Tuesday, June 24

Bad Boy Bobby Locke, Part 3: The Dresser and Crooner

I asked John Coyne why he called Bobby Locke a "bad boy." Coyne said, "Locke wasn't liked on the PGA Tour. They blackballed him. Also, he was fired from his first pro job in Johannesburg." In this series, read how the South African golf legend made enemies by beating America's best. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Bobby Locke (above) was nicknamed
"Baggy Pants" by Sam Snead.
BOBBY LOCKE WAS TO RETURN to the U.S. in the last week of December 1947 to start the winter tour in Los Angeles, scheduled in those years for the first week of January. The second tournament was the Crosby Clambake and Locke’s amateur partner was the famous Frank Stranahan. They tied for second, and Locke went on to finish fourth on the professional side. It was here that he met and became friends with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Crosby was a scratch golfer; Hope played to a six-handicap.

On this trip, Locke also began to draw the attention of the media beyond the sports world and his persona was being defined by the press. The New York Times called him "Old Muffin Face." Peter Alliss said he "looked 55 since he was 30." Sam Snead nicknamed him "Baggy Pants" because of what he wore playing golf.

After World War II Locke dressed almost exclusively in grey flannel knickers, white buckskin shoes, linen dress shirts with neckties, and white Hogan caps which he tipped to the gallery after he played a good shot.

Locke’s high fashion for golf was noted early on in his career by Rhodesian pro, Denis Hutchinson, who after being a professional, became known as "the voice of South African golf" for the South African Broadcasting and the European Tour TV. He recalls being a schoolboy in Rhodesia when he first saw Bobby Locke.

In an article for South Africa Golf Digest, written by Dan Retief, Hutchinson said, "It was in 1948 when this figure came walking up to the club house. He had dark blue plus-fours on, pale blue stockings his mother always used to knit for him, and a pair of casual golfing shoes, the first pair of casual golf shoes I had ever seen, brown-and-white, no laces, and holding a pair of white golf shoes by the heels. I had never seen a pair of white golf shoes at that stage, and I’ll never forget one shoe had a loose spike and he went click-click-click as he walked."

Locke was also well-known for his deliberateness. His emotionless expression never wavered. He always displayed a calm, steady concentration. Also, he got quickly over any shots that didn't work: "I just blame the human element and leave it at that, after all, I may hit a few exceptionally good ones later. If you give it a chance, things balance out in the end."

But what surprised most people was that Locke had another side to his personality.

While he hardly practiced, he loved to party. He always had his ukulele nearby, one that he had purchased in Augusta in 1947. "I've never been very good, but after six or seven Pabst Blue Ribbons, I begin to sound reasonable."

What America also appreciated, Locke discovered, was the value that his English accent had in the U.S. "Again and again, at tournaments when I was in the prizes, I was asked to speak, usually by the crowd, just because they wanted to hear my accent." Playing in the ‘48 National Capitol Open, in Maryland, he lost the lead to Skip Alexander because, as he writes, "it began to rain. I have never seen rain like it, even in tropical Africa."

Coming into the presentation at the club, he received a tremendous ovation and he noticed a dance band was also in the room. "I edged close to the band leader and asked him if he knew the tune Sioux City Sue. He nodded, so I said to him, 'When I receive my prize, I plan to say a few words. When I give you the cue, play that tune for me.'"

Locke received his prize and sat down, and as he expected, the crowd chanted, "speech, speech."

Locke got back up and began to talk. He thanked the crowd for being so loyal to stick it out with him in the rain. He told them how much he had enjoyed Sam Snead’s tour in South Africa the previous year. Then he said. "We went to a night club in Durban where they played Sioux City Sue and the crooner substituted the words Sue Sammy Snead. It goes like this."

He had hardly spoken the cue before the music began and to the astonishment of the crowd and the officials around the presentation table, he started to sing Sue Sammy Snead. The crowd cheered for five minutes and would not let him go.

"Do you know Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone?" Locke asked the band leader. He nodded and Locke sang that too.

The next day the newspapers were full of news about Bobby Locke, the singer, and Bob Hope telephoned and invited him onto his television show, saying, "I hear, Bobby, you’re a great singer."

Locke had arrived in America, but he still wasn’t home when it came to the PGA Tour.

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

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