 1899

Freddie Tait ponders his approach to Prestwick’s 17th with Ball on the steps (Photo: Getty Images).

9. He competed in eight Open Championships between 1891 and 1899. He missed the 1893 Open at Prestwick. He was the leading amateur six times with his best finish being third, which he achieved in both 1896 and 1897.

10. In 1898 he made a legendary bet that he could play from Royal St. George’s G.C. in Sandwich, Kent to the neighbouring Royal Cinque Ports G.C. 3.2 miles (5,652 yards) away in less than 40 teed strokes with the same ball. The two courses do not abut so some rough scrubland between the two also had to be overcome. It was agreed that when his ball struck the Cinque Ports clubhouse the cross-country shot count would end. With a gallery, some ball spotters and his dog ‘Nails’ helping him Tait achieved the feat in just 32 shots. Unfortunately his final shot went through a clubhouse window and as a result much of his winnings were paid over in compensation to the Club. Unusually he chose not to record the challenge in his diary but it was recorded for posterity in the R&A’s Golfer’s Handbook for many years.

11. Tait was well known for celebrating his golfing victories by playing his bagpipes loudly and marching up and down clubhouses and town centres across the country.  It was his friendliness and mischievous nature that the people of Scotland came to love.

12. His last competitive golf match took place at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s G.C. on 2nd October 1899. It was a 36-hole re-match against Johnny Ball, a member of Lytham. With 5 holes to play Ball was 3-Up but Tait fought back and finally won on the 18th. Just three weeks later his life would be turned on it’s head and he would off to war.

13. In October 1899 the Second Boer war broke out and on the 22nd, as a Lieutenant in the Black Watch, Tait travelled to Cape Town in South Africa to fight.  He was shot in the thigh of his left leg at the Battle of Magersfontein on 11th December. After recovering he returned to the front line in January to lead his platoon in the Battle of Koodoosburg Drift near Kimberley.  On 7th February 1900 he was shot dead leading a charge.

14. He and his fallen colleagues were ‘buried in a soldiers grave’ on the banks of the Riet River. In 1963 he was re-interred in the West End Cemetery in Kimberley by the War Graves Board. A plain marble cross simply records his name, and dates of birth and death. A memorial service was held for Tait at the Church of St. John The Evangelist on Princes Street, Edinburgh on 21st February 1900.  There is also a commemorative headstone in the church’s graveyard.

Freddie Tait Memorial Service

Freddie Tait Memorial Service Programme

Freddie Tait Edinburgh Headstone

Freddie Tait Commemorative Headstone in the Church of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh

15. There was a national outpouring of grief when the news of Tait’s death was received back home. Another amateur golfer of the day John L. Low was asked to put together a remembrance book. ‘F.G. Tait – A Record; Being his Life, Letters and Golfing Diary’ was published in 1900. With the full cooperation of Tait’s family and everyone who knew him it was the first golf biography ever written and without question one of the most comprehensive. All of the profits from the sale of the book were donated to the Black Watch Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund.

16. Given his status in the game and in particular at St. Andrews his fellow Royal & Ancient G.C. members commissioned John Henry Larimer, the famous Scottish artist, to paint his portrait in 1901. It still hangs in the R&A clubhouse to this day.  The 16th hole of the Jubilee Course at St. Andrews is also named ‘Freddie Tait’ after him.

Freddie Tait R&A Portrait

Freddie Tait with his terrier dog ‘Nails’ and a Boy Caddie (Photo: R&A)

17. The St. Andrews Memorial Hospital in Abbey Walk, opened in 1902 and closed in 2009, was largely funded by monies raised in memory of Freddie Tait.

Freddie Tait Hospital Plaque

The St. Andrews Memorial Hospital Freddie Tait Wing Plaque

18. Tait was a founding member in 1894 of Luffness New G.C. in East Lothian. For many years his family allowed Luffness to display most of Freddie’s medals and other memorabilia in their clubhouse. The family tried to sell 36 of his medals in May 2009 but with an estimate of £120-180,000 they failed to sell at Convery Auctions. The National Library of Scotland acquired six Tait letters for £10,000 in the same auction. The medals were returned to their Luffness cabinet and remain there. The Club has an annual Freddie Tait foursomes stableford competition to start their season. The winners are allowed to wear some of the medals during a prize giving lunch afterwards.

19. In 1936 Lieutenant Tait’s putter was presented to the Kimberley Golf Club by J.H. Taylor. Tait’s will had asked for his putter to be given to the club closest to the site of his death. The club hold an annual Freddie Tait Putter competition, in 1990 a Freddie Tait Museum was opened and to mark the centenary of his death a Freddie Tait Golf Week was instigated in 2000.

20. In 1928 The Freddie Tait Cup was donated to the South African Golf Association by a touring British Amateur team who found themselves with surplus funds. From 1929 it has been awarded to the leading amateur at the South African Open, subject to them making the cut. As it does this year this event normally concludes around the date of Tait’s birthday. South African greats Bobby Locke, Denis Hutchison, Dale Hayes, Ernie Els and Trevor Immelmann have all won it in the past. South African Cameron Moralee, the only one of 9 amateurs to make the cut, won the Cup today. The 2011 Freddie Tait Cup winner, Brandon Stone, went one better and won the 2016 South African Open Championship.

Freddie Tait Cameron Moralee 2016

Cameron Moralee with The Freddie Tait Cup (Photo: Sunshine Tour)

Freddie Tait was a genuine national hero and a household name. Bernard Darwin, reflecting in 1933 said “I do not think I have ever seen any other golfer so adored by the crowd – no, not Harry Vardon or Bobby Jones in their primes.” He was clearly a superb golfer and a fans favourite. One can only wonder at what he may have achieved in the game if his life hadn’t been so cruelly ended by a shot through the heart when he was just 30 years old.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Roger Wethered

3rd January 2016

English amateur golfer Roger H. Wethered was born in Surrey on 3 January 1899. He was probably Britain’s best golfer in the 1920’s and was a leading figure in an important period in the development of the sport across the world.

He was the only son of Herbert Newton Wethered and Marion Emmeline Lund.  H. Newton Wethered, a low handicap golfer, wrote a number of famous golf books including ‘The Architectural Side of Golf’ (1929, with Tom Simpson) and ‘The Perfect Golfer’ (1933).

Roger was also the elder brother of Joyce Wethered (Lady Heathcoat-Amory following her marriage), who was born on 17th November 1901.  Joyce was the finest female golfer of the 1920s and 1930s and one of the greatest of all time.

Roger Wethered with Joyce and Cyril Tolley

Joyce Wethered, Roger Wethered and Cyril Tolley at the 1933 Worplesdon Foursomes (© Worplesdon GC)  

The family benefited from inherited wealth up until the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and clearly enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle.  Both Roger and Joyce were home tutored and enjoyed what can only be described as a flexible education.

Roger quickly got the golf bug from his father.  He joined West Surrey Golf Club as a boy and the family played golf on holiday at Bude in Cornwall and Royal Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands.  He recorded all of his rounds and strove for improvement from an early age.  It is said that after a game Roger would often resort to the library to try and answer and understand a technical problem he had encountered.  In later years, typically for an old school amateur, it was said that he often preferred to theorise rather than practice his golf.

In early 1917 Roger followed his father to Oxford University where he enrolled at Christ Church College to read English.  World War I intervened in his studies and he served as a Second Lieutenant in France and Belgium.  He finally completed his studies in 1921, albeit only formally received his BA when he finally attended a degree ceremony in 1963.

In an era when the amateur game was at the forefront of golf and the sport was the preserve of the wealthy Roger unsurprisingly found himself mixing amongst the best young players at Oxford.  Wethered found himself spurred on by such competition, which included Cyril Tolley, and both of them soon became two of Britain’s leading players.  Wethered was a tall, powerful man whose strength was his mid-iron play and short game.

Roger Wethered, representing West Surrey Golf Club, entered his first Amateur Championship at Muirfield in 1920.  It was the first one since 1914 due to The Great War.  Save for 1935 he played in The Amateur every year up until 1936 (which he presumably couldn’t resist as it was played at St. Andrews) when he stopped competing.  Between 1921 and 1929 inclusive all of his entries were attributed to Worplesdon Golf Club, the club he and his sister were both associated for most of their golfing lives.  After 1930 he represented the Royal & Ancient Golf Club when playing in The Amateur.

In 1921 Roger Wethered, perhaps having recently become a member at 22 repesenting The Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A), played in his first Open Championship at St. Andrews.  Despite incurring a penalty shot for standing on his ball in the third round Wethered and Jock Hutchinson, a Scottish-born American, ended up tied on 296 after 72-holes.  Roger had committed to play in a cricket match the following day in London and therefore found himself compromised with regard to the 36-hole play-off.  It is said that R&A officials had to work hard to persuade him to compete in the play-off.  In the end Hutchinson won the play-off easily by 9-shots, his rounds of 74 and 76 (150) beating Wethered’s 77 and 82 (159).  Had Wethered won The Open in 1921 he would have been the last British amateur to do so. As it is Harold Hilton, who won the Championship in 1897, remains the last man to do so.

Perhaps highlighting the standing of The Open in the 1920’s Wethered only played in three more Championships during his career, finishing tied 32nd in 1922 (Royal St. George’s) and missing the cut in both 1924 (Hoylake) and 1928 (Royal St. George’s).

Roger Wethered’s greatest moment came in 1923 when he won the Amateur Championship at Deal, Kent.  Wethered beat Francis Ouimet, who had taken care of Cyril Tolley in the quarters, in the Semi-Final before beating Robert Harris in the Final 7&6.  Harris had no complaints: “I couldn’t have beaten him.  He was too powerful from the tee and too good on the putting green.”  With his driver behaving better than normal this was most likely the best he ever played.

British golfer Roger Wethered (1899 - 1983) plays a shot during the British Amateur Golf Championship at Hoylake, 27th May 1927. (Photo by Kirby/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Roger Wethered at the Amateur Championship at Hoylake in May 1927 (© Getty Images)

He also reached the final of the Amateur in 1928 at Prestwick and in 1930 at St. Andrews.  In 1928 he lost 6&4 to T. Philip Perkins of Castle Bromwich GC.  In 1930 – with both having just captained their respective Walker Cup teams – he lost 7&6 to Bobby Jones who thus completed the first leg of his famous ‘Impregnable Quadrilateral’ (Grand Slam).   Roger also reached the semi-finals in 1924 at St. Andrews (where he lost to Edward Storey of Cambridge University by 2 holes) and 1927 at Hoylake (where he lost to the champion Dr. William Tweddell of Stourbridge GC by 4&3) and the quarter-finals in 1922.

British Pathé Highlights Of The 1930 Amateur Championship – Bobby Jones v. Roger Wethered

His overall Amateur record is amongst the best in the Championship’s history.  Ranked 9th Roger competed in 16 Amateurs playing 71 matches – he won 56 and lost 15, giving him a win percentage of 79%.  Looking only at golfers who have played at least this number of matches his record is only really surpassed by John Ball, Joe Carr and Sir Michael Bonallack, all amateur greats.

The Walker Cup was first played in 1922 and Wethered was a key figure in it’s formative years.  He played in 1922, 1923, 1926, 1930 and 1934.  At a time when the trip had to be self-financed and Roger would also have had work commitments (see below) I assume he excused himself from the 1924, 1928 and 1932 away matches.  He would have surely played if he had made himself available.  At a time when the USA dominated the match Wethered enjoyed an impressive record, playing 9 36-hole matches, winning 5, losing 3 and halving 1.  Two of his losses came against Bobby Jones in singles.  Looking at each match in turn: –

August 1922 – National Golf Links of America – USA 8 beat GB&I 4
Wethered played with Colin Aylmer in the Day 1 foursomes and they beat Charles Evans Jr and Robert A. Gardner by 5&4. In the Day 2 singles Wethered was paired with Bobby Jones and lost 3&2.

May 1923 – St. Andrews – GB&I 5 lost to USA 6
Wethered and Cyril Tolley lost to Francis Ouimet and Jesse Sweetser 6&5 in the Day 1 foursomes before he halved with Ouimet in the Day 2 singles.

June 1926 – St. Andrews – USA 9 beat GB&I 3
Wethered paired with Ernest Holderness to beat Ouimet and Jesse Guilford 5&4 in the Day 1 foursomes and then beat Ouimet again in the singles 5&4.

May 1930 – Royal St. George’s – GB&I 2 lost to USA 10
When Wethered, GB&I’s captain, was asked prior to the match why compatriot John Beck was not playing he supposedly replied “We thought of John but no one seemed to have his address.” suggesting a more relaxed selection environment than currently exists.  Wethered paired himself with Tolley again this time winning their foursome match against George Von Elm and George Voight by 2 holes.  In the singles Wethered was drawn against Bobby Jones, the USA captain.  Jones won the match by 9&8.

16th May 1930: Roger Wethered congratulates American golfer Bobby Jones (1902 - 1971), a member of the Walker Cup winning team, at Sandwich. (Photo by E. F. Corcoran/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Roger Wethered and Bobby Jones – Walker Cup Captains in 1930 (© Getty Images)

May 1934 – St. Andrews – GB&I 2 lost to USA 9
Wethered’s selection for his final Walker Cup match was controversial. Bernard Darwin writing on the matter in 1944 said “It seemed to me – and I was a selector – that so fine a golfer with so fine a record must be played since he loved St. Andrews, would have plenty of room and had a gift of rising to the occasion.  Others, not selectors, thought otherwise and I suppose they were right…”   Wethered only played in the Day 1 foursomes before standing himself down for the singles.  Paired with Tolley again Wethered drove awfully and they easily lost 8&6 to John Goodman and W. Lawson Little.

Following the 1930 Walker Cup match and before the Amateur Championship started at St. Andrews a four ball that has gone down in golfing lore took place at the Old Course.  Roger Wethered paired with another leading amateur T.A. Bourn took on Bobby Jones and his sister Joyce Wethered.  Playing off the same tees the greatest male and female golfers of the day famously won.  With the game won Joyce three putted the last two greens to finish one shot higher than her playing partner.

In his playing career Roger won many other important amateur events and represented his country throughout the 1920s.  Wins included the Royal St. George’s Cup (1924), the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase (1927) and the (Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society’s) President’s Putter five times (1926T, 1927, 1928, 1935 and 1936).  He played for GB&I in the 1921 match against the United States at Hoylake, the precursor to the Walker Cup.  He was also capped by England in nine successive years in their annual match against Scotland (1922-30).  Roger also won the Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes in 1922 (with Joyce Wethered) and 1926 (with French champion Simone Thion de la Chaume).

Roger Wethered with ST de la Chaume

Roger Wethered and Simone Thion de la Chaume (© Lacoste Archives)

In 1923 Roger briefly moved into politics taking up an unsalaried position as secretary to the Hon. F.S. Jackson who was the financial  secretary to the War Office.  Jackson was a former England cricket captain and a scratch golfer.

Roger married Elizabeth Cavendish-Bentinck at St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster on 29th April 1925.  Elizabeth’s mother’s family owned the City stockbroking firm of Grenfell and Co.  Roger joined the business, after unsuccessful spells with two other city firms, and worked at Grenfell for 25 years until his retirement in 1951.  Roger and Elizabeth later divorced and Roger re-married; to a Marjorie Stratford (nee Mitford Stubbs).

In 1925 Roger joined up with his sister Joyce to write ‘Golf From Two Sides’.  Both were in their mid-20’s and still living at home with their parents at the time so this demonstrates their confidence and standing.  The book was dedicated to their mother: “In recollection of numerous games and much affectionate encouragement.”

Roger continued to be involved in golf in his later years, playing well into his 70s and administering the game.  It was reported in the papers that he shot a 74 when 74 at Royal Wimbledon Golf Club.  He held many honorary club memberships.  He was elected captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1939 but due to the commencement of World War II only took up office in 1946.  He was also President of Woking Golf Club from 1961 until his death in 1983.

He died on 12th March 1983 at his home Garnet House, Wimbledon.

Roger is often remembered in the shadow of his more famous sister. However, upon further inspection of his life he was clearly an important figure in the history of the game and someone who clearly deserves to be remembered in his own right.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Joyce Wethered

17th November 2015

Joyce Wethered (who following her marriage became Lady Heathcoat-Amory) was unquestionably one of the most successful woman golfers of her day and is still widely considered one of the best the world has ever seen.  On the anniversary of her birth, 114 years ago today, I thought I would take a look at her story.

JW 1

Joyce Wethered

She was born in Brook, in south-west Surrey on 17 November 1901.

Wethered, whose father was a good player with a handicap of six and whose mother also played, took up the game as youngster during family holidays at Bude, Cornwall and in Dornoch, Scotland, where the family had a house overlooking the course.  She simply drifted into the game because that’s what her family did.

She started to take a real interest in golf aged 9 and shot an 89 when aged 10.  She never went to school so perhaps her home tutoring afforded her some practice flexibility.  She joined her local club, West Surrey, which had only opened in 1910, when she turned 12.  She made good progress and was 17 when she was first selected for the Surrey Ladies team, by this time playing at Worplesdon with a handicap of 5.

Despite only having one formal lesson she developed her game and competitive instinct by copying and playing with her older brother, the 1923 British Amateur Champion and Walker Cup player Roger Wethered, and observing Fred Robson, West Surrey’s Pro. At 5ft 10” she had a graceful, well balanced powerful swing and often hit the ball well over 200 yards, out-driving many of the leading male players of the time. Wethered also had a great mental strength, which she described as a “cocoon of concentration”.

Joyce Wethered – 1930 Swing Analysis

The greatest players of her era certainly admired her play and respected her abilities. Bobby Jones said: “I have not played golf with anyone, man or woman, amateur or professional, who made me feel so utterly outclassed. It was not so much the score she made as the way she made it. It was impossible to expect that Miss Wethered would ever miss a shot-and she never did.” Walter Hagen said: “As I watched her I thought there wasn’t a male golfing star in the world who wouldn’t envy the strong, firm strokes she played. She hit her shots crisply, like a man expert.” Henry Cotton said: “In my time, no golfer has stood out so far ahead of his or her contemporaries as Lady Heathcoat-Amory. I do not think a golf ball has ever been hit, except perhaps by Harry Vardon, with such a straight flight by any other person.”

JW 1929 BA Trophy

Joyce Wethered receives the British Ladies’ Amateur Trophy in 1929.  

She won the English Women’s Championship on the five occasions she entered it, 1920, ’21, ’22, ’23 and ’24, a run of 33 straight wins in the competition. At the 1920 Championship at Sheringham, in Norfolk, she primarily went to accompany her friend Molly Griffiths. Aged 18 she ended up beating the favourite and holder Cecil Leitch in the Final; it was Leitch’s first loss in a non-handicap match in seven years. Despite at one point being 6-down she finally won on the 17th. As she holed the winning 9 foot putt a train sped past the green. When asked about this later she famously replied: “What train?”.

At the time ladies golf was largely social and elite competitions were strictly amateur and few and far between.  Joyce only really played in the Surrey Ladies’ Championship beyond the two Majors noted above.  She won the inaugural Surrey event in 1921 and went onto win it a further four times, in 1922, ’24, ’29 and ’32.  A rare trip to France in 1921 saw her lose the final of their Ladies’ Open Championship 6 & 5 to Cecil Leitch.

Wethered also won the British Ladies’ Amateur Championship in 1922, ’24, ’25 and ’29. She lost the 1921 final to Cecil Leith 4 & 3 and fell at the semi-final stage in 1923. Her most satisfying victory came in 1929 when she came out of retirement to play at St. Andrews against America’s finest player Glenna Collett. Wethered had beaten Collett in the 1925 Championship 4 & 3 in an 18 hole match and it was almost inevitable that the two of them would reach the 1929 36 hole Final. Wethered fell behind early on – she was 5 down afer 11 holes – before rallying to win on the 35th hole, 3&1, in front of a crowd estimated at around 3,000.

British Pathé News Report Of The 1929 Ladies’ Championship Final

As noted above after winning the 1925 British Amateur she had retired aged 23. Faced with dismay from her growing army of supporters she said at the time: ”I have simply exercised a woman’s prerogative of doing something without the slightest regard for what anybody thinks and because I want to please myself.”

Wethered was persuaded to be playing captain of the Great British Curtis Cup team in the inaugural 1932 match against United States at Wentworth. The US Team were much better prepared, with the GB Team only arriving in Surrey the evening before the match, and won the contest easily 5.5-3.5. For the third and final time Wethered was again paired against Glenna Collett in the singles. Wethered maintained her 100% record winning 6&4 in their 18 hole match.

Joyce Wethered is always linked to the Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes competition, played annually since 1921 at the club that she and her brother were attached to for most of their lives. She won the competition eight times in all with seven different male partners.  Her successful partners included Bernard Darwin, Cyril Tolley (2) and her brother, Roger.  After the Second World War she often played with her husband in the competition.

Just a few months after her British Amateur win The Wall Street Crash occurred in late 1929 and her family lost much of their wealth, built up through their ownership of several coal mines. As a result Wethered had little choice but to pitch in.  She ended up forfeiting her amateur status in 1933 by joining the golf department at the London department store, Fortnum and Mason. Later the same year she agreed a contract with Spalding to market a range of steel shafted golf clubs in her name.

JW with BJones

Bobby Jones with Joyce Wethered at East Lake GC on 18th June 1935

In 1935 she wished to visit friends in America and to help fund the 3 month trip she agreed to play in a number of exhibition matches across North America – these were sponsored by the John Wanamaker Department Store in Philadelphia who also contracted Wethered for marketing purposes. Joyce competed in 52 mixed four ball events with the likes of Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet, Gene Sarazen, Glenna Collett and Babe Didriksen. Her itinerary included games at Winged Foot, Merion, East Lake, Medinah, Pasatiempo and Pebble Beach. It was reported that she broke 34 women’s course records during these matches. It is also said she cleared $20,000 during the trip, helped in no small part by Fortnum’s agreeing to pay her full salary whilst she was away.

She wrote a number of golfing articles and two famous books, ‘Golf From Two Sides’ (with Roger, 1922) and ‘Golfing Memories and Methods’ (1933).  The latter a mixed instructional and guarded autobiography.

In 1937 she married a baronet, Sir John Heathcoat-Amory and left her parents in Surrey to move to the ancestral home, Knightshayes Court in Tiverton, Devon. They had no children. After World War II she was reinstated as an amateur golfer and continued to play with her husband regularly, often at Tiverton, a club Sir John was instrumental in founding in 1932.  He owned the farm land and agreed to let 120 acres for the formation of a golf club.

Joyce joined Tiverton in 1937 and succeeded Sir John as Club President in 1973, a position she held until her death in 1997. Tom Hanson, the Assistant Pro at Tiverton, has kindly shared some photos of the commemorative items that adorn the clubhouse.

Tiverton Golf Club  (© Tom Hanson)

The couple had a shared interest in gardening and took great delight in developing the land around Knightshayes. By way of acknowledgement as to the quality of their work the Royal Horticultural Society awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour to both Sir John and Lady Heathcoat-Amory. When Sir John died in 1972 Knightshayes was handed over to the National Trust. Joyce made numerous donations to the National Trust to support the renovation of the property in the 1970s.

There remains a small museum, ‘The Golf Room’, at Knightshayes remembering the famous Lady of the house. The displays contain some superb golfing memorabilia and medals from her career. Sadly there is no putting green or pitch ‘n’ putt in the extensive grounds !

JW Medals

Joyce Wethered’s Golfing Medals (© GolfBible)

In The Associated Press’s 50-year poll in 1950, Wethered ranked seventh among all golfers and first among female golfers. The men ahead of her were Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen.  More recently, in 1975, her status in the history of the game was recognised when she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

In 2004 Basil Tinkler Ashton wrote a well received and long overdue biography entitled ‘Joyce Wethered: The Great Lady of Golf’.

JW Book

Joyce Wethered: The Great Lady Of Golf

Joyce Wethered enjoyed a long life dying on 18 November 1997, just a day after her 96th birthday.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.