My golfing career was just beginning to get going in 1939, when I turned 23. But over the next six years I played only two rounds. It is difficult now to imagine the effect which the second world war had on our professional game.
It was different in the US. Most of the US pros continued playing throughout the war, which is why we were massacred at the 1947 Ryder Cup match at Portland, Oregon. I do not place as much value on Sam Snead’s Open victory in 1946 as on Ben Hogan’s win in 1953, when there was some real competition.
The golfer whose career suffered the greatest damage was Dick Burton, the 1939 Open Champion. I shall never forget the moment of his victory in 1939 at St. Andrews (when I had led the field after the first round).
I was in the crowd around the 18th when Dick had a curling, downhill 15-foot putt for a birdie three. He hit the ball with his great long putter and then turned his back on the hole and walked away while the ball was rolling, so certain was he that it was in. He only glanced back briefly when there was a roar from the crowd.
Before the war Dick had a wonderful high, free-flowing swing but six years later he was a shadow of his former self. He won a few more tournaments but was never again a contender for the top prizes.