Site Search


BACK NEXT Chapter 15 A Record Return to The Open Page 111

Golf is my Business, “--- during the last two rounds we played off back tees that made the course ridiculously long. From the tees, when the wind blew, it was impossible to reach some fairways with a number one wood!”. The 16th (383 yards), which had been a drive and 6-iron, required three shots to reach the green and at the 482-yard 8th he needed a driver, brassie, and full iron. “That is not golf”, he said, “and it is certainly not the kind of golf for which Hoylake was designed. The current mania for making holes longer, thereby destroying their character and spoiling the lay-out of a well planned golf course, might breed a race of sloggers, but it will achieve nothing else”. “By adding 300-yards in length”, he went on, “the committee gains little in length and loses much in charm”. Well Norman, Hoylake will be altered again in 2006 to protect the course from a new generation of sloggers, wielding vastly improved weapons and using ‘long range’ ammunition . [In the event Tiger overcame its defenses using irons off the tee]

Ulsterman Fred Daly, brought up on the difficult links of Royal Portrush, was well used to playing in the wind and scored 78, 72 on the final day to become the only champion from Ireland to date, (The Republic's Padraig Harrington has since won twice, JMC) but he was nearly caught by the amateur Frank Stranahan, one of only three Americans who made the trip that year; Frank was unfailingly loyal to the championship in the early post war years, during which he won our Amateur Championship twice. He needed a two at the last to tie and I was watching as he prepared to play his second shot with a 9-iron from around 150 yards. As he addressed the ball a newsboy cried, “paper”. He backed off and composed himself, but just as he was about to swing, “paper” rang out again. The paperboy was silenced and Frank finally played the shot. The crowd gasped as the ball rolled right up to the hole and stopped a few inches away.
Frank was a fitness fanatic, very unusual for a golfer in those days; the only other player I can recall taking fitness so seriously was Henry Cotton. Stranahan, nicknamed ‘Muscles’, had brought his full weight-training kit with him and extra rooms and modifications were required to accommodate him and his equipment in Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel. The talk was of floors being strengthened and doors removed – it must have cost a fortune, but Frank was a man of considerable means. As you can see from the picture taken with me he was not a big man – about 5 feet 8 inches. Maybe, like Gary Player, he did it to keep up with the big hitters.

Sharing second place with Stranahan was Hendon pro Reg Horne, who had won the first post-war News of the World tournament. He finished 72, 71 and his long range putt at the last was in – and out again. Reg was picked for the Ryder Cup that year and went all the way to Portland, Oregon only to be left on the sidelines. Along with the little known Northern Professional champion, Eric Green, he was not asked to play by captain Henry Cotton. They were unlucky to be left out as Henry had intended to give them a match if any of the other eight did not perform, but when it was Henry himself and Fred Daly, the Open champion and that year’s News of the World Matchplay champion, who fared badly, he felt unable to go through with it. The result was an 11-1 victory for Ben Hogan’s side, with Sam King winning our only point and preventing the only ‘whitewash’ in the Cup’s history. Whether either of the two men who travelled in vain would have saved a little face is something we will never know. They were the first players to make the trip to the USA and not participate, since my brother George twenty years earlier and the fourth and fifth of those who were destined never to get a game.

Dick Burton and Bill ShanklandAt Hoylake Bill Shankland had another great chance to win the Open, when he went to six under fours with five to play, but he double-bogeyed 16 and another bad finish put paid to his chance, just as in 1939. He still recorded the lowest final round of 70, but it was only good enough for fourth place, two behind Daly. Dick Burton was fifth and Charlie Ward continued his fine run with a share of sixth place. He was to be third the following year, fourth in 1949 and third in 1951.

Whether Sam Snead would have successfully defended the title if he had bothered to come back in 1947 is something we will never know. By the time he eventually arrived at Hoylake for an exhibition match over half a century later he was 88 and that classic swing was a thing of the past.