First Open Championship

I was only 17 when I qualified for the 1934 Open at Royal St. Georges, Sandwich. My father was very keen for me to play in the tournament and had to smooth things over with the officials who felt that I was too young.

You can imagine what a thrill it was for me to walk into the dressing room where all the great players like Abe Mitchell, Ted Ray, George Duncan, the Whitcombe brothers, Arthur Havers etc. were laughing and joking.

To cap it all, I found that I was to be playing the first two rounds with Percy Alliss, father of Peter Alliss and one of the top British professionals at that time.

Percy had finished third behind Tommy Armour and an Argentinian player named Jurado in the 1931 Open and was in the top 10 at the Open ten times between 1922 and 1939. He would go on to play in three Ryder Cup matches in the 1930s.

Percy gave me a lesson in how to play the course in the early holes and was six under fours by the time we got to the 14th, which has out of bounds all down the right hand side where it borders on the Princes course. It seemed to me that he was heading for 66 or 67, which would put him in the lead by a mile.

He teed up the ball and hit it straight over the fence. I watched open-mouthed as he put down a second and pulled that badly, eventually finishing the hole with a 7.

At the 15th, which is dead straight from tee to green and one of the easiest holes on the course, he plugged his tee shot in a bunker and had to hack it out, taking 6. He then played regulation golf to finish in 73.

This was still good enough to put him close to the lead, although Henry Cotton had scored a remarkable 67, but it was an eye-opener for me that a player of his calibre and experience could do a thing like that.

Henry Cotton won that Open largely because of his fantastic second round of 65, which provided the name for the popular Dunlop golf ball. Henry was 10 strokes ahead going into the final round, an even larger lead than mine at Portrush in 1951.

My two rounds were 77 and 78 so I did not qualify for the final day but it had been an unforgettable experience.

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