Robert Sweeny Jr

4th June 2020

Robert “Bobby” John Vincent Sweeny Jr was born on 25th July 1911 in Pasadena, California.

He was the youngest son of Robert Sweeny Sr (b. 9th July 1884) and his wife Teresa Hanaway (b. 12th June 1886), both strict Roman Catholics of Irish descent. Robert Sr was educated at University of Notre Dame and then Harvard Law School. He met Teresa, a talented singer and musician, whilst he was in Boston. She was studying at the city’s Conservatory of Music not too far away from Harvard. They married in May 1906. 

Robert Sr was the son of Charles Sweeny Sr and it was Bobby’s grand-father to whom the family owed their thanks for the wealth which set them all up for life. Charles made a fortune in mining and real estate in the late 19th century which Robert Sr built on through hard work and astute financial investments.

Bobby’s elder brother Charles “Charlie” was born on 3rd October 1909 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, his mother’s home town.

Shortly afterwards the Sweeny family moved to San Francisco where Robert Sr set up a new law firm which he then expanded in to Los Angeles. 

In 1916, with Bobby now 5, an increasingly ambitious Robert Sr moved the family to New York.

Charlie and Bobby attended Loyola School, an independent Jesuit school which opened on Park Avenue in 1900, and then Canterbury School, a catholic boarding school which had opened in 1915 in New Milford, Connecticut. Both boys were natural sportsman playing for Canterbury’s football, basketball, baseball and hockey teams. However, it was golf that quickly garnered most of their attention. In 1923 Charlie was captain of the school golf team and Bobby won the Most Promising Player prize.

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Ben Hogan and Bobby Sweeny at Seminole G.C.

It was a stroke of good fortune that accelerated the Sweeny’s golfing development. In 1925 the family were invited to holiday at the Le Touquet home of Kingsley ‘King’ Macomber in northern France. Macomber, a U.S. business associate of Robert Sr’s and a renowned racehorse owner, spent much of the holiday talking about horses and trying to persuade the Sweeny’s to buy a villa at the fashionable French resort. Macomber was confident he was going to win the Autumn Double, the Cambridgeshire and the Cesarevitch, at Newmarket with his two horses ‘Masked Marvel’ and ‘Forseti’. Macomber, having been unsuccessful in both persuading Robert Sr to have a bet or buy a villa, left France saying he would put a little on for him anyway. The horses duly came in for Macomber a few weeks later and he and his associates won over £1 million. In October Robert Sr received a cheque for £28,000, his share of the winnings. Robert Sr wanted to return the cheque but his wife Teresa suggested a compromise – why not use the money to acquire a villa in Le Touquet. As a result Charlie and Bobby spent the following summer of 1926 receiving lessons from pro Ted Green and playing golf on Le Touquet’s La Forêt and Le Manoir courses. The Sweeny boys would holiday at Le Touquet for years to come, occasionally playing golf with Edward, Prince of Wales who was also a frequent visitor.

In 1926 Robert Sr saw the opportunity to establish The Federated Trust and Finance Corporation in London to assist with new share issues on the Stock Exchange. Whilst Robert moved between the two cities Teresa remained based in New York; Charlie and Bobby continuing their educations at Canterbury and visiting their father in the summer holidays. 

Charlie played in the 1926 British Boys’ Amateur Championship, which had commenced in 1921, at Coombe Hill. He lost by 2&1 in the quarter finals to the eventual winner Scotland’s Eric McRuvie. In 1927 both Charlie and Bobby competed at Barnton, Royal Burgess in the same Championship. Bobby lost in the 4th round to a GNS Tweedale from Edinburgh whilst Charlie again lost to the champion, Eric Fiddian 5&4, this time in the semi-finals. With their entries stating either Canterbury, USA or Connecticut, USA they both must have been amongst the very first overseas entries. It doesn’t appear as if Bobby entered alone in 1928 at Formby or 1929 again at Barnton, Royal Burgess when he still would have been eligible.

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Bobby and Charlie Sweeny At the 1927 Boys’ Amateur Championship

Two of their New York friends, Boy and Buzzie Scheftel, found themselves in a similar family situation to the Sweeny’s in the late 1920’s and the four of them spent much of their summers together in Le Touquet. In 1930 Charlie graduated from Canterbury School and passed the entrance examination for Yale. However, the Sheftels persuaded both of the Sweeny boys to change their plans and follow them to Oxford University. After one or two issues Charlie finally received the offer of a place at Wadham College. Charlie soon made the Oxford golf team and ahead of the 1933 Varsity Match against Cambridge he stayed with his friend the Prince of Wales at Fort Belvedere and the two played and practiced at nearby Sunningdale G.C. in preparation.

Bobby Sweeny doesn’t appear to have been as academically accomplished as Charlie and when his time arrived it took him over two years to pass the Oxford entrance examination. It was only after his father threatened him with having to get a job that Bobby got through it and was able to join his brother at Wadham.

Helped by a monthly allowance from their father Charlie and Bobby both appear to have enjoyed a relaxed life at Oxford playing golf at the University’s Southfields course and else where, socialising in London at the leading clubs, Bucks and Whites, and regularly holidaying at the most glamorous resorts across Europe. In addition to the Oxford University Golf Club and Oxford & Cambridge Golfing Society the Sweeny’s became members of The Addington, Berkshire, Prince’s, Stoke Poges and Sunningdale Golf Club’s. In passing Bobby also became a member of The R&A in the mid-1930’s.

Charlie (1930-1-2), who captained the Oxford team in his final year, and Bobby (1932 only) both earned golfing blues. They played in the same Oxford team that beat Cambridge 9-6 in the 1932 Varsity Match, pairing up in the foursomes (winning 5&3) before both won their singles, Charlie 4&3 and Bobby 5&4. Attending and representing Oxford at golf in the 1930’s brought them into contact with many of the leading golfers of the time as well as extending their business and aristocratic networks.   

Charlie was clearly the better golfer as a young man but it wouldn’t be long before Bobby would be asserting his dominance over his older brother. Writing in later years Bernard Darwin said Bobby “had always had a sound and elegant style and he had been a good but by no means an outstanding player for Oxford” which seems to sum up his standing at the time. Laddie Lucas was more effusive in his praise “Of the many golfing scholars I met in those week-end matches for Cambridge, Bob seemed to me to possess a golfing armoury of greater variety and quality than the majority of his contemporaries. Those with the eyes to see could tell then that here was a player who, before long, must surely prevail.”

Shortly after graduating Charlie fell in love with Margaret Whigham, considered the most attractive woman in the country at the time. To demonstrate an income ahead of a proposed marriage in February 1933, his father arranged for him to take a job at Charterhouse Investment Trust, a small merchant bank. Charlie’s new role in the City and the wedding preparations inevitably led to him practicing less and a gradual withdrawal from competitive golf. Charlie would join his father’s Federated Trust company in the mid-1930’s.

When Bobby graduated from Oxford he joined the investment banking firm of Philip Hill and Partners in London, no doubt with a helping hand from his father. As he always enjoyed socialising and playing golf more than he ever did working one assumes this was a flexible arrangement. Now a slim 6ft 3” man, with a fast improving game, he was determined to start making a name for himself in the golfing world.

Bobby was a semi-finalist in the French Open Amateur Championship in 1933 at Fourqueux and was runner-up in the New York State Men’s Amateur championship later in the summer at Garden City C.C. Two results which highlight his transatlantic schedule right from his early 20’s.

In 1934 he secured his first national win in Britain taking the H.R.H. Prince of Wales’ Cup played over 72 holes at Prince’s, the club he seemed to be most affiliated with at this time. He also made the semi-finals again in the French Amateur, this time at the Chiberta G.C. 

Bobby made his debut in the Amateur Championship in 1929 a month before his 18th birthday. However, it was not until 1935, playing in his fourth Amateur at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, that he was to reach the latter stages. He came through six rounds before losing in the semi-finals 3&2, having been 2Up after 12 holes, to the eventual champion W. Lawson Little.

Later in the summer of 1935 Bobby won the Gleneagles Silver Tassie, a leading amateur event at this time, having also come joint runner-up in the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase at the Berkshire G.C.  

Bobby was invited to play in the third U.S. Masters at Augusta in 1936. After rounds of 83-72-74-87 (+31) he finished tied 44th. He would go on to play in a total of ten Masters with his final one being in 1961. His best finish was tied 34th in 1954. His full Masters Tournament playing record is shown in an Appendix below. 

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Bobby Sweeny was a friend of Bobby Jones (Photo: Charles Sweeny)

1936 saw him make another good run at the Amateur losing in Round 5 to Australia’s Jim Ferrier on the 21st hole. Ferrier was runner-up that year falling to Hector Thomson at St. Andrews by 2 holes in the Final. Ferrier turned professional in 1941 and won the 1947 PGA Championship, the first golfer from the Southern Hemisphere to win a major title. 

The 1937 Amateur Championship was played at Royal St. George’s in Kent. Sweeny, about to turn 26, reached the final where he came up against Lionel Munn. Munn, a former Irish Open Amateur (1909-10-11) and Irish Close (1908-11-13-14) champion, had just turned 50 years old and whilst he hadn’t played much in the 1920s a move to Kent and membership at Sandwich had re-ignited his interest in the game. Despite both finalists having associations with local clubs the final was watched by a modest crowd totalling no more than 500. Peter Lawless writing in the Morning Post on 31st May 1937 reported that Sweeny had a “beautifully smooth swing, with the hands carried through unusually high.”

Bobby got off to a good start in the final moving 3Up after four holes. He took the first with a par but then holed long putts on the 3rd and 4th. The lead was reduced to 1Up after 9 holes as Munn settled down and it remained this way after all of the morning 18 holes had been played. At the 22nd hole Munn drew back level and on the next went 1Up. The 24th hole, the par 3 ‘Maiden’, would settle the match. Munn, in the ascendancy and with the tee, got caught between a 5 and a 6-iron and pushed his opening shot into a pot bunker on the right hand side. Sweeny also missed the green but chipped stone dead to secure a par his opponent was ultimately unable to match. When Bobby won the next hole too he was back on track and would eventually see out the match 3&2. It appears his greater length off the tee and extra fitness, in the sunny conditions, ultimately paid off against the older man. Bernard Darwin said Sweeny “played beautifully at Sandwich and was not only the winner but the dominating figure of the tournament.”

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Bobby Sweeny Jr Receives the Amateur Championship Trophy

Final Scores – Morning Round

Sweeny   4  4  2  4  5  3  5  3  4 = 34    4  4  4  5  4  5  4  4  5 = 39 [73]

Munn      5  4  3  5  4  3  5  3  3 = 35    4  4  4  5  5  5  3  5  4 = 39 [74]

Final Scores – Afternoon Round

Sweeny   5  4  4  6  5  3  4  3  4 = 38    4  5  4  5  4  6  2 = 30  (after 16 holes)

Munn      5  4  4  5  4  4  5  4  3 = 38    6  4  5  5  5  5  3 = 39  (after 16 holes)

Now full of confidence Bobby won the 1937 Golf Illustrated Gold Vase at West Herts G.C. by 7-shots with an impressive 137 36-hole total. He also won the Gleneagles Silver Tassie again in 1937 when he shot a course record 66 on the Queen’s Course and followed it with a 74 on the Kings Course to post a record 140 total.

Around this time it was reported that Sweeny had been dominating the White’s Club tournament in recent years, played annually over 36 holes at Royal St. George’s. Members enjoyed to gamble and it was said that Sweeny always left the event with thousands of pounds from winnings and side bets.

In December 1937 Sweeny announced his intention to file naturalisation papers and become a British subject. His sponsors were Lord Dudley and his employer Philip Ernest Hill. However, matters of the heart ultimately put an end to his plans.

Bobby Sweeny had been fending off women since University his looks, wealth and sporting prowess acting like a magnet to the fairer sex. Throughout both of their lives Bobby and his brother Charlie would repeatedly find themselves drawn to the fragile and spoilt debutantes they were exposed to on the circuit of high society balls and parties they attended. Sadly it was a weakness they would both repeatedly live to regret. 

In 1938 Bobby finally met a lady in London who he was interested in. Barbara Hutton was the Woolworth ‘five and dime store’ heiress and one of the wealthiest women in the world at the time. Both had lived in San Francisco, New York and now London and these shared experiences helped nurture an initial attraction. Matters were complicated as Barbara, 25, was in the process of separating from her second husband Count Kurt Haugwitz-Reventlow of Denmark, who she had given up her Amercian citizenship to be with and with whom she had had a son, Lance (now 3). Nevertheless the couple embarked on a romance touring France, Italy, Greece and Egypt during the autumn and winter of 1938/39. The couple became engaged but Reventlow wanted a settlement of $2.5m for a quick divorce. Barbara was happy to pay the sum but Bobby considered this black mail and suggested they wait him out knowing that having signed a separation agreement in July 1938 the Count would have to accept a lower settlement after 18 months when the divorce would be finalised under Danish law. In October 1939 with World War II developing at pace Bobby escorted Barbara and Lance back to New York and on to Palm Beach in Florida for the winter where Bobby relaxed by played golf at the Everglades Club. In February 1940 the couple returned to New York but by this time Barbara had started a relationship with the actor Cary Grant, whom she had first met in 1939, and Bobby was soon dispensed with. It is said he was given $350,000 by Barbara by way of a separation gift. 

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Barbara Hutton and Bobby Sweeny in Palm Beach

Bobby recorded his best finish in the Open Championship in 1939 at St. Andrews. Rounds of 74-75-80-79 giving him a 308 total and 33rd place result. He had made his debut in the Championship in 1932 at Prince’s and played in a total of ten Open’s before his last one 28 years later at St. Andrews in 1970. Whilst he was very much an also ran throughout one can not help but admire his competitive drive, fitness and longevity. His full Open Championship playing record is shown in an Appendix below.   

With World War II now underway Bobby quickly returned to Britain, keen to support the war effort in his adopted country. His brother Charlie had got a head start on him and had begun recruiting experienced American pilots to support the RAF. His ‘Eagle Squadrons’ were established in September 1940 and first saw action in July 1941. The Sweeny family raised $100,000 to fund the establishment of the Squadrons, primarily for getting the pilots to Britain and then paying them. At it’s peak the Squadron had 244 American volunteers trained up as spitfire fighter pilots. In September 1942 it was disbanded when those pilots still alive (88 died) transferred to the U.S. 8th Air Force after their home country had joined the allied forces.

Bobby was a qualified pilot with over 50 hours flying experience and now unattached wanted to quickly get into the thick of the action. Unfortunately his application to the RAF in 1940 to become a fighter pilot was turned down on the grounds he was too old at 28/29. Wanting to be involved with the Eagle Squadron he was made an adjutant, a lower ranking officer who assists a higher ranking officer with administrative duties. His job was to keep the U.S. pilots in order. Once in position he started to use his charm and influence to talk his way into the skies.

He was successful and ended up being posted as a Flying Officer to 224 Squadron Coastal Command tasked with flying four-engined B-24 Liberator planes. Wishing to continue living in the style he had become accustomed to he turned his back on the pilots’ encampment in Torquay, staying at the Imperial Hotel and commuting in his Bentley. He would go on to fly over 800 operational hours during which he and his crew destroyed two german U-Boat submarines and damaged a further five. During one of the successful attacks in the Bay of Biscay on 31st May 1943 his plane was shelled on it’s right wing. He managed to return the plane over 1,000 miles back to his base at RAF St. Eval in Cornwall flying at a very low altitude, fending off German plane attacks off the northern French coast and regularly throwing the plane’s contents out of the windows to reduce it’s weight as much as possible. For gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy Bobby received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) from King George VI in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 3rd September 1943. Whilst Bobby wanted to carry on flying Charlie was concerned that his luck would eventually run out so arranged for a friend, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands who was heading up the Free Dutch Forces, to request him as his new RAF Liaison Officer. As a result Bobby would safely see out the war at the FDF’s headquarters in a chateau on the outskirts of Brussels.

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Flying Officer Bobby Sweeny DFC

In May 1940 Bobby’s parents left London and sailed back to New York for their own safety. In July 1941 his mother, Teresa, died from a heart attack whilst undergoing an operation for the removal of her gall bladder. After the War his father, Robert Sr, returned to England but sadly died of cancer in December 1945. A family plot at Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking in Surrey, was acquired. Robert Sr was buried here and shortly afterwards Teresa was re-buried alongside him.

The War cost Sweeny six of his prime golfing years but he wasted no time getting back to the top of the game when play properly resumed in 1946. 

The Amateur Championship was staged at Royal Birkdale and Bobby reached the final where he came up against the pre-war star of GB&I amateur golf, Ireland’s 26 year old Jimmy Bruen. Bruen had won the 1936 Boys’ Championship at Birkdale and was an obvious favourite for the 1946 Amateur. Bruen came out on top, winning by 4&3. Henry Longhurst reporting on the final said Bruen was lucky to go in 2Up after the morning round after winning the 16th and 17th holes but not hitting a fairway until the 11th and generally finding favourable lies early on. On the 8th hole the powerful Irishman broke his steel shafted mashie niblick hacking out of the rough only to turn around and see a watching Henry Cotton using an identical club as a walking stick. The stick was quickly added to Bruen’s bag and he proceeded to use it to good effect throughout the rest of the match. The afternoon round was played in rain with Sweeny unable to make any in roads on the Irishman.

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Jimmy Bruen and Bobby Sweeny Ahead of the 1946 Amateur Final

Bobby continued to play in the Championship but only featured in the latter stages on one further occasion. Aged 52 he came through five rounds at Ganton in 1964 before losing to Martin Christmas 6&5 in the quarter finals. 

Sweeny played in his final Amateur Championship in 1974, just shy of his 63 birthday and what I believe to be a record 45 years after his first entry. In total he played in 25 Championships and 72 matches, winning 48 (67%) and losing 24. His full Amateur Championship playing record is shown in an Appendix below.  

Sweeny was the co-winner of the inaugural Berkshire Trophy in 1946 alongside GB&I Walker Cup player, John Beck. Laddie Lucas, who won it the following year, noted in his autobiography that it was Bobby who had donated the famous gold cup to the club.

A place in the U.S.A. Walker Cup team alluded Bobby throughout his long career. This was a shame as he clearly had experience and the game for links golf so would have certainly benefited most of America’s visiting teams to these shores. He was not helped by being based in England for most of the pre-War period and by his high profile love life which was often written about in the papers. The Americans viewed him as British whilst his friends in England saw him as an American so he almost didn’t belong to either side. The closest he got to honours was the 1947 match at St. Andrews where the USGA selected him as an alternate.

After the War and their father’s death Charlie and Bobby found themselves picking up the pieces at Federated Trust which they now owned 50%:50%. Whilst neither of them had a great deal of City experience they did have a lot of capital which was obviously a useful commodity at the time and gave them time to learn from their mistakes. Bobby, with little motivation and a lack of real interest in business, ultimately decided to return to America in the late 1940’s where he had many friends, particularly in the golfing world.

He first settled in New York where he carried on playing championship golf. He lost the final of the 1948 Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur at Winged Foot 8&6 to Ray Billows. He would also lose in the final of this competition again in 1957, this time 3&2 to Paul Kelly at Nassau G.C.

In 1948 Bobby met 18 year old Joanne Marie Connelley, who had been voted New York’s most beautiful debutante that season. Despite being over twice her age Sweeny married Joanne in 1949, her aspiring mother Margaret encouraging the arrangement. Soon after the couple moved to Palm Beach in Florida, an area Bobby knew well from spending time there with Barbara Hutton, where they had two daughters, Sharon (b. 1950) and Brenda (b. 1952). However, after a while the couple started to drift apart, Bobby playing more golf and Joanne, who was feeling as if she was missing out on life as a young mother, losing weight and partying. Matters came to ahead in 1953 after Joanne was allegedly caught in a compromising situation in a London hotel with international playboy Porfiro Rubirosa. Sweeny immediately sued for divorce in London and was able to divest himself of Joanne and gain custody of both his daughters whilst Rubirosa was left to pick up the costs of the legal proceedings.

In an aside, again encouraged by her mother, Connelley went on to marry Jaime Ortiz-Patiño in Paris in April 1954. Ortiz-Patiño, the French born son of a Bolivian aristocrat and tin magnate heiress, would go on to acquire Real Club Valderrama in Spain in 1984. This marriage was on the rocks within 2 months with Connelley attempting suicide and Ortiz-Patiño commencing divorce proceedings on the grounds of desertion by July. The matter took 3 years to resolve and with Connelley holed up in Swiss chalet throughout her unhappiness continued. She eventually died of a heart attack, allegedly brought on by a drug overdose, aged 27 in July 1957.

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Joanne Marie Connelley – Life Magazine 10th January, 1949 

Bobby continued to live in Palm Beach and started to play more golf at the exclusive Seminole Golf Club, where he had become a member. Perhaps helped by his links golf experience he became a master of the course which could be transformed by the wind from round to round. Bobby became a good friend of Claude Harmon, club pro between 1945-57, and Ben Hogan who regularly played at the club, particularly in preparation for the Masters in the 1950’s. Bobby was used to mingling with the great and the good and Hogan appreciated the fact he could play with him and be treated just like one of the boys. They would regularly have $50 and $100 Nassau side bets during their games and it was general knowledge at the club that Bobby would more often than not win these and ocassionally agreed to give Hogan shots to help him. Bobby won a number of club competitions, including one alongside fellow member, H.R.H. Duke of Windsor, and kept the card when Hogan shot the lowest round of his life, a 61, in one of their four-balls.  

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Bobby Sweeny Seminole Trophy (Photo: GoldenAgeGolfAuctions.com)

In early 1954 Bobby started a relationship with another troubled society beauty and sometime actress, 24 year old Pamela Dudley Curran. Curran was at this point estranged from her husband Joseph A. Wade Jr who she had married in January 1951. In July 1954 it was widely reported that Wade and his private investigator had caught Bobby and Pamela in bed together at the Hotel Westburn in New York and that he would be seeking a divorce on the grounds of her adultery.

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Pamela Dudley Curran – Life Magazine 24th November, 1947 

A few weeks later Sweeny put the incident behind him and travelled to the Country Club of Detroit for the 1954 U.S. Amateur. Showing good mental strength Bobby, now aged 43, reached the final. The “graying millionaire playboy who is a celebrity on two continents”, as he was described by Herbert Warren Wind in Sports Illustrated, found himself up against a relatively unknown 24 year old paint salesman from Cleveland. His name was Arnold Palmer. Palmer started as slight underdog in the final having struggled in his semi-final against Edward Meister Jr. After Meister had missed a number of putts down the stretch Palmer made a stupendous up-and-down on the 36th hole before coming through on the 39th.

Recalling Sweeny and the final years later Palmer said “he looked like a movie star, he was as thin as a reed. Interestingly he recalled Sweeny having a female companion in the gallery (presumably Pamela but possibly not) “let’s put it this way, she was more than amply endowed”. Sweeny started the 36 hole final well, making putts of 35ft and 18ft at the 2nd and 3rd holes to go 2Up. On the 4th hole his ‘friend’ came through the ropes and gave Sweeny a big hug and kiss. He immediately holed a 20ft putt at the 4th to go 3Up. “I was already 3Down,” Palmer said. “It’s not enough that he’s rich, handsome, a bomber pilot, and gets the girl, he also makes every damn putt he looks at.” Palmer recalled that as they walked off the 4th green Sweeny whispered to him “‘Don’t worry Arnie, you know I can’t keep this up forever’. Bob was a real sportsman, a real gentleman. I appreciated that. Even during the nip and tuck of our match, I knew I would always have a good feeling about him.” Sweeny immediately three putted the 5th but was still able to take a 2Up lead into lunch.

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Arnold Palmer and Bobby Sweeny Ahead of the 1954 U.S. Amateur Final

Palmer eventually regained parity on the 27th hole, although Sweeny dropped another long putt on the 28th to regain the lead. Palmer caught him again at the 30th, holing a 6ft putt, and finally took the lead on the 32nd, when Sweeny bogeyed having missed the green with his approach. Palmer sank a 10 ft birdie putt on the 33rd hole to go 2Up with 3 holes to play. Sweeny, showing his fighting qualities got up and down out of a green side bunker on 35th with an 8ft putt to take the match to the 36th. 1Down playing the final hole Sweeny drove in the rough and shanked his 2nd out. He was still 7 ft away after his third. Palmer, safely on the green in two, putted up close from 45ft. and Sweeny made a quick concession. Whilst Palmer had clearly won the final 2Up referee Joe Day was so impressed with Sweeny’s play and sportsmanship he advised Palmer that he was calling the last a half and that the result would be recorded as a 1Up victory for him. The result would of course change Palmer’s live and arguably the future of both amateur and professional golf.     

USGA Highlights of the 1954 U.S. Amateur (0.00 – 1.41 mins.) 

Bobby played in ten U.S. Amateur Championships in total. His only other performances of note came in 1946 and 1949 when he lost in Round 4. His full U.S. Amateur Championship playing record is shown in an Appendix below.  

Bobby made his one and only U.S. Open Championship in 1955, aged 43, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, benefiting from his 1954 U.S. Amateur runner-up exemption. He missed the cut after recording rounds of 80 and 77 for a 157 (+17) total. The Championship proved to be a memorable one as the unknown Jack Fleck beat Bobby’s friend Ben Hogan in a play-off. 

Bobby continued his on-off relationship with the now divorced Pamela for a number of years before marrying her in August 1957 at the Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. They divorced in May 1961.

With good health and finances, Bobby continued competing in all of the main American and British Championships for a number of years but inevitably as he moved towards and beyond his 50th birthday successes were few and far between. 

Bobby returned to England on a permanent basis in the late 1960s as he wanted his two daughters to finish their educations in England. He was first diagnosed with cancer in 1979 and eventually died from it at his home in London on 21st October 1983 aged 72. He is buried, alongside his father, mother and brother in the Brookwood Cemetry. His older brother Charlie died ten years later in 1993.

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Bobby Sweeny’s Grave in Woking (Photo: Ian Wood)

Bobby Sweeny has been described as golf’s last ‘Great Gatsby’ and it’s easy to see why. He was a celebrity in both British and American society and a popular character in the golfing world. He was a natural who seemingly didn’t practice very often and frequently turned up for Championships the day before he would be teeing it up. Whilst he lived in an era and manner which is unrecognisable to most people nowadays his longevity at the top of the amateur game, if not his titles, make him worthy of further recognition.

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Appendix

1. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete Amateur Championship Record (Club Affiliation)

Royal St. George’s – 1929 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Lost to T.A. Torrance 8&6

Muirfield – 1932 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat Capt. J.R. Pelham-Burn 2&1
Rd 2 Beat R.H. Wethered 6&4
Rd 3 Lost to A.J. Peech 1 Hole

Royal Liverpool – 1933 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Walkover v. F.C. Harrison
Rd 2 Beat H.M. Dickson 5&3
Rd 3 Lost to EC Hatton 4&3

Royal Lytham – 1935 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat A.R. Walton 2&1
Rd 2 Beat P.W.L. Risdon 4&3
Rd 3 Beat J. Graham 5&4
Rd 4 Beat Brig. Gen. A.C. Critchley 5&4
Rd 5 Beat W.M. Robb 19th Hole
QF Beat A. Walker 1 Hole
SF Lost to W.L. Little 3&2 – Little beat Dr. W. Tweddell by 1 Hole in the Final

St. Andrews – 1936 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat JM Baillieu 3&2
Rd 2 Beat Lord C Hope 5&4
Rd 3 Beat J McLean 20th Hole
Rd 4 Beat E.F. Storey 2&1
Rd 5 Lost to J. Ferrier 21st Hole – Ferrier lost to Hector Thomson by 2 Holes in the Final

Royal St. George’s – 1937 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Beat H.G. Bentley 2&1
Rd 2 Beat M.W. Budd 1 Hole
Rd 3 Beat W.H.H. Aitken 5&4
Rd 4 Beat E. Bromley-Davenport 19th Hole
Rd 5 Beat Dr. H. Gardiner-Hill 2 Holes
QF Beat W Wehrle 3&2
SF Beat C Stowe 6&5
Final Beat L.O.M. Munn 3&2

Royal Troon – 1938 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat J.R. Hordern 4&3
Rd 2 Lost to W.M. Robb 5&4

Royal Liverpool – 1939 (Club – R&A)
Prelim Rd Walkover v. Hon. Denys Scott

1940-45 World War II saw six Amateur Championships cancelled

Royal Birkdale – 1946 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Beat R.J. Nauen
Rd 2 Beat W.C.I. Boulton 2 Holes
Rd 3 Beat R.F. Cottingham 5&4
Rd 4 Beat W. Sutton 20th Hole
Rd 5 Beat J.W. Jones 2 Holes
QF Beat H. McInally 19th Hole
SF Beat G.H. Micklem 5&4
Final Lost to J. Bruen 4&3

Carnoustie – 1947 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Beat C.G. Griffith 7&5
Rd 2 Beat F. Kammer Jr 5&3
Rd 3 Lost to W.E. Scott 3&2

Royal St. George’s – 1948 (Club – Meadow Brook, USA)
Rd 1 Beat F.G. Dewar 3&1
Rd 2 Beat Major Viscount Coke 7&6
Rd 3 Lost to S.B. Roberts 1 Hole

St Andrews – 1950 (Club – Meadow Brook, USA)
Rd 1 Lost to G.W. Mackie 1 Hole

Prestwick – 1952 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Lost to A.T. Kyle Walkover

Royal Liverpool – 1953 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat W.C.A. Stead 4&3
Rd 2 Beat J. Bennett 1 Hole
Rd 3 Beat J. Taggart 2 Holes
Rd 4 Lost to R.C. MacGregor 1 Hole

Muirfield – 1954 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat Lt. Col. A.A. Duncan 20th Hole
Rd 2 Lost to J de Bendern 4&3

Royal Lytham – 1955 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Lost to S.V. Tredinnick Walkover

Royal Troon – 1956 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Lost to M.M. McKeand Walkover

Turnberry – 1961 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Lost to J. Pirie Walkover

Royal Liverpool – 1962 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat R.M. de Lloyd 2&1
Rd 2 Beat J. Glover 1 Hole
Rd 3 Beat H.A. Wilton 5&4
Rd 4 Lost to D.J. Palmer 6&4

St. Andrews – 1963 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Lost to Dr. C.C. Bird 3&2

Ganton – 1964 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat M.E. Barker 6&5
Rd 2 Walkover J.M. Tweedy
Rd 3 Beat J.H. King 4&2
Rd 4 Beat R.H. Tupling 19th Hole
Rd 5 Beat P.D. Flaherty 2&1
QF Lost to M.J. Christmas 6&5

Royal Porthcawl – 1965 (Club – USA)
Prelim Rd Beat M.L. MacKenzie 2&1
Rd 1 Lost to P.D. Kelley 2&1

Carnoustie – 1966 (Club – USA)
Rd 1 Lost to D. Charmat 4&3

Formby – 1967 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Beat G.B.B. Jeffrey 4&2
Rd 2 Lost to R.H. Webster 3&2

Royal Troon – 1968 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Beat R.E. Faulkner 23rd Hole
Rd 2 Beat J.E. Behrend 2&1
Rd 3 Lost to R.W. Millen 3&1

Royal Liverpool – 1969 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to T.F. Connell 1 Hole

Royal County Down – 1970 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to B. Edwards 1 Hole

Carnoustie – 1971 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to R.C. Beaumont 3&1

Royal St. George’s – 1972 (Club – Royal St. George’s)
Rd 1 Lost to E.S. Proctor 1 Hole

Royal Porthcawl – 1973 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Lost to M.M. McKeand Walkover

Muirfield – 1974 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to G. Brand 4&3

2. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete Open Championship Record

Prince’s 1932   44th 78-74-77-78 = 307

St. George’s 1934   MC 80-79

Muirfield 1935   46th 72-73-82-80 = 307

Carnoustie 1937   MC 75-85

St Andrews 1939   33rd 74-75-80-79 = 308

St Andrews 1946   MC 85-77

Muirfield 1959   MC 78-73

Royal Liverpool 1967   MC 81-75

Carnoustie 1968   MC 79-77

St. Andrews 1970   MC 75-80

3. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete U.S. Masters Tournament Record

1936  T44  83-72-74-87 = 319 +31

1940  T39  76-78-73-78 = 305 +17

1949  52nd  82-80-79-77 = 318 +30

1950  T51  77-76-79-78 = 310 +22

1951  T55  80-79-78-78 = 315 +27

1952  T55  74-77-79-83 = 313 +25

1953  T34  75-76-72-75 = 298 +10

1954  63rd  81-76-79-76 = 312 +24

1955  WD  Pre-Tournament

Cut instituted in 1957 – Low T40 between 1957-62

1959  MC  81-77 = 158 +14

1960  MC  81-73 = 154 +10

1961 MC 74-77 = 151 +7

4. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete U.S. Amateur Championship Record (Club Affiliation)

Country Club, Cleveland – 1935 (Club – Sandwich, England)
Rd 1 Beat Robert W. Knowles 3&2
Rd 2 Lost to Roger S. Peacock  6&4

Baltusrol, New Jersey – 1946 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat Thomas W. Barnes 1Hole
Rd 2 Beat Edward L. Meister 20th Hole
Rd 3 Beat James Frisina 1Hole
Rd 4 Lost to Robert W. Willets 4&3

Pebble Beach GL, California – 1947 (Club – Meadow Brook, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Lost to Donald P. Kennedy 3&2

Memphis C.C., Tennessee – 1948 (Club – Meadow Brook, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Beat C. McVicker 4&3
Rd 2 Lost to William K. Barrett Jr 4&3

Oak Hill C.C., New York – 1949 (Club – Meadow Brook, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Beat John C. Owens 5&3
Rd 3 Beat Jack B. Key Jr 4&3
Rd 4 Lost to Charlie R. Coe 4&2

C.C. of Detroit, Michigan – 1954 (Club – Sands Point, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Beat Harry W. Easterly 2&1
Rd 2 Beat Stanton Shalar 6&5
Rd 3 Beat Gene Brehaut 4&3
Rd 4 Beat Clyde Oskin 1Hole
Rd 5 Beat M. Edward Merrins 3&1
QF Beat Dale Morey 4&3
SF Beat Dr. Ted N. Lenczyk 5&4
Final Lost to Arnold D. Palmer 1Hole

C.C. of Virginia, Virginia – 1955 (Club – National Golf Links of America)
Rd 1 Beat Thomas H. Pritchard 7&6
Rd 2 Lost to Willie P. Turnesa 19th Hole

Knollwood Club, Illinois – 1956 (Club – National Golf Links of America)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Beat William C. Scarbrough 6&4
Rd 3 Lost to Robert Shave Jr 6&5

Country Club, Brookline, Mass. – 1957 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat John C. Owens 4&3
Rd 2 Lost to Rober M. Bierne 5&4

St. Louis C.C., Missouri – 1960 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Lost to Leslie R. Fowler 3&2

Bilbiography

1. Callaghan, Tom. ‘Arnie The Life of Arnold Palmer’. Arena Sport, 2017.

2. Caine, Philip D.. ‘Eagles of the RAF: The World War II Eagle Squadrons’

3. Darwin, Bernard. ‘Golf Between Two Wars’. Chatto & Windus, 1944,

4. The 55th Golfer’s Handbook, The R&A, 1958

5. Heymann, C. David. ‘Poor Little Rich Girl – The Life and Legend Of Barbara Hutton’. Pocket Books, 1986

6. Lawless, Peter (Ed). ‘The Golfer’s Companion’. JM Dent & Sons Ltd, 1937.

7. Lucas, Laddie. ‘The Sport of Princes’. Stanley Paul, 1980.

8. O’Connor, Ian. ‘Arnie & Jack’.  The Life of Arnold Palmer’. Yellow Jersey Press, 2008.

9. Rambler, Nash A (pseudonym), ’30th November 1939’. The Esoteric Curiosa.

10. Roberts, Charley & Haas, Charles.  ‘Charles Sweeny, the Man Who Inspired Hemmingway’. McFarland & Company, 2017

11. Sweeny, Charles & Goodson, Col. James A. Goodson. ’Sweeny: The Autobiography of Charles Sweeny’. Wingham Press, 1990.

ME.

Copyright © 2014-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Gary Wolstenholme

28th November 2019

Gary Wolstenholme will forever be known as “The man who beat Tiger” in the 1995 Walker Cup match at Royal Porthcawl.

There is of course much more to his story than a single win though.

Wolstenholme’s record and commitment to the amateur game is simply unparalleled. Given his longevity and the era in which he played, with its greater depth, he is arguably Great Britain & Ireland’s (GB&I) greatest ever amateur golfer.

_________________________________________

Gary Peter Wolstenholme MBE was born in Egham, Surrey on 21st August 1960.

His father was Guy Wolstenholme a renowned amateur and professional golfer in the 1950s and ’60s. Peter Alliss is one of Gary’s god-parents due to his long friendship with his father. Sadly Guy died from cancer in October 1984 well before his son’s golfing peak.

Gary’s parents divorced when he was four years old and it was his mother Joan, and her parents, that brought Gary up in Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria. When he was 10 the family moved to Keighley in Yorkshire and Gary was sent off to boarding school at Giggleswick. He completed his schooling there save for an 18 month period when he moved to Melbourne, Australia as his parents tried in vain to make their relationship work again.

He first played golf when he was 4 years old but didn’t start taking it seriously until he was 17. His father actively discouraged him knowing only too well how making a career in golf was fraught with difficulties. Gary was a 23 handicap when he was 18 and whilst he dropped his handicap rapidly thereafter still only earned his first England cap when he was 27.

Always a short hitter off the tee he practiced for many hours to ensure he got the maximum out of his game. His consistency, short game and confidence in his own ability enabled him to overcome many a supposedly stronger player in his lengthy career.

_________________________________________

Wolstenholme won The Amateur Championship twice. In 1991 he beat Bob May (USA) 8&6 at Ganton GC and in 2003 he beat Raphael De Sousa (SUI) 6&5 at Royal Troon GC.

His 2003 win came when he was 42, making him one of the oldest champions in the history of this prestigious competition.

46E91CCE-5D1B-4A72-8193-54D51AA6C00E

Gary Wolstenholme With The Amateur Championship In 2015 (Photo: Age Partnership)

In his long career Gary won numerous other national and international titles (see Appendix 1), including the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase, the Duncan Putter (3), the Berkshire Trophy (3), the Welsh Stroke Play, the Scottish Stroke Play, the Sherry Cup (4), the Lagonda Trophy and the Lee Westwood Trophy.

However, like his career amateur predecessor Peter McEvoy, the English Amateur Championship always alluded him. Whilst his father was a two-time winner the closest Gary came to lifting the trophy was a 4&2 loss to Paul Casey in the 2000 final at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. It was his only defeat in a major final.

_________________________________________

Gary played in five Majors – the 1992 and 2004 Masters, the 1992 (Muirfield) and 2003 (Royal St. George’s) Open’s and the 2008 U.S. Open (Torrey Pines) – but missed the cut in all of them.

He played with a 62 year old Arnold Palmer in round 1 of the 1992 Masters and recorded an even par 72 at Augusta. In 2004 he was paired with Tom Watson shooting 77 and 76.

He made more of an impression with some of the other professional tournament invites he received. He was the leading amateur at the 1993 Benson and Hedges International and 2004 British Masters and also made the cut at the 1992 Australian Masters.

He was also invited to play in the 1992 Memorial Tournament by Jack Nicklaus.

_________________________________________

Throughout his long career Wolstenholme derived the most satisfaction from his team selection for England, GB&I and Europe.

He is the most capped player in world amateur golf, playing 218 times for England. Between April 1988 and 2008 he won 130 games, halved 25 and lost 63, earning 142.5 points for his country.

England won the Home Internationals 13 times and the European Men’s Team Championships at Hillside in 2005 with Gary in the team. Gary played seven times for England in the latter competition between 1997 and 2007.

_________________________________________

Wolstenholme has consistently stated over the years that winning the Eisenhower Trophy for GB&I in Chile in 1998 was the highlight of his golfing career.

All four of Gary’s scores counted in the 72 hole event, including a final round 67 which helped take the four man GB&I team 4 shots clear of Australia and USA.

Having the golf medal placed around his neck while the national anthem was playing was his crowning glory.

In addition to 1998 he also played in the World Amateur Team Championship for GB&I in 1996 (Philippines) and, after each home nation started to enter separately, England in 2002 (Malaysia) and 2004 (Puerto Rico).

_________________________________________

Gary played on six Walker Cup teams, at Royal Porthcawl (1995), Quaker Ridge (1997), Nairn (1999), Ocean Forest (2001), Ganton (2003) and finally Chicago (2005).

He is the all-time leading points scorer for GB&I. He played 19 games in total, 11 Singles and 8 Foursomes, winning 5 of each (see Appendix 2). His wins against Tiger Woods in 1995 and Anthony Kim 10 years later being the obvious highlights. Unsurprisingly one rarely hears the second part of the Woods story which is that the two of them played again in the Day 2 Singles and that Tiger won relatively easily.

D72C81A0-ADDB-446D-A150-E5F5DEC3CBA0

Tiger Woods and Gary Wolstenholme At Porthcawl in 1995 (Photo: Sunday Times)

He was on the winning side four times; an impressive stat when one remembers GB&I have only won nine times in the 46 matches played since the contest started in 1922.

His leading points winner and most match win records are almost certainly never going to be broken due to the much changed nature of the amateur game.

Given his commitment to amateur golf and his status in the history of the Walker Cup it is disappointing that The R&A have not found themselves able to afford him the captaincy of the GB&I team to date (even accepting that he eventually turned professional).

_________________________________________

In 1998 the Bonallack Trophy match between Europe and Asia-Pacific started. Wolstenholme was selected for Europe on four occasions in 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2006. Europe won three of these matches and Gary holds the record for both the most games played and most points scored.

_________________________________________

Gary’s late blossoming meant he never really considered turning pro during his amateur career. He was simply never good enough while young enough and likewise when he became good enough he considered himself too old to embark on such a pursuit. He was also realistic enough to appreciate he didn’t have the finances to do so either. His somewhat nomadic life, he moved from Leicestershire to Bristol and then back again, meant he never really enjoyed a home fanbase which could have helped him attract local start-up sponsorship.

In September 2008, having just turned 48, Wolstenholme finally turned professional.

Whilst no one could begrudge Gary the opportunity to belatedly try and cash in on his years of hard work on the golf course he left the amateur ranks a little disillusioned. Both The R&A and England Golf had indicated to him that they wanted to focus on younger players going forward. If this was not bad enough neither party also seemed keen for him to play a role in helping to develop this next generation, something he had hoped for and perhaps expected.

Presented with little alternative, if he wished to continue playing golf competitively, he took the plunge; his theory being to acclimatise on development tours ahead of playing the Senior Tour after he turned 50 in 2010.

Shortly before this he had sold his house in Leicestershire and moved back in with his mother in Cumbria. He started an attachment with Carus Green Golf Club in Kendall as a result which continues to this day.

His first professional win came in July 2010 in the Stoke-By-Nayland event on the PGA EuroPro Tour where he shot a 63 in round 2 on his way to a -15 4-shot victory. At 49 years and 313 days old I assume he must be the oldest ever winner of a PGA EuroPro Tour event.

Gary made an impressive start to life on the European Senior Tour (now the Staysure Tour) in the Autumn of 2010. He finished third in his first event, the Travis Perkins Masters at Woburn, before winning the €90,000 first prize next time out at the 2010 Casa Serena Open (-13 by 3 shots) in the Czech Republic.

Wolstenholme went on to win a further two events; the 2012 Mallorca Open Senior (-8 by 2 shots) and the 2012 Benahavis Senior Masters (-13 by 1 shot).

He is currently playing his tenth season on the Staysure Tour. As at November 2019 he has played in 134 events and has to date amassed career prize winnings of €926,069.65. His decision to turn pro therefore appears to have been a good one.

He also won the 2011 ISPS Handa Australian Senior Open.

9467E9D4-0270-4203-BE72-7B33FB4C0E1A

Gary Wolstenholme Receives His MBE In May 2007 (Photo: Daily Mail)

Wolstenholme was awarded an MBE (for services to golf) in the 2007 New Year’s Honours list. “It’s a great honour and I’m very proud,” he said at the time. “This means everything to me. It salutes the sacrifices I’ve made to the game over the past 20 years but this is not just for me. It is also for those people who have helped me achieve what I have. Those at my club Kilworth Springs (where he was the Director of Golf for eight years), those who have coached me over the years, the people who helped me when I was in Bristol, and especially my mother without whom I wouldn’t have achieved anything.”

‘The Long and the Short of It: The Autobiography of Britain’s Greatest Amateur Golfer’ by Gary Wolstenholme (and Sunday Times journalist Derek Clements) was published by John Blake Publishing on 4th October 2010. It is dedicated to his mother Joan and presents an honest story of his career in the game.

Book Gary Wolstenholme

Gary’s AutobiographyThe Long And Short Of  It’ (Photo: GolfBible)

Over the years he has also been given honorary memberships at Berkhamsted GC, The Berkshire GC, Bristol & Clifton GC, County Sligo GC, GC of Georgia (USA), Grange-over-sands GC, Heysham GC, The Leicestershire GC, Morecambe GC, Scarborough North Cliff GC and Trevose G&CC.

In 2005 Wolstenholme was invited to join The R&A only for the invitation to be subsequently withdrawn by Chief Executive Peter Dawson after a couple of members, one presumably very senior, surprisingly ‘blackballed’ him for being “not suitable”.

_________________________________________

Gary Wolstenholme was sometimes viewed by his peers as a loner, an outsider; superstitious and a little eccentric on the one hand but occasionally arrogant and aloof too.

Having played most of his golf with players much younger than himself it was perhaps inevitable that some found it hard to build a rapport with him. The truth is Gary probably didn’t want them to. Like a great many champions he did what he believed to be necessary to fulfil his potential and get the job done.

For me his playing record and achievements certainly outweigh any character flaws that he may have had. He often talked about setting his name in stone within the history of the game. As the only amateur to win on all five continents he has undoubtedly done that.

GB&I amateur golf supporters owe him a debt of gratitude for the service he gave to his country over 20 years. Many of his playing records will never be broken and he will rightly take his place in history as our last great career amateur.

_________________________________________

Appendix 1 – Other Amateur Victories

1986 & 2002 – Midland Open Stroke Play

1987 – West of England Open Stroke Play

1989 – Golf Illustrated Gold Vase

1993 – Chinese Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship

1994, 1996 & 1999 – Duncan Putter

1994, 1996, 1998 & 2001 – English County Champion of Champions

1995 – United Arab Emirates Amateur,

1995, 1996 & 1998 – British Mid-Amateur Championship

1996 – Finnish Amateur Stroke Play Championship,

1996, 1997 & 2002 – Berkshire Trophy,

1997 – Welsh Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship

1998 & 2006 – St Mellion International Amateur Stroke Play

2000 & 2001 – Sherry Cup Invitational Stroke Play

2002 – Lagonda Trophy

2002 – South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship

2003 – Scottish Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship

2004 – Georgia Cup Match (v. US Amateur champion Nick Flanagan)

2005 – New South Wales Medal

2006 – South of England Open Stroke Play

2006 & 2007 – European Mid-Amateur Championship

2007 – New South Wales Amateur Championship

2008 – The Lakes Medal

2008 – Lee Westwood Trophy (his last ever amateur competition)

Appendix 2 – Walker Cup Results

1995 Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, Wales

GB&I 14 v. 10 USA

Day 1 Foursomes
Not selected

Day 1 Singles
W v. Tiger Woods by 1 hole

Day 2 Foursomes
L with L James v. G E Marucci Jnr & J Courville Jnr by 6&5

Day 2 Singles
L v. Tiger Woods by 4&3

1997 Quaker Ridge Golf Club, New York, USA

USA 18 v. 6 GB&I

Day 1 Foursomes
L with K Nolan v. J Gore & J Harris by 6&4

Day 1 Singles
L v. J Harris by 1 hole

Day 2 Foursomes
W with J Rose v. R Leen & C Wollman by 2&1

Day 2 Singles
L v. D Delcher by 2&1

1999 The Nairn Golf Club, Scotland

GB&I 15 v 9 USA

Day 1 Foursomes
W with P Rowe v. M Kuchar & B Molder by 1 hole

Day 1 Singles
Not selected

Day 2 Foursomes
W with P Rowe v. M Kuchar & B Molder by 4&3

Day 2 Singles
W v. D Gossett by 1 hole

2001 Ocean Forest Golf Club, Georgia, USA

USA 9 v 15 GB&I

Day 1 Foursomes
W with S O’Hara v. D Green & DJ Trahen by 5&3

Day 1 Singles
L to E Compton by 3&2

Day 2 Foursomes
Not selected

Day 2 Singles
W v. N Cassini by 4&3

2003 Ganton Golf Club, England

GB&I 12.5 v 11.5 USA

Day 1 Foursomes
L with M Skelton to B Haas & E Kuehne 2&1

Day 1 Singles
L to B Haas by 1 hole

Day 2 Foursomes
W with O Wilson v. B Haas & E Kuehne 5&4

Day 2 Singles
W v. C Wittenberg 3&2

2005 Chicago Golf Club, Illinois, USA

USA 12.5 v. 11.5 GB&I

Day 1 Foursomes
Not selected

Day 1 Singles
L v. J Holmes by 1 hole

Day 2 Foursomes
Not selected

Day 2 Singles
W v. A Kim by 1 hole

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

W. Lawson Little Jr

31st October 2019

William Lawson Little Jr. was born on 23rd June 1910 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

He is best known for his “Little Slam”, winning both the U.S. Amateur and Amateur Championships in 1934 and 1935. In these two years the Championships were both contested solely via match play.

He is the only player in history to have twice won both of these titles in the same year. Just three other players have achieved the ‘double’ in the same year – Harold Hilton (ENG) in 1911, Bobby Jones (USA) in 1930 and most recently Bob Dickson (USA) in 1967.

In achieving this feat he won an impressive 33 consecutive match play singles games in the two Amateur Championships and the Walker Cup¹.

Lawson Little Receives The 1934 Amateur Championship Trophy (Photo: Prestwick GC)

He started playing golf when he was 8 and was a student of English golf instructor Ernest Jones who emigrated to the New York area in the early 1920’s.

Little moved to San Francisco when his father, a colonel in the Army Medical Corps, was posted to California. He represented the Presidio G.C. in his adopted City throughout his career.

He first came to national prominence as a teenager in the late 1920’s. His 1928 and 1930 wins at the Northern Californian Amateur Championship helped but it was his part in the 1929 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach that really did the trick. After Johnny Goodman beat Bobby Jones in Round 1 in one of the greatest golfing upsets of all time it was Little who knocked the Omaha man off his pedestal in their afternoon Round 2 match.

Little graduated from Stanford University in Autumn 1935 having majored in Economics and was subsequently inducted into their Athletic Hall of Fame.

Lawson Little With The U.S. Amateur Championship Trophy in 1934 (Photo: Leslie Jones)

Little played in one Walker Cup match in May 1934 at The Old Course in St. Andrews. He won his foursomes with Johnny Goodman 8&6 against Roger Wethered and Cyril Tolley on Day 1 and then thrashed Tolley again 6&5 in the Saturday singles.

He was awarded the Amateur Athletic Union’s James E. Sullivan Award for the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States in 1935. This award, which is still handed out annually today, has only been given to a golfer twice, Bobby Jones also collecting it in its inaugural year of 1930. The Little family donated the trophy to the USGA Museum in Far Hills, New Jersey in 2008.

Little was well known for carrying as many as 26 clubs, including seven wedges, in his bag and as such was a major influence in the USGA introducing the 14-club limit in 1938.

He was nicknamed ‘cannonball’ reflecting the huge power he was able to generate from his modest 200lb, 5ft 9” frame. However, it was not just length that made him a leading player in the 1930’s and ’40s; he also had a superb short game, was a sound putter and was an intense competitor with a strong mind. He famously once said “It is impossible to outplay an opponent you cannot out think.”

Little turned professional in April 1936. At the time the U.S. PGA had a rule which meant that new pros had to serve a 5 year apprenticeship at a golf club before they could take up full membership so his playing opportunities, when he was 25-30 and in his prime, were limited.

Thankfully his stellar amateur career meant he was one of the first pros to receive significant commercial endorsements. The PGA’s rules also meant he could take up an invitation to join the Spalding “Keystones of Golf” exhibition tour alongside Bobby Jones, Horton Smith and Jimmy Thompson. In 1936-39 Little calculated that he travelled over 300,000 miles and played around 725 rounds of exhibition golf.

Lawson Little Wine Advertisment

The highlight of his pro career was his 1940 victory at the U.S. Open Championship when he overcame Gene Sarazen in an 18 hole play-off after both players had finished on 287 (-1).

He won a total of eight PGA Tour titles, including the Canadian Open (1936) and the Los Angeles Open (1940). Perhaps unfairly his professional career is considered a disappointment largely because of the high expectations that most people held for him at the time.

Between 1935 and 1957 Little played in 18 U.S. Masters finishing in the top 10 seven times. His best finish was a tied 3rd in 1939. He was the low amateur in 1935 when he finished 6th.

Little played in The Open in 1935, 1939, 1946 and 1948. On the back of his 1935 Amateur win he finished tied 4th, the low amateur, at Muirfield. His next best finish was 10th at St. Andrews in 1946.

Lawson and Dorothy Little With The U.S. Open Trophy in 1940 (Photo: The Golf Auction)

The onset of World War II, where Little served in the U.S. Navy and played numerous Red Cross exhibition games, obviously impacted his pro career. With many major championships cancelled it is said his interest in golf waned with investments in stocks and shares increasingly taking up more of his time.

With The Ryder Cup missing four matches between 1937 and 1947 one of the best match players of all time sadly never had an opportunity to make his mark in this contest.

Little married Dorothy Hurd in 1936 and the couple had four children, Linda, Sandra, Sonya and William Lawson III. Lawson Little III briefly played on the PGA Tour before becoming the club professional and then president of Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley for over 35 years. Like his father he died prematurely in June 2015, aged 67.

Lawson Little Jr was just 57 when he died of a heart attack on 1st February 1968 at his home alongside the first hole at Pebble Beach in California. He had started to drink heavily in the early 1950’s and this inevitably took it’s toll on his health in middle age.

He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1980 but despite this remains one of the least known and most under-appreciated golfers in the history of the game.

Lawson Little Mac Cartoon Celebrating His Amateur Championship Wins (Photo: Pure Golf Auctions)

Note ¹ – 1934 and 1935 Match Play Championship Results

1934 Walker Cup Match – St. Andrews (2 games)
Foursomes W (with Johnny Goodman) 8&6 v. Roger Wethered & Cyril Tolley
Singles W  6&5 v. Cyril Tolley 

1934 Amateur Championship – Prestwick GC (8 games)
Rd1 W 3&1 v. RW Ripley (Banstead Downs) 
Rd2 W 5&3 v. FL Rankin (Sunningdale)
Rd3 W 3&2 v. EA McRuvie (Innerleven)
Rd4 W 3&2 v. LOM Munn (Royal Cinque Ports)
Rd5 W 4&3 v. GB Peters (Fereneze)
QF W 4&2 v. TA Bourn (Sunningdale)
SF W 20th Hole v. LG Garnett (Addington)
Final W 14&13 v. J Wallace (Troon Portland)

The American Walker Cup team were scheduled to sail home from Liverpool on the evening of the 1934 Amateur final. Thankfully The R&A arranged for the Final to start earlier and for the ship to sail at midnight so Lawson could compete and then travel south. As it happened Lawson’s play was so good – he made twelve 3’s in the 23 holes played – that they probably needn’t have worried.

1934 U.S. Amateur – The Country Club, Brookline (8 games)
Final W 8&7 v. David Goldman

1935 Amateur Championship – Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s (8 games)
Rd1 W 1 Hole v. TH Parker (Fairhaven)
Rd2 W 5&3 v. EM Smith (Royal St. George’s)
Rd3 W 4&3 v. JP Zacharias (Formby)
Rd4 W 2&1 v. HG McCallum (Troon)
Rd5 W 2 Holes v. JL Black (Rhos on Sea) 
QF W 6&4 v. GLQ Henriques (Cavendish) 
SF W 3&2 v. R Sweeny Jr (Prince’s)
Final W 1 Hole v. Dr. W Tweddell (Stourbridge) 

Lawson played poorly during most of this Championship but enjoyed good fortune with a friendly draw and timely poor play from his opponents. In Rd 1 he shot 80 so was lucky to progress against a local player who knew Lytham well. McCallum three putted two late holes to hand Little a win in Rd 4. In Rd 5 the American recorded an air shot in a bunker on the 16th and in his Semi-Final he shot 40 on the front nine. Little led the Final 3Up at lunch but having returned to his hotel in the break returned late and preceded to lose the first two holes of the afternoon 18. Tweddell achieved parity by the 12th but a win with par on the 15th proved enough for the American to hold on as both players parred in.  

1935 U.S. Amateur – The Country Club, Cleveland (8 games)
Final W 4&2 v. Walter Emery

Mark Eley.

Copyright © 2014-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Frank Stranahan

28th April 2019

Frank Richard Stranahan is one of golf’s greatest amateurs and, alongside his friend Arnold Palmer, a player who crucially helped regenerate The Open Championship in the post World War II years.

He was a slightly controversial figure in his day with his love of fitness, questionable temperament and ‘spoilt rich kid’ attitude leading to a number of minor incidents which blighted his golfing legacy to a small degree.

Stranahan was born on 5th August 1922 in Toledo, Ohio to Robert and Page Ellyson Stranahan. They had seven children in total. Robert and his brother Frank were the co- founders of the Champion Spark Plug Company. The Stranahan’s became multi-millionaires on the back of the growth in the automobile industry and Frank, named after his Uncle, was born into a life of luxury.

When young Frank started to take an interest in golf, a game his father already played to a high standard, he was enrolled at the Inverness Club in Toledo. Byron Nelson, one of the best players in the world and conveniently the club pro at Inverness between 1940-44 was one of his teachers.

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Frank Stranahan Aged 16 (Photo: Toledo Blade) 

He won the Ohio Amateur Championship in 1941 and played golf at the University of Miami before serving as a bomber pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II (1943-45). Upon his return he focussed full time on being the best golfer he could be.

Given the financial advantages he enjoyed his amateur status was often called into question with his role as a Champion ‘salesman’ very much seen as a position of convenience. In an interview with Sports Illustrated in 1998 he said “I’m sure the players were jealous. They had every right to be. My dad was bankrolling me, and I could play every week without worrying.” His often blatant arrogance and reputation as a playboy in his youth no doubt didn’t endear him to his fellow competitors.

He won 51 amateur tournaments and six PGA Tour events. He played amateur golf between 1936 and 1954, competing in over 200 tournaments across three continents. He played in many pro events as an amateur winning four of his PGA Tour titles without picking up a cheque.

He first came to prominence at the 1947 Masters when he tied Byron Nelson for second, two shots behind the winner, Jimmy Demaret. The following year he ran into controversy at The Masters when he was barred by Clifford Roberts, then Chairman of Augusta National, from competing due to repeatedly playing more than one ball into the greens in practice. Stranahan always denied this. Curt Sampson, in his book ‘The Masters: Golf, Money and Power in Augusta, Georgia’ tells the story of how Stranahan was set up by Roberts who was upset that he had dated his blonde secretary the year before and how Bobby Jones refused to intervene on his behalf. Stranahan brought a ticket and stayed to watch the tournament without further incident. He was low amateur in 1946 (tied 20th), 1947, 1950 (tied 14th) and 1953 (tied 14th) and played in a total of twelve Masters.

Frank Stranahan

Frank Stranahan (Photo: Unknown / USGA Archives)

He had little success at the U.S. Open. His best finishers were tied 13th in 1947 and tied 10th in 1958.

Stranahan won the 1948 and 1950 Amateur Championships. He beat Charlie Stowe 5&4  at Royal St. George’s and compatriot Dick Chapman 8&6 at St. Andrews respectively. It was some turnaround as his previous visits to Great Britain hadn’t exactly gone according to plan. In the 1946 Amateur Championship he fired his caddie on the sixth hole for giving him a wrong line to the hole. Then in 1947, after his Scottish opponent holed a short putt for a four before conceding Stranahan his by tapping his ball into the hole, the American claimed the hole on the ground that he had only played three shots. He also reached the final in 1952 at Prestwick but was beaten 6&5 by fellow American E. Harvie Ward.

He has the best overall Amateur Championship record in the history of the event for those playing a minimum of 30 matches. Stranahan played in a total of 9 Championships and 50 matches. He won 43 of these and lost just 7, an impressive 86% win record.

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Frank Stranahan With The Amateur Championship Trophy in 1950

Amongst his more notable amateur triumphs Stranahan won the Canadian Amateur Championship (1947,’48), the Mexican Amateur (1946,’48,’51), the Western Amateur (1946,’49,’51,’52), North and South Amateur (1946,’49,’52) and the All-American Amateur at Tam O’Shanter (1948,’49,’50,’51,’52,’53).

He also played on three victorious U.S. Walker Cup teams in 1947, 1949 and 1951, posting an overall individual record of W3-L2-H1, with a W2-L1 mark in Singles.

He most wanted to win the United States Amateur Championship. However, it always alluded him. The closest he came was in 1950 when he lost to Sam Urzetta on the 39th hole at Minneapolis Golf Club; it remains the joint longest Final in the history of the event.

He turned pro in September 1954, aged 32, shortly after losing 3&1 to a 24-year-old Arnold Palmer in the U.S. Amateur’s Round of 16. The Championship at the Country Club of Detroit was his 11th and final attempt to capture the title.

In a 10 year pro career his most notable win came at the 1958 Los Angeles Open. In his combined amateur-pro career he won six times, came runner-up seven times and posted 67 top-10s. Past his very best when he finally took the plunge most of Stranahan’s better performances in the pro game came as an amateur.

With finance and time never a problem Stranahan took instruction with many coaches over the years and as a result he developed a repution as a mechanical, technical player. His swing was far from natural and not at all attractive it was said.

Frank first got into body building and healthy living as an aspiring high school American Football player. When his attentions turned to golf he continued with his fitness programme becoming known as the ‘Toledo Strongman’.  Arnold Palmer nicknamed him ‘Muscles’. The extent of his interest is clear when one learns he was a nationally ranked powerlifter in his weight class between 1945 to 1954. He travelled with weights and argued passionately for the benefits it brought his game at a time when most of his peers were still concerned that it would reduce their flexibility. Gary Player described Frank as his “fitness mentor, friend and inspiration”.

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Frank Stranahan Competing In Over 70’s Body Building Competitions (Photo: Toledo Blade)

He swore by a vegetarian diet and never drank coffee or alcohol. He never smoked either which was also unusual for much of his lifetime.

After he retired from competitive play in 1964 he studied at Harvard University before  earning a master’s degree in business from the prestigious Wharton School and pursuing a new career in investment banking with his own Stranahan Investments with offices in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, where he primarily lived from 1968 onwards. He lost much of his inherited fortune in the Black Monday stock market crash of October 1987.

Stranahan took up running in his late ‘40s and as with everything else in his life dedicated himself fully to his new interest. He ran 102 marathons, including Boston, Chicago and New York, and often chose to jog in Central Park and Florida in the early hours of the morning.

His private life was marred in sadness. Stranahan married Ann Williams in Chicago in July 1953 and under his tutelage she became a first rate amateur golfer too. She finished runner-up in the 1960 Canadian Women’s Amateur, competed nationally and won 25 local tournamants. However she died aged just 45 in April 1975 from cancer. They had three sons but two of them also died young; Frank Jr. died from bone cancer in August 1966 aged 11, having already had a leg amputated, and Jimmy in 1977 from a drug overdose at college in Houston,Texas when he was only 19. Stranahan’s youngest son Lance was his only survivor.

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Frank And Ann Stranahan With Frank Jnr (Photo: Toledo Blade) 

In his later years in Florida he chose to live modestly in minamilist fashion with next to no furniture and with all of his golfing mementoes removed from display. He simply spent his time running and lifting weights. In 1997 he won the over-70 division of the National Physique Committee Gold Cup Classic bodybuilding competition. On his 78th birthday he was videoed dead-lifting 265 pounds (which can still be viewed on You Tube).

Stranahan sadly started to suffer from dementia in his late 80’s and died after a brief illness on Sunday 23rd June 2013 in West Palm Beach, Florida aged 90.

ME.

Copyright © 2014-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Johnny Goodman

18th December 2018 

Johnny Goodman was the last amateur to win a major Championship, securing the 1933 U.S. Open. A relative unknown nowadays he holds a record which is unlikely to ever be broken.

He was the underdog who came good but never got the recognition or financial rewards he deserved.

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Johnny Goodman (Photo: omaha.com)

John George Goodman was born on 28th December 1909 in South Omaha, Nebraska, the fifth child of Lithuanian immigrants, William and Rose Goodman. His father worked in the local slaughterhouses and faced with horrific working conditions and poverty drifted into alcoholism. Shortly after his wife died in late 1924 giving birth to their 13th child (who also died) William chose to desert his family and the home he owned.

Abandoned at 15 and ultimately left to fend for himself it’s fair to say Johnny’s prospects appeared poor. The game of golf and the generosity of friends proved to be his saviour.

By accident Johnny had become a caddie at the nearby Omaha Field Club a few years earlier when he was 11. Playing on the railway which criss-crossed the golf course he had found a stray golf ball. Whilst selling it to a passing player he had learnt that more money was available for carrying bags at the Club. Within days he was earning on the weekends and given his natural intelligence and hard work soon became the best caddie at the Club. In 1922, reflecting this status, he was handed the bag of Walter Hagen by the caddie-master when the reigning Open champion arrived in Omaha on an exhibition tour with Australian Joe Kirkwood.

After briefly sleeping rough his friend Matt Zadalis persuaded his family to take him in and the skills he had developed as a caddie in dealing with adults quickly made him a respectful and welcome house guest. Whilst he continued to take his studies seriously his attendance at school became more sporadic. The need to earn, to feed and clothe himself, took priority and over the next few years he secured jobs as a Western Union messenger, a printing factory assistant and even occasionally as a cleaner in the slaughterhouses. To his credit he later did night classes to catch up and completed his high school diploma on time in June 1927.

He had continued to caddie in the spring and summer months and having cobbled together a set of clubs began discretely practising on the Omaha Field course. It wasn’t long before he became proficient and at 15, having won the 1925 Metropolitan Golf Tournament, could rightly call himself one of the best golfers in Omaha.

Like most sports fans at the time Bobby Jones was his hero and understandably given the era Johnny was taken with the amateur ideal. Given his hand to mouth existence at home he had no aspirations to turn professional and to be treated as a second class citizen at the golf course like most professionals still were. He was happy to continue travelling to events in the cheaper boxcars used to transport livestock and mail on the trains if it meant he could continue to have the sanctuary of golf clubhouses.

He developed a sound posture and a repeatable swing where he hit the ball late, more on the upswing than driving the club into the ground at impact. What started off as a draw became a power fade as he practiced more and sought greater consistency. As a small and slender man of 5ft 8” he never hit the ball far but the closer he got to the hole the deadlier he became; there were few who could pitch and putt better.

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Johnny Goodman (Photo: Lester Jones Collection)

The next step up the golfing ladder should have been the Nebraska Amateur Championship but ambitiously in June 1926 Johnny went for the regional Trans-Mississippi Championship in St. Louis. Playing in his first major competition Goodman showed his potential, first breaking Hagen’s course record in qualifying before falling to the more experienced Johnny Dawson 2&1 in the semi-finals. Despite the loss his performance made headline news back in Omaha. As he said himself: “One day I woke up and I was famous”.

Whilst his appearance, at least in his early playing years, often left a little to be desired he now realised he needed to look the part every day even if his finances made that hard to achieve. More importantly he now also understood that controlling his emotions on the course would help his scoring. Observers noticed how mentally strong he was and how he played with a competitive focus few others could match.

Goodman won the Trans-Mississippi Championship the following year at Broadmoor C.C. in Colorado Springs beating James Ward 2&1 in the Final. He would go on to become a 3-time Trans-Mississippi champion; wins in 1931 and 1935 bookending a loss in the 1934 final.

Goodman won the Nebraska Amateur Championship in 1929 and went on to retain it in 1930 and 1931. However, his sights were increasingly set at a national rather than state level. He didn’t have to wait long to make his mark.

At the 1929 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links, in one of the great upsets in the history of the game, he beat medalist Bobby Jones 2&1 in Round 1 of the match play stage. Disappointingly but perhaps not surprisingly he lost in Round 2 by the same scoreline in the afternoon to a 19 year old Lawson Little, who was just setting out on his own path to greatness.

The event started ominously for Goodman. Upon arrival in California he had been summoned to a USGA meeting to explain a new Spalding sporting goods store assistant’s role he had recently started amid concerns about his amateur status. His $8 per week salary appeared to be nothing to him when compared with some of the employment and writing arrangements other leading amateurs, like Jones and Chick Evans, were benefiting from. At the time the USGA appeared happy to show a little more flexibility to the more affluent gentleman players who met their concept of the perfect amateur. Unfortunately “Boxcar Johnny” fell very much at the other end of the spectrum; just the kind of player who they could make an example of and who they felt should be earning a living as a pro. Thankfully he was able to dissuade the Committee of any major impropriety and take up his place in the field. Although relations weren’t subsequently helped when he removed the star player from the field and attendances (and takings) over the final days were decimated. The USGA introduced a seeded match play draw the following year which perhaps played a part in helping Jones complete his 1930 grand slam.

Johnny’s trip to the Monterey Peninsula ended well. The victory over Bobby Jones caught the attention of a watching Bing Crosby who invited Johnny to play a $100 per hole 9 hole cash game at Pebble Beach the day after the Final. Goodman won $500 off the entertainer and with the Wall Street Crash and the onset of the Great Depression just days away the timing couldn’t have been better.

After a disappointing Round 1 defeat in the 1930 U.S. Amateur Goodman was struggling to balance the competing priorities in his life. “Amateur golf is a rich man’s game, and I am far from rich. I am forced to make a living, and find it impossible to combine competitive golf with business.” However, he had no where to go. He was a man of the amateur era, one who believed the U.S. Amateur to be the greatest Championship in the world and who harboured strong Walker Cup hopes. Professional golf was no real solution at the time as the tour was still embryonic and only a handful were making a living on it. Whilst the retirement of Bobby Jones and the continuing Depression saw amateurism lose some of its attractiveness, save for the very wealthiest in society, Johnny chose steadfastly to continue along this path. However, with his fiancé Josephine Kersigo and her family to consider he did decide to take a job selling insurance in early 1931, offered to him by Pete Lyck, a friend from the Omaha Field Club.

Goodman looked odds on for a place in the 1932 USA Walker Cup team after he qualified and then finished 14th and the leading amateur in that year’s U.S. Open. However, revealing the snobbery of the time, some regional prejudice and perhaps an implied accusation of professionalism, the USGA overlooked Johnny, neither naming him to their 10 man team or as an alternate. Many of those selected for the match at Brookline were either past their best or clearly did not have the recent playing record of the man from Omaha. The accompanying outcry from the nation’s golf correspondents finally led to the USGA making a statement. The Selection Committee, despite making their public announcement three days after the U.S. Open had finished, explained that their decision had actually been made before the Championship. Showing maturity beyond his years Johnny largely kept his own counsel and vowed to do his talking on the course. As the USA team comfortably beat GB&I 8-1 in Boston the selection soon became a moot point anyway.

The disappointment fuelled a run at the 1932 U.S. Amateur which started at Baltimore C.C. just ten days after the Walker Cup match finished. Gaining some redemption for his snub Goodman beat Francis Ouimet in the semi-final and was the last U.S. player left standing. However, despite being 2Up with 9 holes to play in the Final, he sadly failed to deliver the ultimate coup de grâce he had hoped for, losing 2&1 to Canadian Ross Somerville in their 36 hole match.

The 1933 U.S. Open took place at North Shore C.C. at Glenville, Illinois, a long, tight course made tougher by the baked fairways from a hot early summer. Rounds of 75, 66 – the joint lowest in Championship history at the time – and 70 gave Goodman a 6-shot lead heading into the final round. After a good start to Rd 4 his game deserted him on the final four holes of the front nine which he played in +4. Nevertheless to his credit he collected himself; playing the back nine in +1 he recorded a final round of 76. Thankful for a bogey 5 by his nearest challenger Ralph Guldahl on the 72nd hole Goodman ended up winning the Championship by 1-shot. Showing their continued disdain for the social standing of Johnny the USGA refused to formally present the famous trophy to their new 23 year old champion. Unusually there are no photos of USGA President Herbert H. Ramsey or any other official presenting the trophy to Goodman – reports said he simply lifted it off a presentation table himself.

Johnny Goodman – 1933 U.S. Open Pathe News

This win in June 1933 saw Johnny Goodman became the last member of a select group which already included Jerry Travers, Francis Ouimet, Chick Evans and Bobby Jones – amateurs to beat the pros and win the U.S. Open Championship. 85 years later he remains the last amateur to win a major Championship.

In the light of his U.S. Open win Goodman refused to turn Pro. He continued with his insurance job turning down numerous touring, publishing and sponsorship opportunities that came his way. “Golf is a game for me, not a business” he said.

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Johnny Goodman With the U.S. Open Championship Trophy (Photo: USGA Museum)

The Masters was first played in late March 1934. Despite being the reigning U.S. Amateur champion it appears Johnny Goodman was not invited to compete by Bobby Jones, although he may simply have not been able to afford the time or cost of the trip. Ironically it was Goodman’s defeat of Jones at Pebble Beach in 1929 that created the time for him to visit the newly opened Cypress Point G.C. So taken with the course was Jones that he immediately decided that its designer Dr. Alistair MacKenzie would be handed control of any new course that he may build in the future. That course proved to be Augusta National. Despite clearly being one of America’s leading players in the 1930’s Goodman ended up playing in just one Masters. In 1936 he shot rounds of 80, 81 and 79 to finish 43rd. Perhaps Goodman didn’t take to the course and chose not to play in the event again.

Johnny finally made his Walker Cup debut aged 24 at St. Andrews in May 1934. Captain Francis Ouimet played him No. 1 for the U.S. team and he didn’t disappoint, taking to links golf quickly. Paired with fellow rookie Lawson Little in the Day 1 Foursomes they beat a fading Cyril Tolley and Roger Wethered 8&6, Wethered in particular struggling throughout the 36 hole match. On Day 2 Goodman beat the British Captain and reigning Amateur champion, a 55 year old Hon. Michael Scott 7&6. The USA won the match 9.5-2.5 with golf writer Bernard Darwin describing Goodman’s play as “appallingly good.”

The following week Goodman crossed Scotland to play at Prestwick G.C. in the Amateur Championship. A straight knockout in those days the Omaha man reached the Quarter Finals where he succumbed to young Englishman Leslie Garnett 3&1. Johnny’s Foursomes partner Lawson Little went on to beat James Wallace by a record breaking 14&13 score. Little recorded twelve 3’s on the 23 holes played in the Final.

At the 1936 Walker Cup, played at Pine Valley G.C., Goodman was one of four returning USA players and again played at No. 1. Paired with Albert “Scotty” Campbell he won his Foursomes 7&5 against Hector Thomson and Harry Bentley. On Day 2 he again beat Thomson this time 3&2 in the Singles, maintaining his 100% win record and leading the USA to a famous 9-0 victory. There were no points awarded for halved matches in those days so it was not quite the whitewash it appeared.

The 1937 U.S. Amateur was played at Alderwood C.C. in Portland, Oregon. It would prove to be Johnny Goodman’s crowning glory. In his 1Up semi-final win against Bud Ward he one putted 15 greens. ‘Cinderella Man’ Ray Billows, known for his relaxed temperament (as well as finishing second), waited for him in the Final. Johnny stumbled down the home straight again but finished strongly to ultimately win by 2 holes. Finally accepted by the USGA, President John G. Jackson happily made the trophy presentation to a man who had now achieved the American double.

Just 11 players have won the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open – Francis Ouimet (1914 / 1913 respectively), Jerome Travers (1907 / 1915), Chick Evans (1916 / 1916), Bobby Jones (1924 / 1923), Johnny Goodman (1937 / 1933), Lawson Little (1934 / 1940), Arnold Palmer (1954 / 1960), Gene Littler (1953 / 1961), Jack Nicklaus (1959 / 1962), Jerry Pate (1974 / 1976) and Tiger Woods (1994 / 2000). Goodman is the last player to win the U.S. Amateur after the U.S. Open.

The 10th Walker Cup match, played on 3-4 June 1938 at St. Andrews, again featured Johnny Goodman, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. The U.S. team first travelled to Troon to play in the Amateur. An ‘unlucky’ draw saw Goodman beat Ray Billows 4&2 in Round 2 before falling 3&2 to Charles Kocsis in Round 4, both U.S. teammates. Unfortunately any form he had deserted him in his Walker Cup matches as he lost on both days as GB&I won for the first time 7-4. Hector Thomson got revenge for his 1939 defeat comfortably winning their repeat Singles 6&4. With World War II interrupting proceedings the next match would not be played until 1947 and hence this proved to be Johnny’s last involvement.

Back home Johnny Goodman remained well known and respected. He featured on the cover of the popular Time Weekly Newsmagazine on 6 June 1938 under the heading ‘The King of Swings’ and in a story about him being the natural successor to Bobby Jones. To my knowledge Jones, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only other golfers to grace the cover of this famous U.S. magazine.

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Johnny Goodman – Time Magazine, 6th June 1938

Shortly afterwards Johnny married Josephine in Omaha, Lawson Little acting as his best man, and with little money moved in with his mother in law.

However, on the golfing front his play started to drift and he was never to contend in a big event again.

The Pearl Harbour attack just a few days before Johnny’s 32nd birthday in December 1941, which led to the United States’ entering World War II, changed more than just the golfing landscape. Goodman found himself called up to serve in the Quartermaster Corps and ended up being posted to India.

Once the War was over Johnny settled back into family life. He left the insurance world and started working for his brother in law John Atkins who had become a successful beer distributor and club owner in Omaha. 1947 proved to be a pivotal year in his life. Firstly he and Josephine had a son, Johnny Goodman Jr. and then he was involved in a serious car crash, badly breaking his right arm. Any hope of resurrecting his top level golf career was lost in the crash.

The Goodman’s eventually decided a change of scene was needed and in 1950 the family moved to South Gate in Southern California. He used his knowledge and trade connections to obtain a sales job for Canada Dry.

Unfortunately a restructuring led to Johnny losing this job eventually and he started to drink more than he should. In 1959 he became ill and very nearly died from complications brought about by cirrhosis of the liver.

He survived and having adopted a healthier lifestyle started to play more golf. He enjoyed playing with Johnny Jr. and shortly afterwards turned Pro to take up a teaching position at the Bellflower Golf Center in California.

On the 8th August 1970 Johnny Goodman died in his sleep aged 60. Just a few days earlier he had travelled back to Omaha Field and played a round at his old club with his nephew Jack Atkins. It was his goodbye to the game he loved. He was buried in Omaha in a nondescript grave without headstone. More recently a municipal golf course in the southwest of the City has been named in his honour.

Johnny Goodman earned next to nothing for his golfing exploits and faced discrimination throughout most of his career. However, his story is one of the more interesting ones and his U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open wins mean he has his place in the record books forever and should perhaps be better remembered by the golfing world.

ME.

Copyright © 2018, 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.

‘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, his family having moved to Leyburn in North Yorkshire. 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 school he joined the Army, serving with the Durham Light Infrantry in World War I. He became a Lieutenant and won the Military Cross and Bar at Passchendaele in 1917.

Once demobbed he went on to study Medicine at Aberdeen University. He played 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 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. He was Club Captain in 1928 and President between 1955-7.

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.

Reflections On The 2015 Walker Cup

UPDATE – Eric O’Brien has rightly pulled me up in the Comments section below on my failure to mention Slow Play.  He is absolutely right.  There were some players who were very slow and the R&A / USGA referees failed to punish them.  I know this was the Walker Cup and it was important but unless the matter is addressed in high profile events like this how will this problem in our game ever start to be eradicated.

15th September 2015

Who would have predicted a 16.5 – 9.5 victory for Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I).  Perhaps just Captain Nigel Edwards in his wildest dreams ?  The record breaking win was a magnificent achievement for Nigel and all of his players.

WC 2015 GB&I Podium

The GB&I Team Celebrate Their Walker Cup Win (Photo: GolfBible)

The GB&I performance was particularly pleasing as they were up against a strong USA team – at least on paper and we now know preferably playing on parkland courses back home.  The GB&I players performed superbly to a man and the final results made something of a mockery of the world rankings.

The detailed 2015 Walker Cup results can be reviewed here – Walker Cup Results.

Having reflected on the weekend’s events here’s my 16.5 observations on the 2015 Walker Cup: –

GB&I Simply Played Better Than The USA
The overall standard of golf that I saw was very high – these guys can really play.  As we all know the team that chips and putts best normally wins these competitions. This weekend GB&I outplayed USA but particularly with these scoring shots.  As such few holes were conceded softly and victories were therefore frequent on a tough course where the green surrounds are undulating and scattered with deep bunkers.  It was great to see all ten members of the GB&I team contributing at least a point to the total.

Nigel Edwards
Experienced, focussed, motivated and respected by his players Nigel (47) was in supreme control of events at Lytham. He simply put on a captaincy masterclass at this Walker Cup.  Save for the Horsfield debacle, which I guess he has to take some responsibility for, he seemed to get every decision right.  His team selection, pairings and playing orders were spot on.  Nigel has undoubtedly earned the right to captain the team in the USA in 2017 should he wish to take on the responsibility again.  His age, background and role with England Golf means he is close to the players and knows what is required better than almost anyone else.  #WeWantFour

WC 4th Tee

Why Change A Winning Formula – We Want Four ! (© Golf Bible)

The English Contribution Was Key 
Ahead of the match all the talk was of Ireland’s ‘famous five’ but it was England’s Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen that shone brightest.  A rock solid foursomes partnership delivered under pressure and set the foundation for a comprehensive team win.  Perhaps helped by being under the radar a little, albeit exposed by being sent out towards the top of the order in each series, Jimmy secured 4 points out of 4 whilst Ashley achieved 3.5 out of 4.  Having said that Ashley’s dropped half came against Bryson DeChambeau – who denied him with a golfing near miracle on the 18th on Saturday afternoon – and any points taken from him during the match were always going to be a bonus.

WC 2015 AC and JM

England’s Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen (© @WalkerCup)

Cormac Sharvin and Jack McDonald
The two Sterling University players really impressed me at Lytham and perhaps demonstrated better than anyone else on the team what made GB&I so strong this year.  It was clear they got on well and had played golf together many times before this match started.  Their personalities dovetailed as well as their foursomes play.  The calmer McDonald who played with a smile on his face counter-balancing the outwardly more hyper and focussed Sharvin.  To say Sharvin was ‘up for it’ would be an understatement from what I saw.

WC NE JM and CS

Captain Edwards, Jack McDonald and Cormac Sharvin (© @WalkerCup)

Ewen Ferguson
Ewen’s non-selection then selection must have been difficult for him but he got on with it and contributed fully to the team both on and off the course.  He played three of the most memorable shots of the competition too – his drive on the par 4th 16th on Saturday, his final putt on 18 on Saturday (video 1) and then his superb chip-in on 17 on Sunday (video 2).  I was stood right in front of him when he played the chip and it’s fair to say that some of his mates from Glasgow and myself briefly lowered the tone of the event.

Both Videos Courtesy of @WalkerCup and the BBC

Some Of The USA Team Didn’t Show Up
Without wishing to take anything away from the GB&I Team’s superb performance, Jordan Niebrugge (0/3), Denny McCarthy (1/4), Maverick McNealy (0.5/3), Lee McCoy (0.5/3) and Hunter Stewart (1/4) all under-performed.  All of them came with big reputations but left with them tarnished.  The biggest surprise was perhaps Niebrugge, who starred in the recent Open Championship, but struggled badly at Lytham.

US Mid-Amateurs
I watched quite a bit of Mike McCoy (52) and Scott Harvey (37) and unsurprisingly they were both very good golfers.  Their problem is golf is increasingly a young person’s sport at the highest level.  They were expected to be a weak link in the USA Team and they didn’t disappoint – McCoy securing no points (0/3) and Harvey one (1/3), the latter a singles win over Grant Forrest.  To be fair Sunday’s entrance fee was worth paying to see McCoy’s fist pump on the 16th green after he matched Hurley’s well celebrated birdie in their foursomes match.  However, Harvey’s drive on the very next hole, way right onto the range, was critical to ending any hopes the USA had of turning the match around.  I admire the USGA’s policy to some degree but perhaps just one mid-amateur would be sufficient to convey the message they wish to send out.

WC 2015 Team USA

Team USA Were Soundly Beaten at Royal Lytham & St. Annes (© @WalkerCup) 

John ‘Spider’ Miller
It is easy to be critical of a losing captain after the event.  I am also conscious that Mr. Miller (65), who was clearly a nice man, didn’t play any shots during the match and is said to have had no say on the team selected.  However, there is no question in my mind that he contributed to the manner and extent of the USA’s defeat.  His more relaxed approach to the match simply didn’t work – he wasn’t as visible as Edwards and appeared to lack the leadership and motivational skills required for the job.  Sometimes the players don’t know what’s right and on those occasions firm guidance needs to be forthcoming from above.  How could you not play Bryson DeChambeau in the Day 1 foursomes (even if he did tell you he had a sore neck) ?  Was it not complacent to tell all the players in advance that they would play no less than three times ? Were the two mid-amateurs overplayed ?  Who came up with the Day 2 Singles line up which even on Saturday evening clearly needed to be front-loaded ?  Unfortunately for the USA they had a spider and we had a dragon at the heart of affairs.  It will be interesting to see if he is retained by the USGA for 2017.

Bryson Dechambeau
There were many very good players on show at Lytham but one exceptional one in my opinion.  It was not a surprise to see Bryson DeChambeau (2.5/3) impress at the Walker Cup after all he is the World Amateur No. 1 (SPWAR) after a stellar summer where he won both the NCAA and US Amateur Championships.  He looked the part both physically (accepting the neck injury which must have quickly settled down) and mentally, had a real aura and clearly a lot of game.  Like Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth he will probably turn Pro next summer without a Walker Cup win on his resume but what a prospect.

WC 2015 BDeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau (© USGA)

Beau Hossler
Beau Hossler, top points scorer for the USA, with three out of four, also impressed me.  He helped shock star pairing Dunne and Hurley on the opening morning before going on to win both of his singles (Jimmy Mullen being the only other player to achieve that feat).  Whilst not the blue eyed boy like Dechambeau there is a steely determination about Hossler which suggests his journey has equally only just begun.  Hossler’s recovery from Ferguson’s ‘shot heard around the world’ (well most of Lancashire anyway) on 17 on Sunday was particularly notable.  An approach over the bunkers on 18 to a tight back right pin that finished stone dead – not that Ferguson was rightly in any mood to concede it – to win the match was one of USA’s most memorable moments.  He clearly didn’t enjoy the loss.

Lytham Trophy
I think the role of the Lytham Trophy and course knowledge may have been overstated as contributing factors to the victory.  It clearly won’t have done any harm that some of the GB&I players had competed in the Lytham Trophy previously and attended a squad session at the course back in July.  Additionally, their wider links experience will of course have been beneficial.  However, with the exception of Gary Hurley and Jack McDonald most of the team either hadn’t played competitively or had poor form at Lytham.  I guess the strength and direction of the wind changes the course’s playing characteristics from one day to the next anyway.

Foursomes
The opposite is true of foursomes though.  The US Walker Cup players always turn up with next to know experience of foursomes.  It shouldn’t really matter but somehow it does.  This means partnerships are unproven and the players are lacking in confidence in this format.  GB&I’s team are used to the vagaries of foursomes having played it in both the Home Internationals and the European Amateur Team Championships.  The players and selectors also have the benefit of seeing which partnerships work and which don’t well in advance of the Walker Cup.  Foursomes is clearly a nice advantage for us.

Royal Lytham Golf Club
The course and members were a credit to this great Club. The bunkers, greens and run off areas in particular looked superb on the ground.  I did overhear a member talk of a major course overhaul starting shortly with the removal of over 40 bunkers which will be interesting.  A story to follow, if and when it happens, given the status of this much respected links.

WC 2015 Bobby Jones Plaque

I Found The Famous Bobby Jones Plaque – Some Shot Over The Corner Of The Dog-Leg ! (© Golf Bible)

Watching The Walker Cup Live
Watching golf live can be something of an expensive walk, albeit often a pleasant one.  I had read many times before that the Walker Cup was golf’s best spectator event and I wasn’t disappointed when I attended on Sunday.  It was great having access to the fairways and green frontages.  Stewarding, undertaken mostly by Lytham members, was effective but relaxed ensuring all of the spectators enjoyed the match.  Getting up close and personal with the players, both before and after play, certainly made up for only being able to be in one place at one time and therefore missing most of the action.  The numbers were good but not overbearing so an atmosphere was created without one ever feeling hemmed in.

Peter Dawson
As you may have seen Peter Dawson undertook the starter duties at this year’s Walker Cup.  Presumably one of his final duties for the R&A as he hands over the Chief Executive reins later this month to new CEO Martin Slumbers.  As one would expect he performed the duties perfectly.  I don’t know him at all but he strikes me as someone who is going to be missed a great deal and will be a hard act to follow.

Walker Cup Awareness
As I was walking around the sun drenched Lytham fairways on Sunday my mind drifted off to the golfing public’s awareness of the match.  I asked myself what percentage of the UK golfing population even know this match is taking place now ?  Low single digits I guessed to myself.  What a shame and surely something we all must try to address.

I certainly felt part of a special occasion and was pleased I’d made the effort to witness the final day of a memorable match at Royal Lytham in person.

2017
Having got the bug I am sure Lytham won’t be the last Walker Cup match I attend.  I will certainly have few excuses for Royal Liverpool in 2019 which is even closer to home.

Los Angeles CC 1

Los Angeles Country Club (© Geoff Shackleford)

However, as I was driving away from the Fylde Coast my mind turned to how I could persuade Mrs. GB that a trip to the West Coast of America in September 2017 would be nice for us.  The ultra-exclusive Los Angeles Country Club in Beverley Hills – said to be amongst the most expensive golf real estate in the world – sounds right up my street.

Rarely photographed or seen on television it’s North Course is meant to be something really special.  Even more so following a sympathetic restoration by Gil Hanse and golf historian / blogger Geoff Shackleford in 2009-11.  This has returned the course more closely to how George C. Thomas originally designed it in the 1920s.  This August 2015 LA Times article on the project makes interesting reading too if you have the time.  After a long courtship the USGA persuaded the Club to initially host the 2017 Walker Cup and more recently the 2023 US Open which whets the appetite even more for a long away trip.  Even if I don’t get there the TV coverage should be good – Fox have the rights and I believe their HQ is only 1 mile down the road.

ME

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Does The Walker Cup Need A Refresh ?

11th September 2015

This week many golf commentators, particularly in the United States, have been discussing an apparent lack of interest in the Walker Cup and throwing out suggestions as to how the match could be rejuvenated and improved.

You may have read Geoff Shackleford’s summary piece – What To Do To Restore The Walker Cup’s Luster ?

Whilst it is obviously important that the contest doesn’t become totally irrelevant and that it remains competitive I personally think, in broad terms, it should be left well alone.

The Walker Cup will never be played in front of 50,000 spectators a day and shown live to a global TV audience of tens of millions.  It is a niche event, albeit one that enjoys a prestigious place in the golfing spectrum.  In striving for change and publicity we must not forget history and tradition, two attributes that set our sport apart.  Of course that’s not to say improvements aren’t possible.

Here’s my thoughts on some of the suggestions that I have seen aired this week: –

Change The Date
I do like the season finale feel a September date brings to the Walker Cup but have to say I can see real benefits to tying the event into the two major Amateur Championships. This was of course the approach in years gone by when travelling was more time consuming and expensive.

Why not play it adjacent to the Amateur Championship or the US Amateur depending on which country is staging it ?  I am sure the competition calendar could be adjusted to accommodate this if required.  Certainly from an R&A and GB&I perspective such a move would be beneficial.  It would ensure better US participation in the Amateur at least every two years – where few of the leading American players compete nowadays – and also secure more entries for home players into the US Amateur Championship.

The September date also sits uncomfortably with regard to both the start of the US College season and the commencement of the Professional Tour Q-Schools.  Traditionalists may argue that the Walker Cup should sit above both of these but the reality is they are both important to many of the players and a distraction that could easily be avoided.

Introduce A More Transparent Selection Process
Both teams have always been selected by small Committees established by the R&A and the USGA.  You still hear references to dodgy selections in years gone by and with regard to GB&I examples of blatant national interest overriding the wider team perspective.  Selection in the USA will always be difficult because of the vast number of really good players at their disposal – a USA 2nd Team would give GB&I a very competitive match such is their strength in depth.

Calls for a Fedex Cup / Race To Dubai standings table to generate year round interest have some merit but in reality already exist.  The two amateur ranking systems, the WAGR and the SPWAR, are both high quality and mean the days of biased and poor selections are long gone.  Good quality rankings are therefore readily available and those that follow this blog have seen me use them this year to highlight the leading players.

Perhaps this one is more relevant for the USA rather than GB&I where the quest for sporting attention is tougher at this time of year ?  No one could question the appropriateness of the R&A’s selections this year and it has been a while since any major controversies so the current approach appears to be working for us.

Review The Rules of Amateur Status To Improve The Quality of Players Available
This appears to me more of a GB&I issue than one that affects the USA.

The College system means that young sportsmen in the United States have a well trodden path into professional sports. Golf is no different – a four year scholarship means plenty of practice and competitive play whilst a degree is hopefully secured on the side.  As a result only in the most exceptional circumstances do young American golfers turn pro before they are 22.

This is not the case in GB&I.  Elite programmes have been established by each of the Home Unions in recent years which have helped, providing both coaching and financial support to leading amateurs.  The problem nowadays is that to become an elite player you have to be working on your golf almost 24/7, not just at weekends which to an exaggerated degree was the case twenty years ago.  It is difficult for the R&A and the Home Unions to ask our best players to do that and then in the same breathe tell them they can’t receive any remuneration for doing so.  Committed to their golf, youngsters are seeing no alternative, depending on their family and ‘sponsorship’ circumstances, but to quickly move into the Pro. game.  This is despite many lacking real experience or frankly the game required. They then end up trapped in development tour sweeps with no real way back.  When the reality dawns the opportunity’s often gone and many simply become disillusioned with the game.

Is it time to keep more of these good players in the Amateur game by moving the status line a little bit further and making it more appropriate for modern day realities ?  I think it probably is and so do the likes of Peter McEvoy who has been espousing similar views for a few years now.

Add Europe to the GB&I Team
I am against this and it will need another very long run of USA victories for me to be persuaded by it.  This is not professional golf and whilst the European Golf Association (EGA) exists it is in no way the well-funded governing organisation that the Royal & Ancient Club (R&A) is.

Of course ‘our’ team would be individually stronger by widening the selection net but at the same time it may lose something on the team front with a more disparate group being involved.  The GB&I lads play against and with each other quite a bit nowadays, which is not so much the case with the Europeans, so know each other well.  To be fair over the last 20 years the GB&I team have generally been performing well so calls for this have largely receded, albeit a loss at Lytham will no doubt see them return.

Perhaps a better alternative would be to insist that the USA pick three mid-amateurs in their team, after all they already handicap themselves with this antiquated selection policy !

The Walker Cup was originally established as an international challenge match with many countries invited to play.  However, in the 1920s only Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) via the R&A took up the invitation and a match against the USA and United States Golf Association (USGA) quickly became the norm.  The USGA and R&A are also the two governing bodies of world golf so the ties between the two are close with many other meetings taking place during match week.  Then of course there are all the administrator and player friendships that are rekindled every two years.  In many respects it has become more than just a match so it is hard to see the R&A and USGA rushing to change it anyway.

Tweak The Match Rules – Add a Fourball Session / Announce the Singles line ups at lunch time 
The Walker Cup is one of the few team events in what is essentially an individual sport.  Fourball golf masquerades as team golf when two players dove-tail well but it is only when the same ball is being played, as in Foursomes, that golf really is played as a team, or at least as a pair.  So I am all for keeping the existing foursomes format intact.

Perhaps we should have five foursome matches rather than four ? I guess the current arrangement for four on each day reflects the GB&I Team’s perceived lack of depth and a wish to manage the match’s competitiveness to a degree.

The Day 1 and Day 2 Foursome and Singles line ups are both announced on the evening prior to the following day’s play.  Whilst adding to the stress for the Captain’s I agree that added excitement could be brought to leaving the Singles announcement until after the Foursomes have been played or are at least well underway.

Introduce Higher Profile Captains
Both the R&A and USGA seek to appoint Captains from a pool of former Walker Cup players that have remained amateur.  As the rewards in professional golf have risen this has become an increasingly difficult task for both organisations.

I have heard it said that mid-amateur Mike McCoy (52) was largely selected this year based on the fact that he was considered captain material by the USGA but hadn’t yet played in the match.  If even partially true that can’t be a good thing.

I think it would be good to keep the tradition alive but realistically the time has now come for the amateur status condition to be relaxed.  Surely a past performance in the Walker Cup is sufficient for consideration irrespective of the fact the player may have moved on to the professional ranks following their appearance.

I accept that for those seeking to raise the event’s profile there is no denying higher profile Captains, those who have made a name for themselves in the Pro. ranks, may help with greater media interest and publicity.  A Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley or Colin Montgomerie perhaps in the near future.

What do you think ? Is it time to review the Walker Cup or should we leave it be ?   Alternatively do you have any other ideas that could improve the match ?

ME

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – Match Briefing

9th September 2015

The United States of America (USA) will start as firm favourites to win the Walker Cup when the 2015 match is played this coming weekend.

The 45th match in the biennial series is being played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, just south of the famous seaside town of Blackpool in Lancashire, England.

However, with plenty of links experience, a good knowledge of the Lytham course, a little bit of rain and wind forecast and the support of thousands of home fans who’s to say Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) can’t pull off an upset.  Recent matches on these shores – at Ganton, Royal County Down and Royal Aberdeen – have all been close and no one should be surprised if this one follows suit.

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

Match Format
Over the two days there will be 26 matches played in the following order: –
Saturday Day 1 – Four foursomes (AM) and eight singles (PM).
Sunday Day 2 – Four foursomes (AM) and ten singles (PM).

With one point awarded for each win and a half point for a draw the winning team will be the first to achieve 13.5 points.

Teams
Both teams were finalised in late August following the playing of the United States Amateur Championship.  The two Teams that will contest the Walker Cup are: –

Great Britain & Ireland
Ashley Chesters   (England)         26
Paul Dunne           (R. Ireland)      22
Ewen Ferguson    (Scotland)        19
Grant Forrest        (Scotland)        22
Jack Hume           (R. Ireland)      21
Gary Hurley          (R. Ireland)      22
Jack McDonald    (Scotland)        22
Gavin Moynihan   (R. Ireland)      20
Jimmy Mullen       (England)        21
Cormac Sharvin   (N. Ireland)      22

WC 2015 Team GB&I

Back Row (l-r) – E Ferguson, A Chesters, C Sharvin, J Mullen and G Hurley
Front Row (l-r) – J McDonald, G Forrest, J Hume, [P McGinley], N Edwards (Captain), P Dunne and G Moynihan 

United States of America
Bryson DeChambeau  (California)           21
Scott Harvey                (North Carolina)   37
Beau Hossler               (California)           20
Denny McCarthy         (Maryland)           22
Lee McCoy                  (Georgia)             21
Mike McCoy                (Iowa)                   52
Maverick McNealy       (California)          19
Jordan Niebrugge       (Wisconsin)         22
Robby Shelton             (Alabama)           19
Hunter Stewart            (Kentucky)           22

WC 2015 Team USA

Back Row (l-r) M McCoy, L McCoy, B Hossler, S Miller (Captain), J Niebrugge, S Harvey, B DeChambeau, R Zalzneck
Front Row (l-r) – R Shelton, H Stewart, D McCarthy and M McNealy

Captains
The GB&I team will be captained, for the third consecutive time, by Nigel Edwards, a four time player (2001-03-05-07) whilst the USA team will be captained for the first time by John “Spider” Miller, who competed in 1999 at Nairn, Scotland.

Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club
One of the most famous links courses in the world, Royal Lytham was founded in 1886.  It was laid out in 1897 but then re-designed in 1919 by the great Harry S. Colt.  It is a strategic, heavily bunkered course where accuracy nearly always overcomes length.

137852880RM00087_141st_Open

An Aerial View Of Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC

Off the blue championship tees Royal Lytham is a 7,118 yard par 70.  The front nine plays 3,437 yards, a par 34, whilst the longer back nine, being 3,681 yards, is a par 36.

Royal Lytham Clubhouse

18th Hole, Clubhouse and Dormy House – Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC

Match History
The Walker Cup is contested by ten male amateur players from both the USA and GB&I. The former team is selected by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the latter by The R&A.

The first official Walker Cup match was played in 1922.  It was the brainchild of George Herbert Walker, the maternal grandfather of President George H.W. Bush.  Walker was the President of the USGA in 1920 and offered to donate the trophy that is still played for today.  It should be noted that it was the American press that christened the trophy the Walker Cup rather than the far more modest Mr. Walker.

The USA leads the series W35-L8-D1.  However, in recent years the match has been more even – each side winning five of the last ten matches since 1995.  Having said that the USA are building up some momentum again winning four of the last five.

Weather Forecast
This far out there still remains some uncertainty about this weekend’s forecast.

Updated – as at 16.00 on 11th Sept. 2015: –
Sat. 12th Sept. – AM Showers / PM Cloudy. Wind 16 mph (NE). Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 13°C.
Sun. 13rd Sept. – AM / PM Cloudy. Wind 12 mph (NW). Temp. Max. 17°C / Min 11°C.

Watch It Live
The opportunity to watch some of the best amateur golfers in the world up close shouldn’t be missed for those that can make it to Lytham. There is free public car parking close to the course and day tickets costing £30 can be acquired on the gate.

Event Coverage
Internet (GB&I) – News and score links will be available here on the R&A’s website – Walker Cup
Internet (USA) – Other news can be found on the USGA website – www.walkercup.org
Twitter – @RandA / @WalkerCup / #WalkerCup, not forgetting @GolfBible !
Television – BBC2 (GB&I) / ESPN (US) – Sat. 12th Sept. 2.00 – 6.45pm / Sun. 13th Sept. 1.30 – 6.00pm (GMT)

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.