Royal Lytham & St Annes

The 1969 Open Championship

 

In 1969 Royal Lytham and St Annes hosted the Open Championship for the 5th time. The 98th Open Championship was notable for a number of innovations. This was the first occasion that leader scoreboards were used. Positioned at various vantage points around the course, these new leader boards kept spectators informed about the progress of the top ten players during the Championship. In addition, closed circuit TV was introduced for the first time providing a number of large screens relaying events elsewhere on the golf course. This was also the first Open Championship to be broadcast using colour film. Events during the Championship itself would prove to have even more far reaching consequences and indeed would constitute a momentous turning point for British and European golf.

Britain had been without a home winner of the Open Championship for 18 years. The flamboyant Max Faulkner had been the last British player to win the title at Royal Portrush in 1951. Twenty five year old Englishman Tony Jacklin was the bright new face of the British game. Jacklin came from humble roots in Scunthorpe. After developing his game at Scunthorpe and Holme Hall Golf Clubs, and as an assistant pro at Potters Bar, Jacklin then honed his skills on the highly competitive American circuit, gaining his first US victory at Jacksonville in 1968. Prior to that in 1967, he had won his first professional tournament ‘The Pringle’, an event which, coincidentally, was held at Royal Lytham. Clearly, this earlier success at Royal Lytham was a sign not only of great things to come for Jacklin, but also of his particular familiarity and indeed affinity with the challenges of our links.

The first two days of the 1969 Open Championship were dominated by the New Zealand left-hander Bob Charles, who had triumphed in the Open Championship at Lytham 6 years earlier. In the first round, Charles broke the course record with a sixty six, which he stated afterwards was ‘one of the best rounds I have ever played’. Jacklin also started the Championship very well, with four birdies in the first six holes, finishing the round two shots behind Charles. After the second round Jacklin trailed Charles by three shots, but the crucial third round brought a dramatic change in the order. Throughout the third round Jacklin maintained his place among the leaders before finally taking the lead at 5 under par for the Championship. Charles could only manage a 75, as a result mainly of some wayward driving. Jacklin’s 70 gave him a two stroke lead over Charles and O’Connor going into the final round.

By his own admission, Jacklin’s third round score included some poor shots in the latter part of his round. His score of 70 was indebted to a superb short game display, which included 29 putts and several great ‘up and down’ bunker recovery shots especially at the 8th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes. Indeed Jacklin’s putting all week was a key factor in his victory with a total of 25 single-putts during his four rounds and only one three putt (which came at the 71st hole).

In the final round, Jacklin started very well, birdying the 3rd and 4th holes which increased his lead to 5 shots. Although he dropped shots on the inward nine at the 13th, 15th and 17th holes, he was able to maintain his two stroke lead to the end. His controlled final round of 72 was enough to hold Bob Charles at bay, with Peter Thomson (5-times Open Champion) and Roberto de Vicenzo (Open Champion in 1967) sharing third place ahead of Christy O’ Connor and Jack Nicklaus.

At the final hole, with two diagonal lines of bunkers threatening the tee shot, Jacklin found the middle of the fairway with a perfect drive. In previous Open championships at Lytham players of the calibre of the Scot Eric Brown, the Irishman Christy O’Connor and even the great American Jack Nicklaus had come to grief on this final hole when in contention for the claret jug. But not this time.

Jacklin’s magnificent drive elicited an evocative description from the ‘old school’ BBC commentator Henry Longhurst: ‘Oh what a corker! My goodness that was a fine drive. It’s gone for miles!’ Jacklin described his thinking before hitting this historic but highly pressured shot in the following way:

“I stepped up to the ball and said to myself, ‘Go to it. This is it.’ I knew then, as I had known all through that long afternoon, that with just this last hurdle to cross that not a thing must enter my head. No thoughts of fame, the fortune. I had this final drive to hit and as I had been hitting super drives all day apart from the one at the sixth, it never crossed my mind to play safe and hit a two or three iron or maybe a three wood. Had I geared down in this way some seed of doubt might have come niggling into my mind and ruined my concentration.”

Jacklin struck his drive far enough to play an eight iron to the green but, having practiced all week mainly with his seven iron, and with his primary swing thought throughout the week being to maintain a slow tempo, he elected to hit an easy seven iron: a shot which landed 12 feet from the pin, as Jacklin recollects:

I had a practise swing, looked ahead for a moment at the target and as the crowd raced in from both sides of the fairway just got glimpse of that beautiful little white ball nestling only four yards right of the hole. There was surely no way that I could take more than two from there so Charles could still get his birdie and I would be Open Champion....

After hitting his controlled seven iron shot, Jacklin had to battle through the excited crowd who, as tradition would have it, had run up to the edge of the final green inside the ropes. In the milling crowd Jacklin lost a shoe when someone trod on his heel, and was helped through the jostling thousands by two large police officers. He emerged in the front of the 18th green to rapturous applause from the waiting spectators in the large stands around the green. Having slipped his foot back into his shoe, Jacklin narrowly missed his first putt and was left with a very short tap-in to win the Open by two shots. An excited Henry Longhurst completed the story: ‘And now he has the shortest putt that ever won an Open.’ Lord Derby, the Captain of Royal Lytham, and the President of the PGA presented Jacklin with the claret jug and a cheque for the princely sum of £4,250.

An Englishman had won the Open after eighteen long years. A few months later in 1970 Jacklin became the first British golfer in 50 years to win the US Open at the Hazeltine National Club (by a remarkable 7 shots) and consequently for a short while held both Open Championships simultaneously. At a time when Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were all in their prime, Jacklin was unquestionably the best player in the world for a one-year period. His victory at Lytham was historic and a crucial catalyst to the revitalisation of British and ultimately European golf. Sparking a revival of interest in golf among youngsters throughout the British Isles, it launched a new generation of future champions into the game: a resurgence that became particularly evident from the 1980s onwards, with Jacklin himself making a further vital contribution as Captain of successive, victorious Ryder Cup teams.

After winning at Lytham in 1963 Charles, for the second consecutive year in the Open, finished second in 1969. Twenty four years later at the age of 57 Charles demonstrated his affinity with the course again when he won the British Seniors Open at Lytham. One of the golfers who finished in the top 10 at Lytham in 1969

was Peter Alliss, whose final round of 66 earned him a cheque of £1,000. This was the first time Alliss had collected prize money in four figures. His eighth-place position was the last of his five top 10 finishes in the Open Championship. Peter Alliss is now an honorary member of Royal Lytham and St Annes. Another top 10 finish was recorded by Davis Love Jr., father of the future major winner Davis Love III. Love was a club pro who played his way into more than a dozen majors from 1955 to 1974 and his tie for sixth at Lytham was his best ever finish. Love finished as the leading American tied with the pre-tournament favourite Jack Nicklaus. L.P. Tupling was the leading amateur on 294 and M.F. Bonallack also completed four rounds.

Leading Scores in the 1969 Open Championship

Tony Jacklin

68-70-70-72--280

Bob Charles

66-69-75-72--282

Roberto De Vicenzo

72-73-66-72--283

Peter Thomson

71-70-70-72--283

Christy O'Connor

71-65-74-74--284

Davis Love Jr.

70-73-71-71--285

Jack Nicklaus

75-70-68-72--285

Peter Alliss

73-74-73-66--286

Kel Nagle

74-71-72-70--287

Miller Barber

69-75-75-69--288

Neil Coles

75-76-70-68--289

Tommy Horton

71-76-70-72--289

Cobie Legrange

79-70-71-69--289

Guy Wolstenholme

70-71-76-72--289

Gay Brewer

76-71-68-75--290

Eric Brown

73-76-69-73--291

Bruce Devlin

71-73-75-72--291

Harold Henning

72-71-75-73--291

Brian Huggett

72-72-69-78--291

Orville Moody

71-70-74-76--291

Peter Townsend

73-70-76-72--291

Bert Yancey

72-71-71-77--291

Bernard Hunt

73-71-75-73--292

Gary Player

74-68-76-74--292

Fred Boobyer

74-70-76-73--293

Billy Casper

70-70-75-78--293

Alex Caygill

71-67-79-76--293

Hedley Muscroft

68-77-73-76--294

a-Peter Tupling

73-71-78-72--294

Max Faulkner

71-74-76-74--295

Jean Garaialde

69-77-76-73--295

Mike Ingham

73-73-74-75--295

Donald Swaelens

72-73-76-74--295

Gordon Cunningham

74-72-71-79--296

Raymond Floyd

74-70-76-76--296

John Garner

72-71-76-77--296

Vincent Hood

75-71-74-76--296

Lee Trevino

75-72-71-78--296

Brian Waites

73-75-74-74--296

Brian Barnes

73-73-76-75--297

Jimmy Hitchcock

74-74-73-76--297

a-Michael Bonallack

74-72-73-79--298

Angel Gallardo

72-76-73-77--298

Peter Wilcock

73-74-74-77--298

John Panton

73-69-76-82--300


Hugh Jackson

69-78-75-79—301






Created by intelligentgolf version 8.0.6
CONGU® is Copyright Council of National Golf Unions.