Tuesday, July 22

Bad Boy Bobby Locke, Part 5: Trouble at Home and Abroad

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, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

By John Coyne

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

FROM HIS FIRST DAYS AS A PROFESSIONAL, Bobby Locke had difficulty with the golfing establishment, on both sides of the ocean.

He turned pro in 1938 and immediately ran into trouble with professional golf associations. The South African Transvaal PGA turned him down for membership, saying that he had to be a professional for two years before being eligible. He applied to the British PGA and they turned him down, saying he had to be a professional for five years.

Golf legend Bobby Locke got sacked
after winning his first South African Open.
This was despite Locke winning tournaments in South Africa and Great Britain, and receiving money to play in exhibitions tours in Australia. Also, he took the professional position at the Maccauvlei Golf Club in 1939. (Today, Maccauvlei is the home club of Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel.)

Locke did not last long as the pro at Maccauvlei. He had just won his first South Africa Open held at Maccauvlei when he got the job, and immediately he ran into trouble. In the history of the club, written by member Derek Mocke, it appears that Locke was "forced out" of his position.

Mocke writes: "Problems immediately arose with regard to his appointment. On the 24th February 1940, the committee discussed the proposed arrangement that Locke had with African Theatres whereby he was proposing to tour the country giving a series of golfing demonstrations. The Chairman said that he was strongly opposed to such an arrangement being made by Locke during his period of service to the club, unless he did this during his leave periods. The committee further did not like Locke giving non-members lessons whilst playing with him on the course in preference to merely using the practice tee. In order to curb this, the club instituted a green fee of two shillings and six pence per round.

"At a special meeting hastily arranged and held on the 5th May 1940, Bobby Locke was questioned as to the terms of his employment. In his letter of appointment he was told that if he wanted to play in outside competitions he had to ask permission. Locke never applied for leave of absence but merely advised the Secretary when he had to fulfill his obligations. He also intimated that he proposed making a quick trip to America to play the US Open.

"Locke pleaded forgetfulness when questioned. It was said that Locke was using the Club to suit his own convenience and personal interest, and that the Club would not be used as a stepping stone for Locke to travel around the country, playing exhibition matches purely for his own benefit, at the Club's expense. Locke did not like the arrangement, and after eight months, resigned from the Club by letter to the committee dated 26th July 1940. The rest is history."

Derek Mocke joined Maccauvlei Golf Club years later, in 1967, and has been an active member ever since. He has held every office of the club, having been Captain, Chairman and President.

In 1982, the year of his captaincy, Dereck invited Bobby Locke to play with him at Maccauvlei. Locke arrived with his chaperone, Pine Pienaar, a retired Boeing pilot, who transported Locke everywhere he was invited to go. When they were on the 4th hole, Locke knocked his second just on the green. Walking down towards the green with him, Derek remarked that the putt should be in his compass. Next thing he felt was a mighty kick up his "backside."

"Not knowing what was going on," Derek wrote me, "I later asked Pine Pienaar why he kicked me. The only explanation that Pine could give me was that in his days that would have been an easy putt for him, and nowadays he feels frustrated as his putting touch has deserted him. At the prize giving that evening I mentioned the fact that Bobby had only 30 putts in his round, not bad for someone who felt his better days had deserted him."

Also at that evening's dinner celebrating Locke's return to Maccauvlei, Derek Mocke was to present to Bobby a "club tie" but when he went down to the pro shop to get one the pro told him Locke had already "nicked" one out of the shop without paying. (There was already a rumor in Joburg that Locke was a kleptomaniac.)

Back in the ballroom, another club tie was presented to the former club pro by Derek Mocke. Derek, having been told by his father that Locke loved playing the ukulele, had gotten an instrument from the local music shop and "after a few drinks," handed Bobby the ukulele and they were treated to a singing show.

It was, Derek writes, "an evening that I will never ever forget spending a day of golf and song with a South African legend."


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

No comments :