Daily Mail 1500 guineas Victory Tournament at St Andrews, known as
the ‘unofficial’ or ‘lost’ Open, rang down the curtain on a
remarkably successful first post war season. The 172 entrants, many
playing in their uniforms, included six Americans, but the first two
places were occupied by British pros. Charlie Ward took the title by
a stroke from Max Faulkner, who had returned from service as a PT
Instructor in the R. A. F. Before the tournament the only practise
Charlie had was hitting horse chestnuts gathered for him by Italian
prisoners of war. He was still in the RAF and was ‘confined to
barracks’ when he was late arriving back from St Andrews, the
presentation having caused him to miss his train.
In 1946 the Daily Mail tournament at Lytham opened the season in March and my only appearance on the ‘tour’ that year was a brief one. I played ‘early season’ golf and was soon on my way home.
The Dunlop Southport tournament was resumed in May with qualifying at Hillside and Southport and Ainsdale and the final rounds at S&A. The golf-starved Merseyside public turned out in force and the Southport Guardian reported that 6500 people went through the gates; nearly double the attendance when the event had last been held in 1938. Henry Cotton, who had been awarded the MBE for his work for the ‘Red Cross’, had decided to play and arrived in his Rolls-Royce, but he was overshadowed by the ‘comparatively unknown’ Max Faulkner-as the Southport Guardian reporter put it. Max was now assistant at Bridport, Dorset to his father Gus, at one time seventh assistant to James Braid, who was himself a fine player before the war and had made the final Ryder cup trials in 1930 when he was pro at the Surrey club, Bramley. [He succeeded George Gadd as Surrey Open Champion that year]
Max putted brilliantly to take the title by a stroke from Australia’s Norman von Nida, now embarking on his highly successful post-war career. Afterwards Max told the reporters that the £365 he won would “more than replace” his quickly spent R. A. F. gratuity. “- - my God I’m a millionaire”, he thought. Cotton would soon have him as his (unpaid) assistant at Royal Mid Surrey, where Henry had recently been appointed to replace J. H. Taylor, who had retired after 47 years as the club’s professional. (Faulkner could have joined Henry ten years earlier when he was Ashridge pro and Max had been short-listed for the assistant’s job, but parental consent to the move was not forthcoming)
The Leeds Cup was resumed at Sand Moor, Leeds, in combination with the Northern Professional Championship, but both trophies were missing. The Leeds Cup is the oldest trophy presented to the winner of a PGA tournament; Harry Vardon was the first name inscribed in 1902 and the other famous names include Ted Ray, Sandy Herd, George Duncan, Abe Mitchell and Archie Compston. The last name on the cup was W. H. Davies, who had won at Ormskirk a few days before the outbreak of war.
Bill had taken the cup back to his club - Wallasey and, along with the club’s trophies, it was whitewashed, put in an icebox and buried in the sand hills. After the war ended the trophies had been retrieved and sent for cleaning, but the historic Leeds Cup had now gone missing. Percy Alliss, who pipped me for the title in 1937 at Mere, was the last winner of the Northern Professional Trophy and he was probably entitled to keep it having won two years running. Whether or not the Leeds Cup had been found in time to present it to Norman Sutton, that year’s winner, I do not know, but that did turn up eventually. As far as I know The Northern Professional Trophy from those days never came to light.
(* see p.140). The cup played for nowadays is the ‘News Chronicle and Daily Despatch’ Challenge Trophy, which dates from 1955 and the event is now known as the PGA North Region Championship.
In 1946 another Alliss made an appearance in the sports columns; the 15-year-old Peter Alliss of Ferndown competed in the Boy’s Championship at Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh.
The 1946 Open was back at St Andrews and 1939 champion Dick Burton sent in his entry accompanied by a note saying: “I shall bring the ‘Cup’ with me”. Thankfully the priceless Claret Jug came back unscathed. The amateur Jimmy Bruen, who had astonished the galleries with his play at St Andrews in the last pre-war Open, did not enter that year, but continued to cause astonishment with his powerful hitting at the first post-war British Amateur Championship and the first at Birkdale. He broke three mashie-niblicks on his way to a 4&3 victory over the 1937 champion, Robert Sweeney (USA).
I did not go to St Andrews for that first post war Open, won by the man heralded as the greatest golfer in the world at that time – the late Sam Snead. His elegant and powerful swing took him to a four shot victory over Bobby Locke and one of the few Americans to regularly support the Open, Johnny Bulla, who had also been second to Dick Burton at St Andrews before the war. Snead had not played since he had made his debut in the event at Cotton’s Carnoustie Open in 1937 and had not intended to come that year. He felt that his putting form gave him no chance of winning and it was reported that he only entered after Walter Hagen gave him a lesson. Snead was to be handed a lesson by Bobby Locke that winter when he visited South Africa and was ‘putted off the greens’, losing 12 of 14 challenge matches to the South African. Locke asked Snead if he could make a living in America. “Make a living?”, replied Snead, “You’ll get rich-and very quickly”. Sam made a buck or two himself betting on Bobby. Locke won three tournaments that year and was leading money winner in Europe with £12,200, roughly 55% of the £25,000 on offer; He was the first post-war winner of the Vardon Trophy.