In the early 1970’s, when I was 12 or13 years old, I caddied for my father in a four-ball tournament known as the L.D. Pierce Memorial. The event was held in Rutland, Vermont and it attracted a very good amateur field (there was a decent amount of money involved).
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Rutland was the hometown of Mary Fenton…who happened to be Mrs. Bobby Locke. I had seen a couple of wooden-shafted Bobby Locke putters in the pro shop at Rutland Country Club that week, but I hadn’t thought much of it.
The night before the tournament ended, my Dad, my brother, good friend Dougie Keough (my father’s playing partner) and I were having dinner at a restaurant in Rutland. It was a nice restaurant, too — the team was doing well. And the couple seated next to our table? None other than Bobby Locke and his wife.
We didn’t believe it at first. Double-take? How about about triple-take?? How often do you find yourself in the company of a four-time British Open winner and a man who dominated the PGA tour? No one said anything but after we paid the check and got up to leave my father leaned over and said, “Hello, Mr. Locke.”
Bobby Locke quickly jumped to his feet and, smiling broadly, shook hands with all of us. We were stunned but he was happy to talk for awhile. He actually wanted to keep talking even though he had a good-sized filet on his plate. My guess is that he was thrilled to be recognized, particularly by four golfers who appreciated his accomplishments.
It was quite a moment — I’ll always remember how happy he was. I have to admit that it wasn’t until I reached my 20’s that I fully appreciated the magnitude of what he had achieved in golf.
And I still have the wooden-shafted Bobby Locke putter that my father purchased the next day.
Bobby Locke (1917–1987) was a South African professional golfer who won:
- (4) British Open Championships (’49, ’50, ’52, ’57)
- (15) PGA Tour events
- (9) South African Opens
- (7) South African PGA Championships
Locke arrived in the U.S. for the first time in April 1947, well after the American Tour season had begun. In two-and-a-half years on the PGA Tour, Locke played in 59 events; he won 11, and finished in the top three in 30, just over half.
In 1947, despite a late start, Locke dominated the American tour, winning six tournaments (including four in a five-week period), and finishing second to Jimmy Demaret on the money list.
In 1948, he won the Chicago Victory National by 16 strokes, which remains a PGA Tour record for margin of victory (tied with J. Douglas Edgar’s win in the 1919 Canadian Open).
The following year, Locke was banned from the PGA tour, ostensibly because of a dispute over playing commitments.
Locke had indeed given several advance commitments to appear at tournaments and exhibitions, then had not turned up nor given adequate notice nor explanations for his absences. However, it is 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.