Bobby Locke: The Quirky Golfer Who Won 4 Opens

Bobby Locke
Bobby Locke holds the Claret Jug in 1952 after his third win in the Open Championship. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bobby Locke was a golfer known for his quirky approach to the game, but also for the great results his style produced. He won four majors, and might have won more if not for a feud with the PGA Tour.

Date of birth: Nov. 20, 1917
Place of birth: Germiston, South Africa
Died: 1987
Nicknames: "Old Baggy Pants" and "Muffin Face." "Old Baggy Pants" was Sam Snead's nickname for Locke, because Locke dressed so often in gray flannel knickers (white shoes, white caps, dress shirts and ties). "Old Muffin Face" was his nickname on the PGA Tour because of his large, round face and unchanging expression on the course.

Locke's Tour Victories

  • PGA Tour: 11 wins
  • Europe: 23 wins
  • South African Tour: 38 wins

Major Championships: 4

  • British Open: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1957

Awards and Honors for Bobby Locke

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame

Quote, Unquote

  • Bobby Locke: "You drive for show but putt for dough." (Locke is generally credited with inventing this famous golf axiom.)
  • Bobby Locke: "Very early in my career I realized that putting was half the game of golf. No matter how well I might play the long shots, if I couldn't putt, I would never win."
  • Gary Player: "One six-foot putt, for my life? I'll take Bobby Locke. I've seen them all, and there was never a putter like him. In the 100 or so competitive rounds I played with him, I saw him three-putt just once. ... You had to see it to believe it." (Watch a YouTube clip in which Player demonstrates Locke's putting technique.)

Biography of Bobby Locke

Arthur D'Arcy "Bobby" Locke was the first great South African golfer, and one of the greatest - and most unusual - putters the game has seen.

He took up the game early and by age 16 was a scratch golfer. He first played in the British Open in 1936, finishing as low amateur. Two years later he turned pro and won the first of his many South African Open titles.

His career was interrupted by World War II, during which he served in the South African Air Force.

In 1946, Locke headed for America to resume his golf career, and played a series of exhibitions with Sam Snead, winning 12 out of 14 matches.

Locke spent 2 1/2 years on the PGA Tour, up to 1949. In 59 events, he won 11 times, finished second 10 times, third eight times and fourth five times (34 out of 59 tournaments in the Top 4). In 1948, he won the Chicago Victory National by 16 strokes, which remains a PGA Tour record for margin of victory.

In 1949, however, a dispute over playing commitments led the PGA Tour to ban Locke. The ban was lifted in 1951, but Locke never returned to the PGA Tour.

From 1949 to 1957, Locke won many times in Europe and Africa, including four British Open titles. But he was involved in a horrific car accident in 1959 and the migraine headaches and eye problems that resulted effectively ended his playing career.

Locke was one of the all-time best putters, and very unusual: he hooked his putts. Locke hooked everything, according to Golf Digest:

"Locke's swing was supremely eccentric. Every shot was a draw, some spinning so dramatically as to cause witnesses to speak of boomerangs. Still, those shots found their targets, and once he had his hickory-shafted putter in hand, Locke was near a genius, perhaps the best putter ever."

Locke was a snazzy dresser on the course, and liked to sing songs to his own accompaniment on the ukulele.

Bobby Locke was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.