In October 1914 the Clovelly Golf Course, situated in Cape Town, donated a set of Bobby Locke’s golf clubs to the Southern African Golf Hall of Fame, located near Herolds Bay in the Western Cape, at the Oubaai Hotel Golf and Spa. This memorabilia is very unique in the sense that it includes Bobby Locke’s famous putter. Lost after a motor car accident involving a train of all things, and later found in a nearby field by an Indian gentleman and once identified, was returned to its rightful owner.
The clubs (an iron putter and driver) were originally donated to Clovelly by Mrs Mary Locke to commemorate the launch of the “New” Clovelly on 2 March 1991.
Arthur D’Arcy (Bobby) Locke was born on November the 17th 1917 in Germiston in the then Transvaal province (now Gauteng). Greatly influenced by his Irish father with whom he had a treasured relationship, who taught him the value of self control and that losing ones temper never amounted to anything. Featured in the British Golfers Handbook the immortalized saying, “Temper never got anyone anywhere in golf”, is that of Bobby Locke’s. He was a spirited player as a youngster.
With the help of a generous benefactor in Norbert Erleigh who took Bobby Locke under his wing and influenced his amateur career greatly; Bobby Locke turned professional in 1938.
To contextualize the professional golfers situation, this was a time where the golfing professional was trying to get more recognition and status within an elite fraternity of administrators and members. With the aim of giving the professional golfer a real identity, Walter Hagan was busy revolutionizing the American scene, influencing Henry Cotton who was leading the British professional in seeking their emancipation.
With little money available to the pro in South Africa Bobby looked to the British circuit, worth about R 40 000 at the time, this prize money was jealously guarded by the British PGA not wanting strangers nibbling away at the pile. The Maestro as he became affectionately known needed to survive and an existence of making the best with very little on offer became the order of the day taking what he could on the day and hoping the next would improve. This hand to mouth existence left a slightly jaded mark on his golfing soul laying a seed of determination for his long term goals and his endeavors to win as many British golfing competitions and championships as possible. In doing this he also endeared himself to the British people too.
1947 was a year of decision for Locke; he entered the British Open and went to America to play the circuit there. It seems that Locke was up to the challenge in America, his game was up to standard and he beat the Americans at their own type of game. The press liked him and liked to write about him, he made good press and his approach and demeanor on the golf course was appreciated. You could say he was the Arnold Palmer of the day being more open to and aware of his audiences. This contrasted with the dowdy and somber players making up the bulk of the professional players of the day. As an indication of his skill level, Locke was the second highest money winner for the year.
The top image above is Bobby Locke’s famous putter; the 2nd is a set of irons and woods used by Bobby Locke; both are displayed in the Southern Africa Golf Hall of Fame.
In 1949, Locke was banned from the US PGA tour, ostensibly due to a dispute over playing commitments. It is however most likely he was banned because of growing resentment towards him from many of the other PGA players. The 1948 Masters champion Claude Harmon stated, unsolicited, to another golf personality during that era: “Locke was simply too good. They had to ban him.” The ban was lifted in 1951, but Locke chose not to return to play in the United States, except for a few isolated appearances.
Locke was the first South African golfer to win a Major, it was the 1949 Open (also referred to as The British Open) at Royal St. George’s. Bobby Locke repeated this achievement three more times by winning again at Royal Troon in 1950, at Royal Lytham in 1952 and in 1957 at St. Andrews.
Lock said his British Open conquest at St. Andrews in 1957, was the greatest day of his life, this Scottish course more than any other had punished him from time to time unmercifully, so his score of 279 equaling his own record at Troon to win the British Open was for him his greatest achievement. It was at St. Andrews and the final hole that a storm in a tea cup was quelled. Bobby Locke feeling the effects of the long days play as well as the emotional effects of the occasion, misplaced his ball. This was picked up and pointed out when viewed by millions on TV, Locke had misplaced his ball two and a half inches away from it’s original mark, further from the hole in fact not giving him any advantage, he also had 3 shots in hand to win, but the situation needed handling, and the R & A and tournament Chairman did so addressing a letter to Bobby Locke in which they stated that any resulting penalty be waived , “…This committee considers that when a competitor has three for the Open championship from 2 feet, and then commits a technical error which brings him no possible advantage, exceptional circumstances then exist and the decision should be given, accordingly in equity and the spirit of the game.”