Royal Lytham & St Annes

1952 Open

After the Open of 1926 it was another twenty-six years before the event returned to Lytham, though in the intervening years the course repeatedly established its pedigree when hosting the Amateur, then a major event, in 1935 and the Mens Home Internationals.

As far as course changes were concerned, the first tee had been moved from what is now the practice putting green before the Dormy House to behind the professional's shop, the fourth was played from a difficult back tee with a length of 422 yards, the former eleventh of 600 yards had been swung to the left and considerably shortened, a new short twelfth at 166 yards had been introduced and the former par four four- teenth and par three fifteenth had been merged into one ferocious par four fifteenth.

From his own account of the event in his book 'Bobby Locke on Golf' there emerges a good overview of the event as seen from inside the ropes

No one can over-praise the Royal Lytham course. I had thought the previous year when I had played in the American Open at Oakland Hills, Detroit, where they have 180 bunkers on the course, that that was incredi- ble, but after playing Royal Lytham for the first time, I was amazed to learn that this course has the phenomenal number of 385 bunkers, one for every day of the year, the members say, with several
extra for Leap Year.

For the first two rounds I was paired with my young rival, Peter Thomson. What a battle we had! It took us both back six months to South Africa. Peter was playing magnificent golf again and finished his first round in 68. Unfortunately I took five at the par four 18th for 69, but I was really very pleased. Fred Daly, the 1947 Open Champion, played the course in 67 to take the lead. He followed this with another grand round of 69 to lead me by four strokes after my 71 in the second round. Peter Thomson was one stroke behind me at the halfway stage.

Two rounds on the final day, and my teeing off time for the first leg was ten minutes to nine. After an early breakfast at my Blackpool hotel, I walked the hundred yards to the garage where my car was parked with my clubs secure in the boot at the back. The garage door was locked and there was no one about. This was 7.45 am. I looked around - everything was closed. I found a milk delivery man, enquired where the garage owner , was told he would be arriving about nine o'clock, and that he lived fif- teen minutes away. I gave the man ten shillings, scrambled in amongst the milk bottles, and after a bumpy ride got to the owner's house. He was still in bed. I dragged him out and we arrived at the garage at 8.20. I got my car, raced to the course, ar- rived at 8.40, and with no time for even a few loosening swings, walked straight on to the first tee. I was really strung up. Happily at the first hole my tee shot, after landing short of a bunker on the right of the green, hopped over on to the green. I holed a thirty-foot putt for a birdie 2. This cooled me off.

I must say, at this stage, that a gale of about forty miles an hour was blowing, accompanied by rain at intervals. I battled like every other competitor and again took five on the 18th hole, to finish the morning round in 74. That put me within one shot of Daly, who took 77. It took me three-and-a-half hours to play that round, and an official complaint alleging slow play was lodged against me by Norman von Nida. The Tournament Committee told me at lunch time that this official complaint had been lodged, so I asked for more stewards to control the biggest galleries I had seen on a British golf course. I told them that during the morning I had had a 10,000 gallery and had had to help control them myself. Often it had taken five minutes to clear the fairways so that I could drive. I felt I was not to blame for slowness and I felt an- noyed. I saved ten minutes in the afternoon only by hurrying the stewards and rushing putts. The way I hurried might easily have lost me the Open. It seems that when there are complaints, I am always the target; or perhaps it is that I draw the crowds. I must add that my partner on that last day - and he finished leading amateur in the tournament - was given no chance either by the huge crowd. He just had to wait for the people to be pushed back to avoid hitting someone when he swung his club. I walk slowly but play fast. When I make up my mind how to hit a shot, I hit it and don't waste any time.

On that last round I went out in 34 and Daly 38. That gave me a three-stroke lead, with nine to play. Everything went well until the 440 yard dog- leg 17th. After a perfect tee shot head into the wind, I had to play my second into the three-quarter gale from right to left. I took a No. 2 iron and played the finest shot of my career, the ball finishing some twenty feet from the flag. My partner, who was having a gruelling time with the huge
crowd, took quite a time to play his second. I had to wait, of course, and to my great disappointment and the surprise of the spectators, I proceeded to take three putts, missing an eighteen-inch putt for a birdie 4. At the 18th I played my only bad shot of the round and took a five for a total of 287.

I spent the next hour on edge. The news came in that Peter Thomson had struck top form in the last nine holes and needed a 33 to tie. He sank a tremendous putt on the 18th for a birdie 3, to be home in 34 for second place, one stroke behind me. I cannot describe my feelings at winning what is the 'blue riband' of golf, or what it means to see your name inscribed on the Open trophy alongside names dating back to 1872, names that are golf history.

Looking back when writing in 1958, Henry Longhurst's chief memory of 1952 was;

'the morning of the final day when players and spectators alike battled their way around against the elements looking like a lot of multi-coloured mushrooms as they crouched beneath their umbrellas. On the first day 70 had been broken only three times and on the second only twice. Fred Daly, former holder, had done it on each occasion with 67 and 69 - each of them the lowest round of the day - and was out on his own - four ahead of Locke and five ahead of the promising newcomer Peter Thomson.

Daly's 77 in the rain and wind was by no means bad, though I seem to remember that it contained a wretched seven at the 11th, and Thomson could do no better, but Locke came up to within one stroke with a 74. Things improved a little in the afternoon, but Daly could never quite recapture the touch that had given him such a wonderful early lead. He holed a four-yarder for a three at the last and a little later Thomson holed one from double the distance- they did not play in the reverse order of merit in those days, with the leaders going out last, but it was only to nose out Daly for second place. The winner was Locke and if ever a single shot won a championship it was his at the 14th.

Having failed to reach the green in three, a six was a distinct possibility . Locke's chip was included in a compilation of 'Great Golfing Occasions' and as his ball nears the hole, he sways with his body to the left to help it along and finally nearly falls over sideways as the chip drops in for a four.'






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