My Dad always said that Alf Perry was “the finest yard putter” on the circuit but I shall always remember him for his long driving.
When I was only 19 I played in an Alliance meeting at Laleham, near Chertsey in Surrey, and Alf, who was then Open Champion, was in the match behind.
Laleham is right by the Thames and in those days you had to get in a boat with your clubs and be rowed across to the clubhouse. This Alliance meeting was in the middle of winter and you can imagine how wet the course was.
We were playing four-balls so there would be eight of us, four players and four caddies, in each match. Alf always hit the ball very high in the air and I remember hearing the “plop” as his ball suckered in the ground when it landed.
On one long hole I hit a corker of a drive. When I had played my second shot we all moved forwards and I remember looking back and seeing Alf in his dark grey plus-fours and flat cap driving off. I rember thinking: “He’ll never catch mine.”
But the ball kept coming and coming and I shouted to everyone to duck. It carried right over our heads and splashed into the mud in front of us. We had already played our second shots and yet he had cleared the eight of us; his drive must have been 40 yards further than mine.
This opened my eyes. I thought if this is the Open Champion and he hits it this far then I’ve got to start hitting the ball harder myself.
Although Alf was a marvellous player and a nice man, I have to say that he had very little personality. He was a tough egg on the course but never had much to say for himslef and this may be why he did not get the recognition he deserved.
Another factor was that many people said that his swing was “ugly.” But, just as with Bobby Locke, if all the members in this country were to copy Alf Perry’s swing, they would probably halve their handicaps.
Alf took the club back very low and had a classic in-to-out arc. He hit out and through the ball so well that it almost seemed as if his right knee was scraping the ground. Alf was a much longer hitter than Archie Compston, who was almost a foot taller.