Blast from the Past: Future Hall of Famer from South Africa Visits

The 1938 New Zealand Open saw a future World Golf Hall Of Famer and the only South African golfer win the championship grace our shores.

The 1938 New Zealand Open was back at Otago Golf Club’s Balmacewen course for the first time in 10 years. The championship was contested between November 10 – 12, and featured an excellent field including many young amateurs and the visiting professional Arthur D’Arcy “Bobby” Locke from South Africa who at the time was widely considered one of the best in the world.

Having turned professional in March of 1938 at the age of 20, he was fresh from his wins in the South African Open and the Irish Open, Locke’s appearance no doubt added to the interest created by the championship which drew large galleries at Balmacewen.

Bobby Locke driving off the fourteenth tee during the 1938 New Zealand Open – Otago Daily Times 14 November 1938

Although the weather had played its part so far, on the final day, the greens were heavy following overnight rain. A northerly wind swept through in the afternoon which assisted to improve the playing conditions.

Invercargill professional B.J. Smith Jr. led the field overnight with an impressive 143, one stroke ahead of Bobby Locke, Andrew Shaw and Alex Murray as well the amateurs P.G.F. Smith and W.B. Reilly.

A ball out of bounds at “The Glen” in the final round unsettled B.J. Smith Jr. who had matched Locke’s 72 in the morning round.

Despite Andrew Shaw scoring an excellent round of 70 in his final round, lost his opportunity to clam his 8th crown and would finish runner up for the second year in a row thanks to a 77 in his third round.

Bobby Locke’s class would shine through and he matched his third-round score to record 288 total and go on to clam the 1938 New Zealand Open by three strokes.

  • A.D.Locke: 75  69  72  72   288
  • B.J.Smith Jr.: 72  71  72  76   291
  • A.J.Shaw: 72  72  77  70   291
  • A.Gibbs (a): 72  73  74  73   292
  • I.A.Ewen (a): 77  68  75  73   293
  • W.B.Reilly (a): 72  72  75  75   294
  • P.G.F.Smith (a): 71  73  75  75   294
  • A.J.Murray: 77  72  72  73   294

Jellicoe Cup for best individual round won by I.A.Ewen (amateur) with 68
Bledisloe Cup for leading amateur won by A.Gibbs with 291

Bobby Locke won 74 times as a professional including four Open Championships, nine South African Opens, seven South African PGA Championships, 15 PGA Tour events and the 1938 New Zealand Open. He was a prolific tournament winner in his native country, eventually accumulating 38 wins on the Southern Africa Tour. His golf career was interrupted by service in the South African Air Force during World War II lasting five years and three months, in which time he completed 1,800 hours on single-, twin- and four-engined aircraft.

Locke was inducted in the World Golf Hall Of Fame in 1977. Under the category of great putters in golf history, Arthur D’Arcy (Bobby) Locke is certainly at the top of the list – and there are those in a contingent, led by Gary Player, who would argue that the South African was the best of all time.

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