Bobby Locke

Arthur D'Arcy "Bobby" Locke was a South African professional golfer. He won four Open Championships, nine South African Opens, seven South African PGA Championships and 15 PGA Tour events. He was a prolific tournament winner in his native country, eventually accumulating 38 wins on the Southern Africa Tour.


Early years

Locke was born in Germiston, South Africa the only son of Mr C.J. & Mrs. O. Locke of 70 Nottingham Road, Kensington, Johannesburg. He obtained his Educational Junior Certificate pass at in 1934.

Early professional career

Locke won the South African Open for the first of nine times in 1935, at the Parkview Golf Club in Johannesburg, with a score of 296, playing as an amateur. He played in his first Open Championship in 1936, when he was eighteen, and finished as low amateur.
He turned professional in March 1938 at the age of 20 and was engaged by the Maccauvlei Country Club as club professional in December 1939. Problems arose when Locke wanted to give lessons to non-members as well as take leave of absence, without advance request, to take part in outside competitions such as the U.S. Open. Locke resigned from the Club, by letter, on 26 July 1940.

Service in World War II

His golf career was interrupted by service in the South African Air Force during World War II. His Official War Record is held at the South African Department of Defence archives under his Service No: 103940.

15 October 1940Voortrekkerhoogte South African Air Force HeadquartersApplied to join South African Air Force. His occupation is stated as a "Golf Professional" with an address of , Vereeniging, Transvaal.
15 October 1940VoortrekkerhoogteCentral Air Force Training DepotBasic Flying Theory Training. Parade Drill and "Square Bashing"
19 November 1940LytteltonNumber 75 Air SchoolPupil Pilot. Attended "Ground School"
1 October 1941RandfonteinNumber 2 Air SchoolElementary flying training
Nigel, near JohannesburgNumber 24 Air SchoolService Flying Training, including navigation, night flying, instrument flying "blind"-
13 December 1941VereenigingNumber 22 Air SchoolCompletion of advanced flying training to qualify as a pilot.
10 April 1942 to 4 May 1942VereenigingNumber 22 Air SchoolReceived his "Wings" and Officer's Commission as a 2nd/Lieutenant in the South African Air Force, Station Pilot
During initial pilot training Bobby Locke flew the following aircraft types:
4 May 1942Pietersburg Number 26 Air SchoolStation Pilot
29 June 1942Tempe, BloemfonteinNumber 26 Air SchoolElementary Pilot Instructors Course. Qualified as "Category C Flying Instructor".
10 October 1942Benoni, JohannesburgNumber 4 Air SchoolCategory C Flying Instructor. Rank of 2nd Lieutenant
29 May 1943Tempe, BloemfonteinNumber 62 Air SchoolAttended Flying Instructors Course No. 29. Qualified as "Category B Flying Instructor". Received Grade A in: General Flying, Instrument Flying, Navigation, Bombing, and Gunnery
1 July 1943WonderboomNumber 3 Air SchoolFlying instructor teaching intake Pupil Pilots
31 August 1943Tempe, BloemfonteinNumber 62 Air SchoolAttended Multi-Engine Conversion Course and Flight Commander's Course. Qualified as 1st Pilot on twin-engine light bombers
29 October 1943PretoriaMobile Air Force Depot Stationed at MAFD as a member of a stand-by corps prior to deployment to an active squadron
12 November 1943Port AlfredNumber 43 Air SchoolStation Pilot and Instructor. Attended Sea Navigation Course No 16.
11 December 1943Port AlfredNumber 43 Air SchoolStaff Pilot and Instructor
15 November 1944 to 13 December 1944PretoriaMobile Air Force Depot Posted Back to MAFD for posting to an operational squadron
During Pilot Instructor Qualification, Bobby Locke flew the following aircraft types:
7 May 1945SAAF Advanced Transit CentreFlew to Italy to support post VE day activities.
11 May 1945 to 8 August 1945Celone Airfield, ItalyNumber 31 SquadronFlew Consolidated B-24 Liberators as co-pilot on transport duties ferrying troops, equipment and SAAF personnel from Italy to Cairo and from airfields in Greece back to Italy

Alternate descriptions of Locke's War Record

Other descriptions of Locke's war record suggest he was more active than the transport duties he undertook, with SAAF Number 31 Squadron in Italy, that are described by the official SANDF archives. The descriptions include: he spent twelve months in a Liberator Squadron in Italy he was a bomber pilot who bombed Monte Casino, he fought for Britain as a bomber pilot; he flew over 100 missions over Europe with the SAAF; and 'served with distinction as a Royal Airforce Bomber pilot'.
Locke also claims that:
Following the end of World War II, Locke successfully resumed his career in South Africa in 1946. He hosted Sam Snead, one of the top American golfers of the day, for a series of exhibition matches in South Africa in January/February 1947, winning 12 out of the 16 matches, two were halved and Snead won two. So impressed was Snead that he suggested that Locke come to the United States and give the PGA Tour a try, advice that Locke quickly followed.
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, and finishing second to Jimmy Demaret on the money list.

Controversy and PGA Tour ban

In 1948, he won the Chicago Victory National by 16 strokes, which remains a PGA Tour record for margin of victory.
The following year, Locke was banned from the 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, 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 explains his point of view and events leading up to the banning. He had accepted invitations, organised through the PGA to play in two local tournaments, The Inverness Fourball and Western Open. He explained how he had been helped to iron out a putting problem which led to him winning the 1949 British Open. He gives the "Open" win as one of his reasons to breach his contract. The text indicates that he understood the contractual nature of his dealings with the PGA.

Worldwide success

After leaving the PGA Tour, Locke continued his career in Europe and Africa, where he felt more comfortable. He won 23 times in Europe, most notably a quartet of successes in The Open Championship, which came in 1949, 1950, 1952 and 1957. He was the first of many South Africans who subsequently won major championships, including Gary Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. His win in the 1957 Open Championship was with some controversy. Locke had failed to properly replace his ball after marking on the 72nd green, and proceeded to putt out. This had been confirmed through newsreel footage provided to the R&A after the trophy presentation. The rules at the time made no provision for a two shot penalty, thus Locke's win could have been overturned through disqualification. However, the Championship committee did not enforce the disqualification rule, citing "equity and spirit of the game" as overriding factors in sustaining the posted result.
During this time Locke also played many other parts of the world. In 1955 he won the Australian Open held at Gailes Golf Club in Queensland; he later rated this as one of the best courses he had ever played. In 1959, Locke was involved in a serious car accident, and subsequently he suffered from migraines and eye problems that put an end to his competitive career, although he continued competing occasionally after that, without much success.
Locke was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977. He was only the second member who did not come from either the United States or the United Kingdom. He died in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987.

Playing attributes

Locke built his success around his outstanding putting ability, coining the phrase "You drive for show, but putt for dough." Wearing his trademark knickerbockers, white shoes, and stockings, Locke played the game at a slow and deliberate pace, perhaps another reason that American pros were annoyed with him. On the greens, Locke was a bona fide genius, using a very unusual putting style, and a great eye for reading breaks, to put on veritable putting clinics every time he played. Locke believed he could put spin on putts and make them "hook" and "slice", and used his unorthodox technique to great success.
Locke was not particularly long from the tee, but placed great emphasis on accuracy in hitting fairways and greens; he employed an extreme right-to-left ball flight on nearly every full shot.
Australian contemporary pro Jim Ferrier, who played the U.S. Tour during the late 1940s with Locke, described Locke's putting method as being designed to overcome the very heavy grain present on many Bermuda-grass greens of that era, particularly in warm-climate regions such as South Africa and the southern United States. In these regions, greens had to be constructed during that era using Bermuda-grass turf in order to survive the extreme summer heat; turfgrass research eventually developed a wider variety of strains which could be used. Locke's putting method allowed the ball to glide on top of the grass without being affected very much by the grain. Ferrier explained that Locke had apparently learned the technique from an Englishman in Egypt, while he was stationed there during World War II. Locke had in actual fact learned the technique from Walter Hagen during the "Haigs" tour of South Africa with Joe Kirkwood in 1938.

Amateur wins

PGA Tour wins (15)

No.DateTournamentWinning scoreMargin of
111 May 1947Houston Open−11 5 strokes Johnny Palmer, Ellsworth Vines
225 May 1947Philadelphia Inquirer Open−7 4 strokes Matt Kowal, Lloyd Mangrum
31 Jun 1947Goodall Round Robin+37 points4 points Vic Ghezzi
48 Jul 1947All American Open−12 Playoff Porky Oliver
519 Jul 1947Canadian Open−16 2 strokes Porky Oliver
627 Jul 1947Columbus Invitational−14 5 strokes Jimmy Demaret
725 Jan 1948Phoenix Open−16 1 stroke Jimmy Demaret
820 Jun 1948Chicago Victory National Open−18 16 strokes Ellsworth Vines
918 Apr 1949Cavalier Specialists Invitational−6 Playoff Frank Stranahan
1015 May 1949Goodall Round Robin+66 points33 points Herman Barron
119 Jul 1949The Open Championship−5 Playoff Harry Bradshaw
127 Jul 1950The Open Championship−1 2 strokes Roberto De Vicenzo
139 Aug 1950All American Open−6 Playoff Lloyd Mangrum
1411 Jul 1952The Open Championship−1 1 stroke Peter Thomson
155 Jul 1957The Open Championship−9 3 strokes Peter Thomson

The Open Championship wins were not counted as PGA Tour wins at the time, but were later designated as such.

South Africa wins (41)

Wins (4)

YearChampionship54 holesWinning scoreMarginRunner-up
1949The Open ChampionshipTied for lead−5 Playoff 1 Harry Bradshaw
1950The Open Championship Tied for lead−1 2 strokes Roberto De Vicenzo
1952The Open Championship 1 shot deficit−1 1 stroke Peter Thomson
1957The Open Championship 3 shot lead−9 3 strokes Peter Thomson

1 Defeated Harry Bradshaw in 36-hole playoff: Locke, Bradshaw

Results timeline

NT = No tournament
LA = Low amateur
CUT = missed the half-way cut
WD = Withdrew
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Sources: 1936 Amateur Championship, 1937 Amateur Championship