How Bobby Locke(d) Glen­dower

Today’s stars can draw in­spi­ra­tion from the spirit of the great golfer to go low

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - GRANT WINTER

WHEN Bobby Locke ar­rived at Glen­dower, which will host this week’s BMW South African Open fea­tur­ing Rory McIl­roy, in the January of 1939 to de­fend his Transvaal Open ti­tle he was just 21 years old yet he had al­ready won two SA Opens, the Ir­ish Open and the New Zealand Open.

In those days, ex­hi­bi­tion matches were all the rage and the slim, ex­traor­di­nar­ily gifted South African had al­ready toured Bri­tain, Aus­tralia and the Land of the Great White Cloud in 1938, beat­ing their best play­ers on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and set­ting course records all over the damn place.

The golf­ing world, bar the United States (although the Amer­i­cans would quickly change their tune in years to come when Bobby even­tu­ally got to the US), was al­ready hail­ing young Locke as one of the best golfers in the world, one New Zealand com­men­ta­tor de­scrib­ing him as “the very best”.

Now Bobby Locke is today re­garded as one of the great­est put­ters the game has ever seen, but in January 1939 The Star’s golf cor­re­spon­dent, who played a prac­tice round with him, had this to say of the young wizard of the fair­ways: “What sur­prised me was the power of his long iron shots. At the sec­ond hole at Glen­dower, 500 yards through a val­ley, Bobby was pin high (with two great shots) against a strong wind, and he was also able to get on in two with well-con­trolled iron shots at the 8th (510 yards) and 15th (520 yards).”

Come the tour­na­ment it­self, with 36 holes on the Satur­day and an­other two rounds on the Sunday (how today’s pro­fes­sion­als would com­plain about so much golf squeezed into two days!), Locke shot 66, 69, 66 and 64 for 265 – to win by 26 strokes with AF Tom­sett sec­ond on 291 and Sid Brews third on 292.

We again quote from The Star’s golf cor­re­spon­dent at the time, who de­scribed how Locke got that blis­ter­ing fi­nal round off to a rol­lick­ing start: “At the (par-5) sec­ond hole (after his drive) he took his shal­low-faced spoon (about a three-wood) and hit the ball high in the air 5ft past the pin to hole his putt for a three at a 500 yards hole.”

In an old clip­ping from the “Olympian’s Sports Gos­sip”, the writer penned the fol­low­ing: “I do not think there is any doubt at all about Bobby Locke’s score of 265 in the Transvaal Open be­ing a world’s record for 72 holes over a course of first-class cham­pi­onship length.

“The Golfer’s Hand­book gives Percy Al­liss’s score of 262 in the Ital­ian Open at San Remo as the world’s best score. But that per­for­mance was on an ex­tremely short course, less than 6 000 yards I be­lieve. The stan­dard scratch score at San Remo is 68, whereas at Glen­dower it is 75, and there you have the dif­fer­ence of seven strokes a round in the two cour­ses.”

Locke’s ca­reer had taken off and in 1939 he would head for Bri­tain on a ship (two weeks at sea, no pri­vate jets in those days!) to seek more fame and for­tune.

And that fame and for­tune did come his way, both in Amer­ica, Bri­tain and all over the world, but not be­fore putting com­pet­i­tive golf on hold dur­ing the war years as he served as a pi­lot in the South African Air Force, get­ting his wings in 1942 and sub­se­quently com­plet­ing 1 800 hours in sin­gle, twin and four-en­gined air­craft. How times have changed. Will any of the global su­per­stars of today at Glen­dower this week shoot as low 265? It’s a tall or­der, but just maybe the spirit of Bobby Locke will be car­ry­ing your bag, urg­ing you on.

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