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Bobby Locke
Locke in Australia (1938)
Personal information
Full name Arthur D'Arcy Locke
Nickname Bobby
Old Baggy Pants
Muffin Face
Lantern Jowls
Moon Face
Born (1917-11-20)20 November 1917
Germiston, South Africa
Died 9 March 1987(1987-03-09) (aged 69)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Nationality  South Africa
Spouse Hester Elizabeth 'Lillian' le Roux (divorced 1952)
Mary Elizabeth Fenton (m. 1958–87, his death)
Children Dianne and Carolyn
Turned professional 1938
Former tour(s) PGA Tour
Professional wins 94
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 15
Sunshine Tour 50 (total South African wins)
Other 29
Best results in Major Championships
(Wins: 4)
The Masters Tournament T10: 1948
U.S. Open 3rd/T3: 1947, 1951
The Open Championship Won: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1957
PGA Championship T33: 1947
British Amateur T33: 1937
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1977
Harry Vardon Trophy 1946, 1950, 1954

Arthur D'Arcy "Bobby" Locke (20 November 1917 – 9 March 1987) was a South African professional golfer. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time. He won The Open Championship four times and 15 PGA Tour events in total. In addition, he was a prolific tournament winner in South Africa, ultimately recording over 50 significant victories in his home country, including the South African Open nine times.


Early years

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

• Initial Pilot Training: 15 October 1940 – 4 May 1942
Date Location Organisation Activity
15 October 1940 Voortrekkerhoogte (now Thaba Tshwane) South African Air Force Headquarters Applied to join South African Air Force. His occupation is stated as a "Golf Professional" with an address of Maccauvlei Country Club, Vereeniging, Transvaal.
15 October 1940 Voortrekkerhoogte Central Air Force Training Depot Basic Flying Theory Training. Parade Drill and "Square Bashing"
19 November 1940 Lyttelton Number 75 Air School Pupil Pilot. Attended "Ground School"
1 October 1941 Randfontein Number 2 Air School Elementary flying training
Nigel, near Johannesburg Number 24 Air School Service Flying Training, including navigation, night flying, instrument flying "blind"
13 December 1941 Vereeniging Number 22 Air School Completion of advanced flying training to qualify as a pilot.
10 April 1942 to 4 May 1942 Vereeniging Number 22 Air School Received 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:
• Pilot Instructor Qualification: Pilot Training: 4 May 1942 – 13 December 1944
Date Location Organisation Activity
4 May 1942 Pietersburg (now Polokwane) Number 26 Air School Station Pilot
29 June 1942 Tempe, Bloemfontein Number 26 Air School Elementary Pilot Instructors Course. Qualified as "Category C Flying Instructor".
10 October 1942 Benoni, Johannesburg Number 4 Air School Category C Flying Instructor. Rank of 2nd Lieutenant
29 May 1943 Tempe, Bloemfontein Number 62 Air School Attended 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 1943 Wonderboom Number 3 Air School Flying instructor teaching intake Pupil Pilots
31 August 1943 Tempe, Bloemfontein Number 62 Air School Attended Multi-Engine Conversion Course and Flight Commander's Course. Qualified as 1st Pilot on twin-engine light bombers
29 October 1943 Pretoria Mobile Air Force Depot (MAFD) Stationed at MAFD as a member of a stand-by corps prior to deployment to an active squadron
12 November 1943 Port Alfred Number 43 Air School Station Pilot and Instructor. Attended Sea Navigation Course No 16.
11 December 1943 Port Alfred Number 43 Air School Staff Pilot and Instructor
15 November 1944 to 13 December 1944 Pretoria Mobile Air Force Depot (MAFD) Posted Back to MAFD for posting to an operational squadron
During Pilot Instructor Qualification, Bobby Locke flew the following aircraft types:
  • de Havilland Tiger Moth
  • Airspeed "Oxford" & Avro "Anson" (twin engines)
• Initial Deployment to the Middle East: 13 December 1944 – 7 May 1945
Date Location Organisation Activity
13 December 1944 Cairo West, Egypt SAAF Base Depot Middle East Emplaned at Zwarktop Air Station, Pretoria for Cairo West
22 December 1944 Aqir, Palestine Number 76 RAF Operational Training Unit (OTU) Operational Training Conversion on Vickers Wellington bombers (twin engines)
29 April 1945 to 7 May 1945 Cairo West SAAF Base Depot Middle East Mainly on leave.
• Deployment to Italy, Post VE Day, on Transport Duties: 7 May 1945 – 8 August 1945
Date Location Organisation Activity
7 May 1945 SAAF Advanced Transit Centre Flew to Italy to support post VE day activities.
11 May 1945 to 8 August 1945 Celone Airfield, Italy Number 31 Squadron Flew 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
• Honourable Discharge from Service 8 August 1945 to 11 October 1945
Date Location Organisation Activity
8 August 1945 Cairo West, Egypt SAAF Base Depot Middle East Posted back after last two SAAF Wing "Liberators" were flown back to Cairo West and formally handed over to the RAF
12 September 1945 Pretoria Zwarktop Air Station Sent on NRSL (North Return Service Leave)
11 October 1945 NA NA Honourable discharge, 2nd Lieutenant, from the Union Defence force.
Received following standard Campaign Stars and Medals for his War Service: Italy Star and 1939-45 War Medal/Africa Service Medal. Locke listed his wife as Mrs "Lilian" Locke and their permanent residential address as 51 Hendon Street, Yeoville, Johannesburg

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:

  • In a photograph of him and others, he was playing golf at Gizeh Golf & Country Club, in Cairo, in 1943, and
  • "My stay in the Air Force lasted five years and three months, in which time I completed 1,800 hours on single-, twin- and four-engined aircraft"

Success in the United States

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 (including four in a five-week period), and finishing second to Jimmy Demaret on the money list.

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 Royal and Ancient 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 (after Gary Player) 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 (he would bring the putter back far to the inside on the backstroke, then virtually "trap" the ball with a hooded, closed clubface on the forward stroke, imparting a tremendous amount of overspin), 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 (similar to full-swing shots) 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 (one that bordered on a hook) 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 fact learned the technique from Walter Hagen during the "Haigs" tour of South Africa with Joe Kirkwood in 1938.

Amateur wins

  • 1931 South Africa Boys
  • 1935 South African Amateur, Natal Amateur, Transvaal Amateur
  • 1936 Natal Amateur, Lucifer Empire Trophy
  • 1937 South African Amateur, Transvaal Amateur, Orange Free State Amateur

Professional wins (94)

PGA Tour wins (15)

Major championships (4)
Other PGA Tour (11)
No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
1 11 May 1947 Houston Open −11 (71-67-70-69=277) 5 strokes United States Johnny Palmer, United States Ellsworth Vines
2 25 May 1947 Philadelphia Inquirer Open −7 (68-69-70-70=277) 4 strokes United States Matt Kowal, United States Lloyd Mangrum
3 1 Jun 1947 Goodall Round Robin +37 points 4 points United States Vic Ghezzi
4 8 Jul 1947 All American Open −12 (66-68-71-71=276) Playoff United States Ed Oliver
5 19 Jul 1947 Canadian Open −16 (68-66-67-67=268) 2 strokes United States Ed Oliver
6 27 Jul 1947 Columbus Invitational −14 (70-68-67-69=274) 5 strokes United States Jimmy Demaret
7 25 Jan 1948 Phoenix Open −16 (65-69-67-67=268) 1 stroke United States Jimmy Demaret
8 20 Jun 1948 Chicago Victory National Open −18 (65-65-70-66=266) 16 strokes United States Ellsworth Vines
9 18 Apr 1949 Cavalier Specialists Invitational −6 (67-68-66=201) Playoff United States Frank Stranahan (a)
10 15 May 1949 Goodall Round Robin (2) +66 points 33 points United States Herman Barron
11 9 Jul 1949 The Open Championship −5 (69-76-68-70=283) Playoff Republic of Ireland Harry Bradshaw
12 7 Jul 1950 The Open Championship (2) −1 (69-72-70-68=279) 2 strokes Argentina Roberto De Vicenzo
13 9 Aug 1950 All American Open (2) −6 (72-74-69-67=282) Playoff United States Lloyd Mangrum
14 11 Jul 1952 The Open Championship (3) −1 (69-71-74-73=287) 1 stroke Australia Peter Thomson
15 5 Jul 1957 The Open Championship (4) −9 (69-72-68-70=279) 3 strokes Australia Peter Thomson

PGA Tour playoff record (4–0)

No. Year Tournament Opponent Result
1 1947 All American Open United States Ed Oliver Won 36-hole playoff;
Locke: −4 (68-72=140),
Oliver: +2 (71-75=146)
2 1949 Cavalier Specialists Invitational United States Frank Stranahan (a) Won 18-hole playoff;
Locke: −1 (68),
Stranahan: +1 (70)
3 1949 The Open Championship Republic of Ireland Harry Bradshaw Won 36-hole playoff;
Locke: −9 (67-68=135),
Bradshaw: +3 (74-73=147)
4 1950 All American Open United States Lloyd Mangrum Won 18-hole playoff;
Locke: −3 (69),
Mangrum: +1 (73)

South Africa wins (50)

  • 1935 Natal Open, South African Open (both as an amateur)
  • 1936 Natal Open (as an amateur)
  • 1937 South African Open, Transvaal Open (both as an amateur)
  • 1938 South African Open, South Africa Professional, Transvaal Open
  • 1939 South African Open, South Africa Professional, Transvaal Open
  • 1940 South African Open, South Africa Professional, Transvaal Open
  • 1946 South African Open, South Africa Professional, Transvaal Open
  • 1949 Stanley Motors 1,000 Guineas Tournament, Transvaal Open
  • 1950 Dunlop £1.000 Tournament, Stanley Motors 1,000 Guineas Tournament, Transvaal Open, Western Transvaal Open, Grey Slax £1,000 Tournament, South Africa Professional, South African Open, Grey Slax £1,000 Tournament
  • 1951 Stag £1,000 Matchplay, Stanley Motors 1,000 Guineas Tournament, Transvaal Open, East Rand Open, South Africa Professional, South African Open, Dunlop Masters £1,000 Tournament
  • 1952 Stag £1,000 Matchplay, Stanley Motors 1,000 Guineas Tournament
  • 1953 SANTA Open, Natal Open
  • 1954 SANTA Open, Transvaal Open, Mills 1,000 Guineas Tournament
  • 1955 Transvaal Open, South African Open, South Africa Professional
  • 1956 Western Province Open
  • 1957 East Rand Open
  • 1958 Transvaal Open, Western Province Open, East Rand Open (tie with Eric Moore)
  • 1960 East Rand Open

Other wins (29)

  • 1938 Irish Open, New Zealand Open
  • 1939 Dutch Open
  • 1946 Yorkshire Evening News Tournament, Brand-Lochryn Tournament, Dunlop Masters
  • 1947 Carolinas Open, Carolinas PGA Championship
  • 1948 Carolinas Open
  • 1950 Dunlop Tournament, Spalding Tournament, North British-Harrogate Tournament
  • 1952 French Open, Mexican Open, Lotus Tournament, Carolinas Open
  • 1953 French Open
  • 1954 Egyptian Open, German Open, Swiss Open, Dunlop Tournament, Dunlop British Masters (tie with Jimmy Adams), Egyptian Match Play, Swallow-Harrogate Tournament (Stroke play stage)
  • 1955 Australian Open
  • 1957 Daks Tournament, Bowmaker Tournament (tied with Frank Jowle)
  • 1959 New Hampshire Open, Bowmaker Tournament

Major championships

Wins (4)

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1949 The Open Championship Tied for lead −5 (69-76-68-70=283) Playoff 1 Republic of Ireland Harry Bradshaw
1950 The Open Championship (2) Tied for lead −1 (69-72-70-68=279) 2 strokes Argentina Roberto De Vicenzo
1952 The Open Championship (3) 1 shot deficit −1 (69-71-74-73=287) 1 stroke Australia Peter Thomson
1957 The Open Championship (4) 3 shot lead −9 (69-72-68-70=279) 3 strokes Australia Peter Thomson

1 Defeated Harry Bradshaw in 36-hole playoff: Locke (135), Bradshaw (147)

Results timeline

Tournament 1936 1937 1938 1939
Masters Tournament
U.S. Open
The Open Championship T8 LA T17 LA T10 T9
PGA Championship
The Amateur Championship R256 R64
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
Masters Tournament NT NT NT T14 T10 T13
U.S. Open NT NT NT NT T3 4 T4
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT T2 1
PGA Championship NT T33
Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Masters Tournament T21
U.S. Open 3 WD T14 5
The Open Championship 1 T6 1 8 T2 4 CUT 1 T16 T29
PGA Championship
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Masters Tournament
U.S. Open
The Open Championship CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT
PGA Championship
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978
Masters Tournament
U.S. Open
The Open Championship CUT T49 CUT CUT CUT CUT WD CUT
PGA Championship

     Win      Top 10      Did not play 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


Tournament Wins 2nd 3rd Top-5 Top-10 Top-25 Events Cuts made
Masters Tournament 0 0 0 0 1 4 4 4
U.S. Open 0 0 2 5 5 6 7 6
The Open Championship 4 2 0 7 12 14 29 16
PGA Championship 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Totals 4 2 2 12 18 24 41 27
  • Most consecutive cuts made – 19 (1936 Open Championship – 1952 Masters)
  • Longest streak of top-10s – 5 (1949 U.S. Open – 1951 Open Championship)

Team appearances

  • South African Amateur Golf Team to England 1937.
  • Canada Cup (representing South Africa): 1953, 1954, 1956, 1960
  • Slazenger Trophy (representing British Commonwealth and Empire): 1956
  • Hopkins Trophy (representing Canada): 1952, 1953, 1954

See also

  • List of golfers with most PGA Tour wins
  • List of men's major championships winning golfers
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