If one is permitted to compare golfers from different eras, my list of Super Stars is as follows:
Tiger Woods. 2. Jack Nicklaus. 3. Ben Hogan.
4. Bobby Jones. 5. Jordan Spieth. 6. Henry Cotton.
There were other Great Golfers including current day "flashes in the pan" and "90 day wonders" but they were not Super Stars.
Included in this category were: Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Peter Thomson, Sir Nick Faldo, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Sam Snead, Walter hagen, J.H.Taylor, Gene Sarazen, Day, Scott, Johnson and James Braid.
Bobby Locke played against five of these. Hogan, Snead, Thomson, Player & Cotton and beat all of them on occasions.
During the years 1947-1952 there were no World golfing rankings as we know them today. If there had been the rankings would almost certainly have been:
1. Ben Hogan.
2. Bobby Locke.
3. Sam Snead.
would have almost certainly been included in the Superstar Category
were it not for World war II interruption, an horrific accident and banning from the US Tour
when he was in his prime.
Bobby Locke was born November 20, 1917, in Germiston,
Transvaal, (now Gauteng) in the then Union of South Africa a member of The British Empire,
Flag of Union of South Africa.
to which Locke's father Charles had emigrated from Belfast Northern Ireland at the turn of the century after the Boer War. Like many he was attracted by the Gold of the Witwatersrand. Bobby was Baptised Arthur D'arcy Locke. Bobby Locke was proud of his Irish ancestry and British nationality.
His father worked for James Lindsay and Co in Donegall Place, Belfast, where he served his apprenticeship as an outfitter.
Charles James Locke, also known as Bobby, was born in the Lisburn Road area and later emigrated to South Africa, where he became the driving force behind his son’s development as a four-time Open champion.
The Gold on the Witwatersrand was low grade ore and was so predictable as to where it was found that mining was more like quarrying. It was however deep level mining up to 12,000 feet where the rocks were hot to the touch.
Nowadays these mines are mostly worked out and flooded with acid water. Cyanide Mine Dumps and sinkholes remain as Ghosts of a bygone era, The Bobby Locke era.
Germiston South Africa with Mine Dumps in the foreground.
Bobby's name origin is unclear. Some say that Locke was so named because he admired Bobby Jones so much. Others say that his African Nanny Esther named him because he bopped up and down in his pram.
Locke began playing golf at age three, when his father was 50 and a 14-handicapper who had a Gent's Outfitting Business in Germiston. His first Golf Club was a cut down Jigger. (Wedge).
His mother Olive who was born in Cape Town of 1820 British settler descent was also a golfer. He had 1 sister who was 3 years older than him and had married into the Pratt family.
he was nine, a team of British amateurs--Major Cyril Tolley MC, Major Hezlet,
Captain Pearson and D. Montmorency- -made a South African tour. His
father took him to watch them play at Johannesburg. The colossal
distances Cyril Tolley hit a ball and the ease with which he hit it
were astounding. Bobby's father advised him to observe Mr
Tolley's swing carefully as Locke Snr considered it to be perfect.
Cyril Tolley had a close match with Bobby Jones in the British Amateur
at St Andrews in 1930. The Grand Slam winner had difficulty getting his
"slam" up and running but succeeded, only just! He laid Tolley a stymie on the first extra hole, the 19th.
Tolley and company were followed by Dai Rees and Ken Bousfield, Brian Barnes, John Jacobs and Bernard Hunt, Tony Jacklin, Peter Alliss, Jimmy Hitchcock, Fred Daly and Tommy Horton to only name a few seeking sunshine, income and hospitality during the Northern Winter.
Bobby Locke learned to play golf on the State Mine's Golf Club near Brakpan South Africa where his parents had moved to from Germiston 25 miles away.
State Mines Golf Club BRAKPAN.
The greenskeeper at State Mines Golf Club, Gay Roberts, kept the greens in excellent shape. Locke said: "Those greens were perfect and I feel that's why I became a reasonably good putter. You can't learn to putt on bad greens. ... The higher the standard, the better greens you have to have."
At age nine, he was given a putter by his father, who had been watching him practise on the putting green at the Germiston golf club.
Bobby Locke kept the hickory-shafted steel blade putter from that day, using it to win numerous professional competitions and four British Open championships with it. He called it his "pay-off club", and the "rusty old blade" (Calamity Jane) stayed with him until 1960, when he finally replaced it with a similar putter.
When he had his accident in 1960 the putter was thrown clear and found by a South African Indian Gentleman who returned it to it's owner in response to a reward posted for £10.
The "Rusty old Blade" had a rusty head and was unbranded but made by Gradidge.
13, Bobby Locke idolized Bobby Jones as Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930. Bobby Locke's
father gave him Jones' book on golf,
and Locke used it to teach himself the game. Perhaps over emphasising most points of Bobby Jone's swing. Later in 1947, when Locke first appeared at Augusta, he was paired with Bobby Jones. Later Bobby Jones permitted him to take Cine Pictures of his swing.
he was 14 in 1931 Bobby Locke won the South African Boys' Championship.
By 15, he was a scratch golfer, and then plus 4. In 1935, at age 17,
Bobby Locke won both the South African Amateur and the South African
Open Championships. One under Matchplay the other Card and Pencil
both played after one another in a 10 day period. In those days these
two tournaments were played in Winter time. They were played at
Parkview Golf Club in Johannesburg a club that Bobby locke retained a
close affinity with over the years.
Pundits observed a similarity to Harry Vardon's swing plus a loop at the top from a thin nervous youngster whose Football (Soccer) injury had caused him to walk slightly pigeon-toed. People trying to emulate Bobby Locke's style often employed a "pigeon toed" stance and chiropractors were kept busy for years until someone noticed that Bobby Locke himself walked slightly pigeon-toed.
In 1936 Bobby Locke journeyed to England at his employer's expense on a secondment to the London office with a "license" to play as much golf as he so desired.
He entered the Amateur Championship (knocked out in the second round) and finished eighth in the Open which was "Leading Amateur".As an 18-year-old amateur anxious to learn his craft in elevated company, Bobby Locke left his native South Africa for Europe in the summer of 1936. Among his tournament assignments was the Irish Open at Royal Dublin.
There, he compiled an impressive aggregate of 287 to capture the amateur medal. In fact he finished only six strokes behind the winner, Reg Whitcombe of Parkstone, whose younger brother, Ernest, had won the title at Royal County Down the previous year.
Locke was especially remembered among locals for a fascinating incident on the par-three 12th. With no sight of his ball as he approached the green, the South African was convinced he had scored a hole in one, only to discover the ball lodged, miraculously, in the fabric of the flagstick.On unfurling the material, the ball dropped down, though sadly for Locke, not into the hole. So he had to settle for a birdie.
Letter written by 5 times Open Champion J.H.Taylor to Locke's father in 1938 discussing a Business proposition re; Bobby and equipment. (Clubs made by J.H.).
Bobby Locke with (L) J.H.Taylor & (R) Reg Whitcombe in 1936.
He was a member of the Springbok Amateur Golf Team to England in 1937.
was proud to represent his country as he did later in the Canada Cup on
4 occasions and in SA vs Britain matches. He never used "can't play"
because of the Zika virus as golfers sometimes do these days.
Strange how Zika only affects golfers and not other athletes! He even played for Canada vs USA by invitation once.
He proudly kept the Blazer Badge for years and wore it on formal occasions.
Springbok Badge worn at 1950 Open Championship.
The other members of the team were Frank Agg (Natal), Jock Verwey (Western Province) and Clarence Olander (Eastern Province). Bobby Locke represented Transvaal. The Manager was J.Hirsch.
He turned professional in 1938 and was the first in a line of prominent SA Golf professionals, Major winners Gary Player, Ernie Els, Charl Schartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Trevor Immelman and Retief Goosen would follow.
Thinking of turning Professional he and his father went to see Sid Brews who was then South Africa's leading Golf Professional for advice. Sid understandingly tried to discourage him from turning Professional even though English born Sid himself had turned Pro at the age of 16.
Having made the decision to turn Pro, Sid Brews then issued a Challenge to Bobby Locke for 3 rounds of golf. Bobby Locke won 2 games to 1.
Some say that he was fired from his first job at Maccauvlei Golf Club (Charles Schartzel's club) because he had bouts of unauthorised absence. He wanted to be a Professional Golfer rather than a Golf professional. When he wanted leave he did not ask for permission but merely advised the club of his intended absence.
Bobby locke had a contract with African Studios to produce a series of instructional films which was time consuming and the club was of the opinion that Locke was using Maccauvlei as a 'convenience".
They had a meeting and told Locke that he did not have the interests of the club at heart. Debate ensued and it was mutually agreed that there would be a parting of the ways.
Maccauvlei Golf Club on Vaal River.
The truth is that he resigned of his own accord and he and the club were later reconciled. As part of his playing "uniform" he sometimes wore the Maccauvlei club tie with his plus fours, white shoes and cap. His mother knitted his trade mark white socks for him.
Sid Brews (Winner of The South African, French, Belgian and Dutch Opens and second to Henry Cotton in the 1934 Open) driving in 1938. Bobby Locke looks on. Bobby Locke was the youngest ever winner of the SA Open (17 in 1935) and Sid Brews was the oldest (53 in 1951).
Portmarnock CO Dublin. (Overprint shows 1937 instead of 1938).
Medal won by Bobby Locke in 1938 irish Open.
first professional win came against the legendary Henry Cotton in
the 1938 Irish Open at Portmarnock in spite of shooting 80 in the first
round. £200 was offered to be split by all player's who returned scores
of less than 70. Bobby Locke won the £200 as the only player to break
70 in the event. He shot 69 in the Second round. This was in addition
to his prizemoney for winning.
It was here that Cotton seemingly took an instant dislike to the 20 year old locke who was perceived to threaten his reign as No 1 golfer in the UK and Dominions.
Cotton was beaten by 1 stroke in a tournament that was
open to Bobby Locke in spite of him not having served his
Entry requirements were:
1. Member of PGA.
2. Amateur less than 4 Handicap.
3. Foreign entrant.
Locke's entry was accepted much to the annoyance of British Professionals. They ran a "Closed Shop"!
Cotton was facetious and called Bobby Locke "lucky young man" and implying that he was a mere upstart from the Colonies. Cotton's attitude remained with Bobby Locke for 50 years and the two were never really on friendly terms.
Bobby Locke and Sid Brews (Born in London) of South Africa had a 72 hole Test Match against
Henry Cotton and Reg Whitcombe of England at Walton Heath near London. 10,000 people attended over two days.
Henry Cotton driving. Bobby Locke looks on.
Cotton chipping with Bobby Locke in attendance.
Locke Putting in front of huge gallery
match was scheduled to start at 10AM. 10 AM arrived with Locke, Brews,
Whitcombe and Officials waiting on the Tee but no Cotton. 10.15 still
no Cotton. Cotton arrived at about 10.20 AM and without any greetings
or apologies to those assembled, teed off when directed by the Starter to do so. After the first 18 holes Cotton disappeared!
The afternoon round was due to start at 3PM. Cotton this time was 25 minutes late. Again not a word of excuse or apology. Sid
Brews drove his first ball out of bounds and Locke started lining his
putts up from every angle. The 18 holes were completed at 8.20PM.
The next day Cotton was on time after the newspapers had ignored Cotton's late arrivals and instead berated Locke for his slow play. (5 hours for 18 holes. Branding it "funeral procession golf". Bobby Locke was beginning to understand the awe that Britons held for "Our Henry".
the usual non exchange of pleasantries, Henry Cotton was in great form
splitting the Fairways and even drove the 12th a dogleg in excess of
The match was won by a very relieved Henry Cotton and Reg Whitcombe winning £500. Locke and Brews received £100.
Bobby locke (R) and Sid Brews (L) were runners up.
Locke shot a first 18 hole 63 which was a stroke better than Cotton and
Whitcombe's better ball score and England were two down after the first
Locke and his backers then issued a challenge to Cotton for £1000 but Cotton declined saying that Locke was not a member of the PGA and was yet to earn the right to a challenge with Cotton. He had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Locke's backers were a Mr Norbert Erleigh a Motor Magnate and a Mr Len Oates of Horseracing Fame.
The British Pros jealously guarded their £4000 Tour from outsiders and Locke was refused membership of the British PGA because he failed the requirement of 5 year's service and similarly of the SAPGA which required 2 year's service. Ironically, Bobby Locke was later elected Captain of the British PGA after his first Open win.
Click on the image below to see match highlights in HD vision. (Courtesy of British Pathe). (The commentator confuses Locke with Brews).
Winning The NZ Open in 1938 at Balmacewan Dunedin with a score of 289.
Playing at Wellington NZ 1938. He was 6'1" and weighed 154 pounds.
Taking the Seaplane over the "ditch" he played a series of Exhibition matches in Australia where he declared that NZ galleries were more "golf wise" than their Australian counterparts and that Melbourne courses were superior to Sydney ones.
Australian Tour 1938.
Bobby Locke St Andrews 1939 when he beat the reigning Open Champion Dick Burton by 10 & 9. Double-Click above Image to see Video of 1939 Open Championship.
Winning 1940 SA Open at Humewood Port Elizabeth. Double-Click above Image to see Video of 1940 SA Open.
Bobby Locke War Record.
Bobby Locke's Golf Career was interrupted by World War 2 and golfers joined up all over the World.
He arrived at Cape Town two days after Hitler schickte seine mächtigen Panzer, um die unglückliche Polis Horse Kavallerie zu schlagen in September 1939.
In the USA Hogan and Demaret joined up. Snead joined the Navy as a Fitness Instructor at San Diego, Mangrum the US Army/Airforce (Won 2 Purple Hearts when wounded in Normandy). Henry Cotton joined the RAF and Locke the SAAF on 4/10/1943.
Byron Nelson was an exception because he had a medical condition (Hemophilia) and did not join up.
Locke's Father Charles James with Bobby's Mementos. His father lived to his 100th year. (1870-1969).
Locke is said to have had a distinguished war record. His friend and
fellow Pro Max Faulkner claimed that he bombed Monte Cassino.
Fellow Pro Peter Alliss stated that Bobby locke also spent some time as a "Ferry Pilot" flying Aircraft between Canada, the USA and UK.
After touring South Africa raising funds for the Red Cross, Bobby Locke joined up.
According to Official records held in Pretoria and displayed on this Webpage, he was trained at St George's Park Flying School in Port Elizabeth SA in 1943 and won his "Wings" and also taught others to fly.
He then flew 1162 hours on missions and was awarded The Africa Service Medal, , The 1939-1945 War Medal and the Italy Star Medal. He never displayed these medals.
Bobby Locke's Official War Service Record obtained from the SADF in 1993. Double Click on above Image to see a fully scaled one.
Based in Egypt while serving King and Empire, he had to frequently seek his CO's permission to play golf. One day his CO asked "who do you think you are? Bobby Locke?" to which Bobby replied "as a matter of fact, I am".
Bobby Locke joined the SAAF and was posted to Port Elizabeth and then seconded to the RAF on 12/23/1944 and returned to the SAAF on 4/29/1945 and then posted to 31 Squadron SAAF.
The Theatre of war for the SAAF which is the second oldest Airforce in the World and was a 'wing" of the RAF was, Tunisia, North Africa, Egypt, Malta, Sicily, Italy, Greece and the Balkans as well as Madagasgar and the Berlin Airlift. They flew Spitfires, Hurricanes and Liberators and Wellington Bombers.
Their most notable achievement was undoubtedly their role in the 1943 Warsaw uprising. They flew from their base in Brindisi Italy, over 7 enemy held countries in order to drop supplies to the Polish troops in Warsaw acting on personal instructions from Winston Churchill himself. Losses were high.
They flew without Fighter support.
Bobby Locke receiving his Wings in 1942.
Pupil Pilot Bobby Locke at St George's Park Flying School in Port Elizabeth in 1942.
One wonders what effect his wartime service had on later events in his life. "Post trauma" related to his war service perhaps?
What damages had his bombs caused? What casualties? Fear of Messerschmitts and anti aircraft fire!
SAAF Crew returning from Bombing Italian Troops in Libya.
SAAF Crew loading 250 pound Bombs from Bomb train and destined for Italian troops in Libya.
Aerial Photo of Auschwitz Concentration camp in Poland taken by 60 Squadron SAAF under Allied Command direction.
He entered war service as a thin 11 stone 26 year old and was demobilized as a 15 stone burly but supple man.
SAAF LOG BOOKS as used by Bobby Locke.
Taken from Bobby Locke's Autobiography Bobby Locke on Golf Country Life 1953.
2nd Lieutenant Bobby Locke of the SAAF driving at Gezira Country Club Giza Egypt in 1944. Note Pyramids in background.
Bobby Locke of the SAAF driving in an Allied Services Match near
Rome Italy in 1944. Waiting to Tee off is Private Tommy Bolt of the US
Tommy Bolt won the US Open in 1958 in his home State of Oklahoma and
had 18 Tour victories. Bobby Locke beat him in this match. During his
career Tommy Bolt
They were later to renew this wartime acquanticeship when Tommy Bolt turned Pro and competed on the US PGA Tour in the Fifties and also when Bolt met Gary Player in South Africa for a series of exhibition matches in 1958 billed as US Open Champ vs Runner up. He had several clashes with SA Galleries.
He amazed the galleries by playing his Wedge shots off the left foot.
first saw Bobby Locke when I was 10 and he came to our club to play an
Exhibition game against 3 of our members.
He scored 67 (5 under). I
remember him driving the Tenth (295 yards) and sinking a 40 foot putt
for an eagle 2. He hit the putt and then walked after it Walter Hagen
style and then doffed his cap as it went into the hole accompanied by
rapturous applause. BEAUTIFUL!
Bobby Locke Clinic.
Prior to the start he gave a driving demonstration. He emptied his Practise Bag containing about 2 dozen brand new balls and said "They are all 65's". He was promoting the ball named after Henry Cotton's final round in the 1934 Open Championship.
He then put a brand new Dunlop 65 in its black wrapper on a tee and said " This is how you do a slice and is not the way to hit a ball". He drove the ball leaving the wrapper on the tee and it curved around perfectly to finish in the middle of the Fairway. He then proceeded to repeat the exercise and demonstrate a pulled shot saying this is not the way to hit a ball. He hooked it to the middle of the Fairway. Next he put two balls in their wrappers on tees side by side and with one stoke hit both, one a slice and one a pull. Both landed on the fairway about 240 yards out from the tee.
He then said this is the way to hit a ball and proceeded to hit Two Iron shots from behind the first tee onto the green 280 yards away. This was in the days before supercharged golf balls, Graphite shafts, Metals and advanced club design. The balls still had liquid centers!
He gave me his autograph plus the desire to mimic his Putting Action which I achieved to some degree with an old Blade type Putter.
My brother who encouraged me to take up golf and who was my early teacher told me that Bobby Locke had an "English swing" , all hands and arms and I would do better imitating an American who used more body with an "American swing" such as employed by Ben Hogan.
Bobby Locke took a Scorecard from the Pro shop but halfway down the first fairway he realised that he had taken an Associates (Ladies) card but continued to studiously refer to it. Only he knew what he was looking for.
Bobby Locke Autograph.