OK, so the coincidence of timing may be a bit off, but while we have been going through a period of severely turbulent weather and the world appears to be standing on the brink of potentially the most widespread and dangerous conflict seen in Europe since the Second World War, it is only natural for us to recall the 1938 Open Championship at Royal St George’s, which took place a little over a year before our continent became embroiled in an immense and deadly catastrophe.
I was reminded of this by a brief column about that Open by Patrick Kidd in The Times on Saturday. As he put it, after two days of benign weather, “things went a bit King Lear over Kent”. In those days the final two rounds were played on the same day, Friday. According to The Story of the Open Golf Championship 1860-1950 by Charles Mortimer and Fred Pignon, the early arrivals on that Friday morning at Sandwich were greeted with a nasty shock. “For it was clear that the large marquee that housed the traders’ exhibition was doomed,” they wrote. “Soon the poles of this extensive erection were stripped and bare, the canvas torn to shreds and the contents of the stalls scattered over the landscape.” Sounds a bit like the state of London’s O2 Arena after Storm Eunice had finished with it last Friday.
Of course, it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good, even if it is a particularly strong one, and the gale was so powerful that it enabled Alf Padgham to drive the green on the 11th (now a par-three but then a par-four of 380 yards) and complete the job by holing the putt for an eagle. Eventually he finished in a tie for fourth. The winner of the championship was Reg Whitcombe, aged 40, who had been two over par with a score of 142 after 36 holes, two shots out of a three-way tie at the top. Amid the ensuing wind-blown chaos, his scores of 75-78 earned him a two-shot victory from James Adams, this even though Whitcombe’s morning round had included a four-putt on the 9th. Henry Cotton shot an extraordinary final round of 74 to claim third place.
This would, incidentally, be the last time British players filled the first three spots in the Open. Below them, there were 12 Friday scores in the 80s among those who placed in the top-10, a closing 82 for Padgham among them. In other news, Bob French finished with 91-85 for a total of 317, a full 22 blows behind the winner. I am sure even the most ascetic R&A committee member would not be hoping for the champion golfer of the year to shoot a tally of 15 over par, but that’s what happened with Whitcombe.
As all fans of Fawlty Towers will know, the Second World War was initiated when Germany invaded Poland. In a little over a month’s time, Russia are due to host Poland in a football World Cup qualifier. Well, that’s what’s scheduled to happen…
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