Centenary 2013 News 

Good things come in threes
19 April 2013
 
Golf history has several examples of small groups of players who completely dominated the game in their era.  In the 1890`s and early 1900`s, the “Triumvirate” of Vardon, Braid and Taylor had a stranglehold on the Open Championship and virtually everything else at that time.  More recently, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player exerted similar dominance to the point that anyone finishing ahead of all three in any given tournament was almost guaranteed victory.
 
Closer to home, another three players were arguably even more influential in New Zealand from 1950 to 1975, with all three going on to win one or more Open Championships.  Between them, Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle and Bob Charles won 20 New Zealand Opens in the period, and nine PGA Championships.  Nagle also won the 1960 Open Championship, as did Bob Charles in 1963.  Thomson of course won a staggering five Open Championships, including four in five years ( 1954 – 1958).
 
Thomson also did New Zealand golf another great favour.  In November 1960, the PGA of New Zealand were wrestling with an application from Bob Charles to join the PGA before embarking on an overseas tour.  The Caltex tournament was being played at Paraparaumu Beach at the time, and Peter Thomson was able to guide the PGA through the correct procedures, resulting in them accepting Charles as a probationary professional and providing him with a letter of support to help him enter events in South Africa, the UK and the USA.  Without that support and guidance, who knows where Sir Bob’s career might have gone, but golf in this country was the ultimate beneficiary not only through Thomson’s sage advice, but through the consistent support he and Kel Nagle gave to the New Zealand tournament circuit for more than a quarter of a century.
 
That eventually saw the local professional golf tour grow to the point in the mid – 1970s where it was larger than the Australian Tour, offering prize money equivalent to nearly $3.0million in today’s currency, with seven four round tournaments and numerous Pro-Ams from Invercargill to Auckland spread over the early summer period. The roll call of those who took part reads like a Who’s Who of golf, including Seve Ballesteros, Sam Snead, Curtis Strange, Nick Price and a host of other famous names.
 
Before that though, our own Triumvirate held sway as illustrated by the Honours Board for the 1961 golf festival at Ngamotu.  The NZ Open was won by Thomson, with Nagle runner-up.  They combined to win the Professional Foursomes and the Open Foursomes.  The PGA Championship (match play) was won by R J Charles, and Thomson took out the Jellicoe Cup for the lowest round in the Open with a course record of 64.  Curiously at that time, the New Plymouth Golf Club used sheep to keep the fairways and rough in check, although they were removed a few weeks before the Open.  They can’t have done any harm, because Thomson described the greens as some of the finest surfaces he had ever putted on, no small praise from a man who by then had won Open Championships at Birkdale, St Andrews, Hoylake and Lytham.
 
His four round total of 267 (21 under par) can be compared to Fraser Wilkin’s effort in going one better in winning last month’s Taranaki Energy Open, fifty plus years after Thomson.  Without detracting from Fraser’s outstanding golf, there is an argument that Thomson was effectively playing a much longer course given the equipment of the time.  He was clearly the consummate professional, and it is fitting that he, Kel Nagle and Sir Bob Charles have all been honoured by being elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
Duncan Simpson
Chief Executive
Victory Progress
 
As with all facets of society, World War II hit the game of golf and the players who were building their careers and reputations prior to the outbreak of war in 1939.  Who knows how many majors would have been won by Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Henry Cotton but for other commitments?  Or how many more NZ Opens and PGA Championships would have been added to Andy Shaw’s tally?
 
A fascinating radio interview from 1940 gives a real “back to the future” flavour, with Shaw talking about the R & A’s efforts to limit the distance the golf ball was travelling, while retaining its playability around the greens.  Maybe the rules makers and researchers were diverted to other projects – such as building the atom bomb – but 70+ years on the same arguments rage.
 
The PGA of New Zealand lost members during the war as well, but 36 were on the register when the Association met in Hamilton in June 1946.  Subscriptions were set at 1 guinea ($2.10) – exactly the same as in 1913 – no member could accuse the Board of taking advantage of inflation!  Coaching rates were agreed at 10 shillings ($1.00) per hour.  The playing side of the game was given a boost by the major sports retailer Wisemans, who employed several PGA members in their Queen Street store, through a series of Victory Tournaments beginning in 1946 and continuing for several years.  In September 1946, there was a foretaste of today’s Charles Tour when the Te Awamutu Golf Club hosted a two day tournament with 18 professionals lining up with amateurs, the honours being shared by Alex Murray and Andy Shaw.  Two more events in Palmerston North and Feilding followed the same pattern.
 
The annual meeting of 1947 marked the retirement of Harry Blair, one of the founding members of the NZ PGA, who had served the PGA as captain, secretary and chairman, eventually retiring as head professional at the Christchurch Golf Club in 1949, some 38 years after signing as assistant professional to Reg Butters at the Invercargill Golf Club.
 
Life was still not easy for PGA members at the time: a focus being on improving incomes and publicising the difficulties faced by PGA professionals working as club professionals, in retail sports shops, or coaching freelance.  Some thought was given to forming a co-operative society to buy equipment from manufacturers at special prices to create better margins for members, but this lapsed because members were unable to raise enough capital to get it off the ground.
 
Another issue which has its echoes today was that of amateurs “declaring” themselves professionals, and what their status as PGA members should be.  It was agreed that a minimum period of 18 months should be served as a club professional or professional in a golf store before the individual concerned could be considered as a member of the PGA of New Zealand.  Some 15 years later, these principles were tested when a talented amateur who had won the NZ Open as an 18 year old in 1954 applied for membership in 1960.  His name was R J Charles, and our next article will look at how the 1950’s and 1960’s triggered the popularity of professional golf in New Zealand, with the establishment of a regular circuit attracting some of the household names of golf.
 
Listen to the full radio interview (15.2Mb)
 
Duncan Simpson
18 March 2013
The Golden Era of Golf
(February 2013 Golfer Pacific Article)
 
The 1920’s was  arguably the first golden era in golf, dominated by American golfers who won nine Open Championships during the decade.  The profile of the game was lifted hugely by superstars such as Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen. Although Hagen and Jones never visited New Zealand, Sarazen did in 1930, when he ran into New Zealand’s own superstar of the time, Andy Shaw.  You’ll hear more of Shaw in a minute, and in subsequent articles.
 
Earlier though, the PGA of New Zealand ended a period of recess when 11 professionals met in Palmerston North in 1922 to relaunch their association.  Much of the discussion had a “back to the future” theme, focusing on cheap golf balls being sold by high street retailers, amateurs giving lessons for cash, job opportunities for professionals, and playing rights in the NZ Open Championship.  The “Truth” newspaper was designated as the official paper for covering association matters.  In contrast, the organising of tournaments for professionals seems to have been a lesser priority, possibly because of the small number of members, scattered throughout New Zealand.  In 1925 fifteen professionals competed at Harewood  for the princely sum of £25 donated by a member.  The winner was A J (Andy) Shaw.
 
By 1927, professional playing numbers had grown slightly, and 17 professionals competed in a four round tournament at the Rotorua Golf Club.  In those days 36 holes a day were played, and after two rounds Jock McIntosh held a two stroke lead, with rounds of 71 and 67.  Ernie Moss (who was to win three New Zealand Opens) and Andy Shaw were his nearest pursuers.  The next day dawned with atrocious conditions and pouring rain, which these days would no doubt have led to a suspension of play.  Not so in 1927: play continued as normal, and Shaw recorded a remarkable 66 in the 3rd round, when most of the others were struggling to break 80.  He went on to win the tournament with an aggregate score of 274 (73,67,66 & 68) – good enough to win most similar events  today.
 
In fact Andy Shaw’s playing record consistently shows that the worse the weather, the better he played.  This could be related to his Scottish origins, where he followed two brothers and emigrated to New Zealand from Troon in 1919, initially as a butcher’s apprentice.  That didn’t last long and he quickly found his way into professional golf.  He won his first New Zealand Open at Wellington in 1926, and went on to win six others, together with seven NZ PGA Championships.  Astonishingly, he won a total of nine PGA Professional Foursomes Championships, each with a different partner.  His last success in this event was in 1951, when he partnered a player called Peter Thomson.
 
Shaw was renowned for his ball striking, and undoubtedly had the class to compete at a higher level if he had been willing to travel more widely, or had been born in another era with more opportunities.  He beat Gene Sarazen in each of their three exhibition matches in 1930; later on he added Bobby Locke and Peter Thomson to his collection of international scalps.
 
Shaw’s contribution to the game in New Zealand has been recognised through the Andy Shaw Trophy, presented to the winner of the Mondiale PGA New Zealand Order of Merit.  The 2012 winner Troy Ropiha has since used this as a launching pad to gain an Australasian Tour Card this year, thus appropriately completing the connection from the Golden Era of golf to the present.
 
Duncan Simpson
Chief Executive
The 1930s: Golf on the move!
17 February 2013
 
While the rest of the world struggled with the aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street crash, golf in New Zealand grew at a rate belying this.  The NZ PGA, which started the decade with fewer than 40 members, had 69 accredited professionals by the outbreak of World War II reflecting the rapid growth in golf clubs, which by 1939 totalled 328 clubs with over 29,000 members.  PGA professionals could be found not only in the main centres, but also in towns like Hawera, Hanmer and Oamaru.
 
Playing standards were on the improve as well: Andy Shaw won the 1929 NZ Open at Wanganui with a score of 299, the first time 300 had been broken in the event.  In 1930 he annihilated this with a winning total of 284 at Hokowhitu, a score which was not bettered until after the war.  Just how good this was can be judged from subsequent scores at the same venue: Bob Glading winning with 306 in 1946, Kel Nagle with 294 in 1957, and Bob Charles in 1973 with 283, the last time the Manawatu Golf Club hosted the Open.
 
In those days the Open was part of a festival of golf lasting over a week which also featured the Amateur Championship and PGA Championship (both match play), and the Amateur and Professional Foursomes Championship, plus various handicap events for both amateurs and professionals.  Shaw’s name was virtually a permanent feature on many of these, having won four consecutive Opens from 1929 to 1932, four PGAs (1931 to 1934) and five Professional Foursomes in the decade.  He added another Open for good measure in 1936 at New Plymouth.  It could perhaps be argued the opposition was weaker in those days: amateurs with a handicap of eight or less could play in the Open and this was a bone of contention between the PGA and the New Zealand Golf Council.  The PGA continually strove to have all members who wished to enter eligible to complete all four rounds – the intention being to have at least 16 professionals who could then be seeded into the PGA Championship match play.  The Council refused to allow this, and a compromise was reached whereby if 16 professionals did not make the cut, the balance would be drawn from the best scores over the first two rounds.  Since the cut was a generous 70 players plus ties, this was probably not an issue in most years.
 
Overseas competitors were also a rarity in the 1930s, until a 21 year old from South Africa turned up in Dunedin in 1938.  Already a two time winner of the South African Open, this was his first major trip away from his home country, but after the war he was to become one of the most widely travelled golfers in the 1940s and 1950s, winning numerous PGA Tour events and four Open Championships.  By now you will have worked out this young man was Arthur D’Arcy (Bobby) Locke, and he was victorious with a score of 299.
 
Whether by then he had coined the phrase he eventually became famous for “you drive for show, but putt for dough” is not known, but must have found the relatively short Balmacewan links to his liking.
 
Together with many other PGA professionals, his career had to be put on ice until 1946, when golf began a new drive to re-establish itself in a world that had changed forever.
 
Duncan Simpson
Beyond the Hickory
17 July 2012 
 
My recent article on hickory clubs and the skill of old time players like Ted Ray, who used only seven clubs throughout his career, led me to investigate why we have finished up with the current limit of 14 clubs – a rule which was established in 1938. Hickory clubs themselves were sometimes highly specialised, as a visit to Allan McKay’s Millbrook shop will confirm: there you will see clubs specifically designed to play out of cart tracks, long grass or even water, no doubt designed for pessimists who doubted their ability to find the short grass on a regular basis.
 
But the first real explosion in club technology came with the introduction of steel shafts in the 1920s.  This enabled the production of sets of matched clubs in large numbers for those golfers able to afford them or who considered them essential for higher level competitive play.  Lawson Little, who won the British and USA Amateur Championships in 1934 and 1935, carried (or to be more accurate, his caddy was burdened with) no fewer than twenty six clubs, including seven wedges! An unnamed American professional of the same era was said to use a staggering thirty four clubs.  Concern was expressed for the health and safety of the caddies involved, as well as delays in play while players contemplated which weapon to use from their vast armoury, eventually culminating in the 1938 rule laid down by the USGA and the R & A.
 
The 14 club rule has tripped up a few players over the years, the most famous example being Ian Woosnam at Royal Lytham in the 2001 Open Championship, where he discovered on the second tee that his caddy had forgotten to remove an extra driver from the bag, meaning he had started the round with 15 clubs - thus costing him a two shot penalty and ultimately the Championship. This may well have been influenced by Lytham’s opening hole being a par three; on a longer hole, the offending extra club may well have been noticed before Woosnam had teed off. Closer to home, Marcus Wheelhouse found he had an extra club after 11 holes during the first round of the Muriwai Open, resulting in the (maximum) penalty of four shots for that round.  More recently, there was the bizarre case of Jose Manual Lara’s disqualification in the BMW International in Germany.  Lara’s caddy was seen to disappear into the bushes on the second hole, but the visit was not due to a call of nature (as Lara thought) but by his caddy discovering an extra club in the bag and attempting to hide it.  This resulted in Lara’s disqualification, as a player is responsible for the actions of his/her caddy, and a lifetime ban from the European Tour for the caddy concerned.
 
Although the 14 club rule is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, there are a few advocates for a lesser number of clubs – say ten or even eight – to beat the relentless march of club and ball technology, and to force today’s players to employ the shot making and improvisation techniques of their predecessors of 100 years or more ago.  One would imagine the club manufacturers might have something to say about that, but it would certainly make for an easier bag to carry across the sodden terrain of a typical Auckland winter – or British summer!
 
Duncan Simpson

Back in the Day...
 
The Scottish origins of our game are well known to all golfers, but the role of the Scots and their early professionals in spreading the game around the world has probably not received due recognition.  In the 1880s and 1890s, there was an exodus of many Scottish professional golfers and clubmakers to all parts of the globe, driven no doubt by the promise of better wages and conditions, and in some cases by health reasons and the search for a better climate.
 
Australia and New Zealand were no exceptions, as reflected in the founding fathers of the PGAs of both countries.  The first president of the PGA of New Zealand, Fred Hood, came from St Andrews in 1902 and was the first employed professional in the North Island, at the Auckland (now Royal Auckland) Golf Club, where he was also involved in the design of the Middlemore course.  In those days professionals had to travel widely to make a living from playing, course architecture, coaching and the making and selling of clubs.  This included travel to Australia, where Fred played in the final of the 1906 Australian Professional Championship at Rose Bay (now Royal Sydney) against another Scotsman, Dan Soutar from Carnoustie.  After 18 holes Fred was three up, but either lunch didn’t agree with him or Dan found another gear in the afternoon as Soutar went on to win 5 and 3.
 
Dan Soutar won four Australian PGAs in all and was one of the 15 professionals who founded the PGA of Australia in 1911.  His golf DNA lives on through his great nephew Geoff Smart, the current President of the PGA of New Zealand.
 
Back in New Zealand, Fred Hood continued his travels, designing the Hamilton Golf Club (naturally known as St Andrews), running a golf school in Wellington and a busy golf club manufacturing business.  These clubs are still keenly sought after today by collectors.  He spent six weeks at Christchurch Golf Club as their first professional, eventually finishing up at Miramar in the early 1920s.  In 1926 he was still competing in professional tournaments, finishing 2nd equal in the handicap stroke play at the Otago Golf Club in February (Fred’s handicap being plus one).  The winner of that tournament was  J A (Joe) Clements, a three time winner of the NZ Golf Association Professional Championship in 1908, 1909 and 1911.  Hood was also a two time Professional Champion in 1903 and 1906, although he had only one opponent on the second occasion.  The Professional Championship eventually became the NZ PGA Championship in 1920, playing for a cup donated by a Mr W H McDougall.
 
The Dunedin event was played under trying conditions, with a strong hot wind whipping over the Balmacewan links.  Ties, jerseys and thick tweed plus fours – the traditional garb of the day – would not have helped player comfort.  Tragically though, Fred was to succumb a few months later to weather of a different kind, playing golf in the rain whilst suffering from a heavy cold.  He contracted pneumonia and never recovered, dying at the age of 46 as New Zealand’s oldest and longest serving golf professional at the time.  He left a widow and three children, and his fellow professionals took up a collection to fund a plaque for his grave.  The New Zealand PGA “family” at that time consisted of less than 20 professionals, and next month we will follow their progress through the 1920s and 1930s.
 
Duncan Simpson
Chief Executive