Bobby Locke Was a Lock With a Putter

Most of you who play golf and are younger than forty years of age, probably don’t know who coined that most famous golf saying. “You drive for show but you putt for dough.” Of course you hear it when ever someone may have missed a tee shot and skulled their next shot. Hit a poor third that barely catches the green and proceeds to drain a fifty footer for a very ugly looking birdie if a par was five. You still put it down the same as if it were two good shots and two putts. A 4 is a 4. They don’t give out extra points for how you get the ball in the hole.

When it came to rolling the golf ball on the green, no one ever did it better than the talented South African. No, this is another S. African by the name of Bobby Locke. Gary Player was a good putter in his own right, he had to be to win all the tournaments he did. Locke was in another class, in fact he was at the head of the putter class. Playing in his first British Tournament and finishing second as low amateur, The 1936 British Open was just a beginning for the native from Germiston, a small town in S. Africa. Locke would eventually capture 38 tournaments in his homelands tour which become known later as The Sunshine Tour. Locke served time in the armed division during World War 2 but would resume his golfing career in 1946.

It was during an exhibition with Sam Snead that Snead was so impressed with the game of Locke that he invited him over to America to play the PGA Tour, Locke quickly made his presence felt. Against Snead Locke would win 12 out of 14 matches. Though Snead would frequently out play Locke from tee to green, Locke would carve Snead up on the greens with his magic wand putter. Locke hooked all his golf shots, including his putts. On his back swing movement with the putter, he would keep the face slightly closed and on the forward stoke, he would let it open slightly to more square the putter face. His roll of the ball had more of a hook spin than the normal over spin you see on almost every good putter. Locke was not good, he was phenomenal! Using an unorthodox putting stroke he was deadly on the carpet. Distance of the putt did not matter to Locke, he would hole putts all over the course.

Just how good was Bobby Lock? When he came to The United States when invited by Snead, he played in 59 tournaments. 11 times he won and 30 times finished in the top three! He won The Chicago Victory International in 1948 by 16 strokes, a record for margin of victory on The PGA Tour. Bobby Locke was banned from playing in The US after 1948. The reason given was because he did not honor his playing commitments but the real truth was more than likely, because the other players resented the fact he was “Stealing” their prize money and he was from another country. Locke was reinstated to play in 1951 but he declined because of how he was treated.

When Bobby left the PGA Tour he went to Europe and play their Tour. Winning 23 more tournaments including British Opens in 1949,1950, 1952 and 1957. In 1959 Locke was in a serious car accident and his eyesight was never the same. His superior ability to read greens was gone. Blessed with the touch of a surgeon and the accuracy of an archer, Locke could not only pin point his full shots and shorter ones, all which had the hook spin to them, he also could impart different spins to his putts. No one would dispute Locke as the greatest putter ever, not any pros who played against him for sure. Bobby Locke was deservedly elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977. Locke was the first foreign player to be elected. He died in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987.

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