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Chapter 10. Padgham’s Year

1936 was the year of the Jarrow Crusade when two-hundred men from the mining and shipbuilding town, not far from my old club Brancepeth Castle, marched to London to draw attention to the devastating unemployment on Tyneside resulting from the Great Depression. In November the BBC began to broadcast television, but it would be twenty years before there was live Open coverage.

That year the Open returned to Royal Liverpool, where I had watched Bobby Jones win the title six years earlier. I had moved from Brand Hall to the Wirral and had made a good start in the local Alliance, coming second at Southport’s Hesketh club to Ted Jarman, who had recently taken up his appointment at nearby West Lancashire.

West Cheshire Golf CourseMy new club, West Cheshire, just down the road from Hoylake, now lies partly under the M53 motorway having been wound up half a century ago, so I guess my course record 63 is safe. I went ‘next door’ to the Wallasey club for the first Open qualifying round, but play was abandoned when a violent thunderstorm broke out over the course and flooded the greens. Henry Cotton’s course record 67, completed before the storm, was rendered null and void. When play was re-started the following day, in near perfect conditions, I almost matched Henry, shooting 68 to lead the field by two shots from Archie Compston, with a still comparatively unknown professional from Surbiton – Dai Rees, in third place. I putted badly in my second qualifying round at Hoylake for a 77, but still qualified comfortably.

Hoylake is a very difficult test, particularly when the wind blows – as it often does on the exposed corner of the Wirral peninsular where the Royal Liverpool course lies. Out of bounds threatens on several holes and you were faced with one of the most daunting opening drives in golf at the par-4 first, [the third on the revised course for the 2006 Open] where the out of bounds practise ground is bordered by one of the low turf banks known as ‘cops’, a feature of that part of the course. Countless drives have been sent over that cop and the old-time Open Champion Jamie Anderson once had to reload five times, after which he was heard to say: “My God, it’s like playing up a spout”. Bernard Darwin once put so many balls out of bounds that he “had to give up for want of ammunition”.

That year, as my club was close by, some of my members came to support me, the only time this ever happened in an Open. Travel was not so easy in those days and making a lengthy journey to watch golf was not an option for most club members. My poor putting Alfred Padghamform continued and my supporters told me afterwards, “We were praying that you would find the greenside traps”. They knew that I was a good bunker player and had more chance of getting close to the hole with my new ‘blaster’ than with the putter. The renowned Hoylake greens will yield dividends if you find a good stroke and, in contrast to my form, last year’s runner-up, Alf Padgham, was holing almost everything with his individual putting method. Alf had huge hands in which he held the club with an unbelievably light grip. He was a ‘streak’ putter who stood very upright, holding his putter like an extension of his arms, quite a distance from his body and hitting the ball in his words: “like a short chip”- crisply and boldly. It was hardly a classic style, but it was very effective and in the last round he single-putted five of the last six greens. Bernard Darwin described some of his putts as “indecent”, particularly a 30-yarder at the 17th, and he recalled that Alf had only qualified for the first tournament