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Chapter 12. The Storm Clouds Gather

With the Golf Pros at SouthportHaving commenced live transmission of football the previous year, in 1938 BBC television covered golf for the first time, in a general sports feature from my old club – Roehampton, but coverage of tournaments was still some way off. [In April Bert and Dick Burton beat Jimmy Adams and Bill Davies 5&4 in a 36-hole exhibition match at West Cheshire]. The season opened in May with heavy rain and a cold northeasterly gale testing the competitors in a qualifying round for the Dunlop Southport Tournament at Hesketh. I was having a bad driving day and this was most likely the scene of the other cartoons I was featured in, which I mentioned earlier. I was usually pretty accurate off the tee, but on this occasion I was spraying them to all points of the compass and on one hole I hit a particularly wild one and was lucky to find the ball, but was so far off line that I couldn’t see the green. I had nearly reached the club access road, which is noted for its fine old lampposts, and I shinned up one of these to get a sight of the green before playing my shot. Afterwards the usual inquests were taking place over a drink and I remarked that I had been hitting my drives into the next county and joked with my companions about climbing the lamppost. Unknown to us a cartoonist from one of the local papers overheard our conversation and the next day I was depicted at the top of the lamppost wearing a sailor hat and peering through a telescope. In another cartoon I was seen in an asparagus field at nearby Formby, on the edge of which was a finger post pointing to Southport. I was consulting a guidebook of Southport and the caption read: “Well I know it’s about here somewhere”. You never know who’s listening do you! I didn’t keep a copy at the time and neither cartoon has been traced, but we did find an amusing one depicting my brother George and some other ‘characters’ of the day, playing in the Tournament in 1931, probably by the same cartoonist. (Maybe the ones I was in will turn up someday). I had a 78 and fared even worse at Southport and Ainsdale. Needless to say I did not qualify. The champion in 1931 and 1932 was not there in 1938. Henry Cotton had decided that 36-hole qualifying was a waste of time and effort and he declined the invitation to play, preferring to attend the Walker Cup trials at St Andrews. “It is really a waste of time coming here qualifying”, he told reporters, adding that it was two good rounds thrown away and pointing out that it didn’t happen in America. “If I win the Open this year I very much doubt if I will ever play in a tournament in which there are qualifying rounds again”, said Henry. He didn’t win at Sandwich, but it was not for the want of trying, as you will hear.

Bert Gadd playing on a wet day in 1938Percy Alliss arrived at Hesketh to discover that he should have been at Southport and Ainsdale. He jumped back into his car and raced to the other side of Southport, arriving on the tee with minutes to spare. It is just as well that the speed cameras now on that road were not there back then. Not surprisingly Percy started with a bogie but settled down to score 74, which was only two shots behind the leader Alf Bignall, the pro from nearby Ormskirk. The defending champion, Alf Padgham, had driven the green at the 363 yard third and was obviously putting