John Jacobs gives me a fright

In the semi-final of the PGA Match Play tournament at Ganton in 1953, I came up against John Jacobs. Now he is a cool customer, make no mistake. In spite of all this ‘Doctor Golf’ business (he gained a strong reputation as a teacher), he has a really fine temperament and this particularly comes to the fore during match play.

Max with John Jacobs (right)

I was playing pretty well on this occasion and by the 16th I was two up. My approach shot had finished about 12 feet from the flag while John was through the green, so I was beginning to think the rest of the match would be a formality.

Our marker was a tall, distinguished man I remember and quite a prominent figure at the club. As I walked on to the green he came over to me.

“Would you mind signing your card, Faulkner,” he said. “I’d like to go and watch the Daly match behind.”

“Fair enough,” I said, without much thought, and signed it as the winner. I should have known better.

By this time John had walked on to the green. He came up quietly behind us and said: “I can see what you’re doing. You’re going to regret that.”

He walked over to his ball, took his time, and holed the chip. This shook me a bit. I took a lot of trouble over my putt but missed it by a mile. One up and two to go.

The 17th at Ganton is a short hole. John hit a beautiful shot, very straight, which nearly hit the pin and went to the back of the green. I hit mine short into a bunker but played a wonderful shot to within three inches of the hole.

John must have been quite angry by then because he took great care over his putt and holed it for a two.

The marker was looking a bit sick by then, and so was I. There were we were walking on to the 18th tee all square, and I had already signed the card as the winner on the 16th.

It was John’s honour to drive and for some extraordinary reason he hooked it. You wouldn’t think it possible with his upright swing, but the ball finished behind the same spinney that was to figure prominently in my final with Dai Rees. There was plenty of room on the right at that hole too.

I thought “Right, this is my chance” and hit a cracker down the middle. John could do no more than play the ball out on to the fairway and could not get down in two so I won by one hole.

“You’ve learnt your lesson now,” he said to me as we were walking off the green. I had to agree.

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