Few foreign golfers have had as much impact on American golf as South Africa's Arthur D'Arcy "Bobby" Locke. In fact, no other international player has had such immediate success in the U.S. as Locke enjoyed after arriving in 1947.
Two developments in 1946 encouraged Locke, then age 29, to give the American Tour a try. He finished second to Sam Snead in the British Open, then beat Snead in 12 of 16 matches when the American star went to South Africa for an exhibition tour.
Locke racked up six victories in 13 U.S. events in 1947, finishing second on the money list despite not playing the whole season. In 1948, he won twice, one of them by a Tour-record 16 strokes at the Chicago Victory Championship.
The run of victories was startling considering Locke's unorthodox methods. Early in his career, Locke had been a very short hitter; his solution for gaining distance was to hit a pronounced hook off every tee.
Locke practiced very little and believed that American pros were too mechanical with their swings; Locke played by feel. Locke was a brilliant putter, but even on the greens he incorporated a sort of hook stroke.
The American pros resented both his success and the appearance fee he commanded to skip the British Open to play in George S. May's All-American Open in 1947, which he won. Locke also alienated the press by asking for $100 if they asked questions of an instructional nature.
Ultimately, the PGA banned him in 1949, saying he had failed to honor commitments. They reinstated him in 1951, when Locke scored the last of his 10 American victories, but he played very little in the U.S. after that except for the U.S. Open.
Locke spent the latter part of his career playing mostly in Great Britain, and he won the British Open in 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1957. Though he never won the U.S. Open, Locke finished third there in 1947 and 1951, fourth in 1948 and 1949, and fifth in 1954. He won the South African Open nine times.
"My approach to golf," Locke said, "is that I always play to beat the course. Even in match play, I do not concentrate primarily on beating my opponent."
For more information about golf, see:
- The Best Golfers of all Time
- How Golf Clubs Work