20th November 2014
As the years go by any reminiscences about South African golf increasingly start with the name of Gary Player. However, before him came Bobby Locke. Whilst not in the legendary bracket of Mr. Player Locke is certainly worthy of further note and in no way should be forgotten by us.
On the anniversary of his birthday here’s my Top 10 Bobby Locke Facts (in chronological order): –
1. Arthur D’arcy “Bobby” Locke was born in Germiston, South Africa on 20th November 1917. He died, aged 69, on 9th March 1987 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
2. He achieved a scratch handicap by 16 and went on to win the South African Boys (1931), South African Amateur (1935 and ’37) and South African Open (1935, ’37 – both as an Amateur – ’38, ’39, ’40, ’46, ’50, ’51 and ’55).
Watch Bobby Locke Win The 1940 South African Open
3. After World War II, which interrupted his career, he toured South Africa with Sam Snead playing a series of exhibition matches. After Locke had won 12 of the 16 they played Snead encouraged him to try the PGA Tour in the USA. He started playing in the US in April 1947. He won six tournaments that season, including four in five weeks. In 1948 he won the Chicago Victory National by 16-shots (a record). In two and half seasons he played in 59 events; winning 11 (19%) and finishing in the top three in 30 (34%).
4. In 1949 he was banned from the PGA Tour. The official line was that he had failed to turn up at events he had previously committed to after his first Open win (see 5. below). Unofficially it is often said that the other players opportunistically sought to remove him because he was simply too good for them. The ban was lifted in 1951 but Locke rarely returned, his stock having by this time risen in Europe and the Rest of the World.
5. He won The Open Championship four times, in 1949 (Royal St. George’s – after a 36-hole play-off), 1950 (Troon), 1952 (Royal Lytham) and 1957 (St. Andrews).
6. His win in the 1957 Open proved a little controversial. Having hit his approach to the last hole to a yard he famously failed to properly replace his marker having been asked to move it. The newsreel footage was clear and the rules at the time indicated he should have been disqualified. However, the R&A, having already presented Locke with the Claret Jug, allowed the result to stand, arguing that to not do so would be inequitable. He had secured a birdie at the last and won by three strokes from Peter Thomson.
Watch Bobby Locke Win The 1957 Open At St. Andrews
7. Whilst very accurate he played with a relatively unattractive in-to-out swing and hit big draws for almost all of his full shots. He was famous for being a smart dresser often playing in plus-fours. He was impenetrable with a superb temperament but also notoriously slow. He would only ever play at his own pace, irrespective of any penalties that he was threatened with.
Watch Bobby Locke’s Famous Golf Swing
8. He quickly realised: “No matter how well I might play the long shots, if I couldn’t putt, I would never win”. He therefore became a magnificent putter, in many people’s opinion (including Gary Player’s) the best there has ever been. He again had an unorthodox style, trapping the ball and imparting a hooking, top spin to it. He later coined the often used golfing maxim: “You drive for show but putt for dough”.
9. His competitive career was shortened by a serious car accident in 1959. Headaches and sight issues thereafter meant he never fully recovered his A-game.
10. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977. He was only the second non-USA or UK entrant after his fellow South African Gary Player (1974).
Copyright © 2014, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.