Tuesday, July 1

Bad Boy Bobby Locke, Part 4: The Ban and Return

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 1Part 2 and Part 3.

By John Coyne

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

Bobby Locke putting out at Midlothian Country Club.
IN 1949, A YEAR AFTER HE WON the Chicago Victory Open at Midlothian Country Club by 16 strokes, which remains a PGA record margin of victory, Bobby Locke was banned from playing golf on the American tour. The reason given by the PGA was because he had failed to show up at tournaments and exhibitions without giving any explanations. However, many people thought that he was banned because he was simply winning too many tournaments, making too much money.

Claude Harmon, winner of the Masters in '49, and longtime head pro at Winged Foot Country Club, allegedly commented as much, saying, "Locke was simply too good. They had to ban him."

The ban was lifted in '50 and the first U.S. tournament he played in was the '50 All American at Tam O'Shanter. Locke had already won at Tam, in 1947, and George S. May called Locke in London and offered him a guarantee to come back to Chicago for the All American and The World Championship.

In his book, On Golf, Locke writes in his wry, understated, way: "He made me an offer of a guarantee if I would appear in this event. Frankly he did not offer enough, but after some conversation he agreed to my terms and once more I set out for America."

What pleased Locke even more was winning the '50 All American tournament in a play-off against Lloyd Mangrum. Again, Locke added expressionlessly, "Lloyd Mangrum and I have little in common."

However, Lloyd Mangrum, like Bobby Locke, was another WWII veteran. Mangrum was a staff sergeant in the Army. He was wounded twice in the Battle of the Bulge and spent part of his convalescent period at St. Andrews, where he won a GI tournament in 1945. Mangrum was a good looking man, who with a thin mustache and black hair parted in the middle had the looks of a river-boat gambler. He put the rivalry with Bobby another way.

"That son-of-a-bitch Locke was able to hole a putt over 60 feet of peanut brittle."

Writing about Locke's triumphal return to the U.S. tour, Henry Longhurst quoted Locke's sly comment in a piece for Golf Mixture as "I just can't say how nice it is to be back in the States."

Indeed it would be hard to top his return, even if there were no welcome-home signs from the American touring professionals.


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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