Bobby Locke in his heyday. Photo: File
Bobby Locke in his heyday. Photo: File
Bobby Locke with the Old Claret Jug after winning the 1950 Open Championship.
Bobby Locke with the Old Claret Jug after winning the 1950 Open Championship.
Grant Winter.
Grant Winter.
JOHANNESBURG – Now that I have reached an age where I am told I am too old and decrepit to be employed in a full-time job, I have decided to write a book.

In between mowing the lawn, playing a bit more golf with my fellow pensioners, and trying to upgrade my non-existent cooking skills, I do have more time on my hands. And so the book. Will it ever get published, and even if it does, will anyone buy it? I guess that’s the dilemma of any would-be author.

In any event, the book is to be about South Africa’s own wizard of the greens Bobby Locke, who many believe was the greatest putter the game has seen, and who died in 1987, aged 69.

Years later his widow Mary and daughter Caroline, who had fallen on hard times, tragically took their own lives. And as The Star’s golf writer at the time, they left me in their will a huge pile of press cuttings and photographs that Bobby’s parents, I presume, had carefully kept since he was a young lad in the 1920s. 

The cuttings are a treasure chest of information about Bobby’s life and his many successes around the world, which included four British Open wins and cleaning up in America in the late 1940s, and I’ve occasionally delved into them to write the odd story.

But now I think it’s time to put all that information into a book.

Many of these press cuttings come from the newspapers which now form part of the Independent Media Group, and here’s just one snippet I gleaned from an article in The Star nearly 90 years ago.

Bobby’s parents lived in Germiston and as a young boy, he would wile away hours with a mashie and a few balls on a practice ground used by the town’s rugby players.

He used to start playing his shots in front of the posts and lofting the ball over the crossbar in much the same way as a rugby man practising place-kicking. 

Then he would move over towards the touchline, and from the narrowing angle continue to place his shots between the posts. He was also building a rhythmical swing, and becoming deadly accurate. He wasn’t only a brilliant putter.

At just 17, in 1935, Bobby wrote himself into this country’s golfing record books when he won the SA Amateur and then the SA Open straight afterwards at Parkview.

The youngster was staying during the two tournaments with H B Keartland, The Star’s sports editor and golf correspondent who was worried that the young fellow might be anxious and would struggle to sleep ahead of the Amateur final against the formidable Frank Agg of Durban.

Bobby Locke with the Old Claret Jug after winning the 1950 Open Championship.


So Keartland got a prescription for a mild sedative which he intended giving Locke that evening.

But Bobby would have none of it, went to bed early and slept soundly.

Keartland, though, stayed up late in case he heard the boy tossing and turning and failing to get any rest.

He later wrote about this in The Star: “Moving about the house late at night, I woke up my practical wife who remarked somewhat tartly, I’m afraid, ‘anybody would think you were playing in the final instead of Bobby. You had better take the sleeping draught yourself’. After that, I crept into bed.”

He had begun his journey into stardom, and for the next 20 years, he would “Locke it up on the greens” all over the world.

Locke was born in 1917, so this year marks his centenary. Maybe, then, I’ll write a little more about him in the coming months.

The Star