by Craig Small
When I was preparing for my APBA Golf Tournament I was having trouble making the last few selections to fill out the field. I started researching lists put together but Golf Digest and the like of the 15 or 20 greatest golfers of all time. I was familiar with almost all of the names on the lists but one name kept popping up that I was unaware of: Bobby Locke. I had no idea who he was. But his name came up enough for me to do a little investigating. What I learned was that he’s widely considered the greatest putter of all time, as well as the slowest player of all time. Both attributes that he used to his advantage to completely frustrate his opponents. He came from South Africa and joined the PGA Tour in the 40s but after failing to live up to a few commitments he was banned from the tour. From my reading I learned that his fellow players were also sick of consistently losing to him and were looking for an excuse to ban him. I was intrigued enough to include him as the final entry in my tournament. I set my match-ups based on seeding and figured he’d be eliminated in the opening match by Jack Nicklaus. He wasn’t. And as the tournament moved along I learned A LOT more about Mr. Bobby Locke.
After stunning the field by upsetting the 1 and 2 seeds, Nicklaus and Woods, in the first 2 rounds, Locke moved on to the semi-finals to face off against one of his contemporaries, the legendary Ben Hogan.The setting was Magnolia (August National) And Locke came to play. The tone was set on the opening hole when Locke hit his second shot 4-iron to 23 feet of the cup and then proceeded to drain it and take the lead. Hogan came back on 3 to square it up but when he missed a 7-footer on 5, Locke rolled in his 3-footer to take back a lead that he would never relinquish. Steady iron play and solid putting had him 3-up after 10 and 4-up after 15 to close out the match.
Meanwhile in the other semi, Sarazen continued his smooth, unspectacular play against Byron Nelson. The match was very well played and very tight until Nelson’s tee-shot on 13 rolled off the fairway, through the rough, and into the creek. That was all Sarazen needed and after he knocked in a 17-footer on 16 the match was all but over. A par on 17 and it was over. Sarazen had yet to see the 18th at any point in the tournament.
The final, played at Metro D.C., looked to be an evenly matched affair with both men short off the tee but spectacular with the short game. In the end the match wasn’t so much won with great shots but lost with poor shots. Sarazen grabbed the lead on 2 after Locke hit his approach into the rough. Sarazen easily dealt with a 3-foot birdie putt and moved on to 3 1-up. Locke immediately squared it up with an incredible 26-foot birdie and just as against Hogan, he would never trail again. Locke was 2-up after 6 but Sarazen grabbed 7 and when Locke hit his 5-wood into the water on 10, Sarazen took the gift handed to him and squared it up. Sarazen, however, returned the favor on 11 by visiting the water and allowing Locke to take back the lead. It was nip and tuck the rest of the way and they finished 17 with Locke 1-up. Sarazen knew he had to play aggressively on 18 to have a chance but it would be his downfall as his second shot 2-iron put him in the water again. Locke hit a 2-iron of his own into the sand and his reliable short game pulled him through.
Yeah, I learned a lot about Bobby Locke in this tournament. Imagine competing in a tournament and winning by knocking off Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, and Gene Sarazen, all of them in their prime. Incredible stuff.
And now a word about APBA Golf. Simply put, I’m addicted. The game is wonderfully realistic and only gets more realistic depending on how many of the master rules you choose to add to your game. Standing on the tee at a difficult 200-yard par-3 with the green bordered by sand, rough and water and finding yourself between clubs can be unbelievably nerve-wracking. Do you choose the 2-iron and maybe leave it short and in the bunker or do you risk the 5-wood and maybe have your shot hit the green hard and carry over into the water. Imagine the frustration of going through your calculations off the tee, accounting for carry and roll as well as the dog leg factor and finally coming to a satisfying conclusion only to have your golfer botch the shot with an unlucky roll of the dice and send the ball careening to the trees. All of your calculations wasted on a bad roll of the dice. I’ve found that decision making is just as, if not more, important as athletic ability. When do you play it safe? When do you throw caution to the wind and go for it? Decisions, decisions.
One of the real joys of the game is playing a few round and then settling down on the couch and enjoying some real golf on television on a Sunday afternoon. You’ll find yourself noticing things you never noticed before and you’ll get an idea of just how incredibly accurate the APBA Golf game really is. I plan on getting another tournament together very soon and getting some different faces in the field. I want to get players like Johnny Miller, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and Ken Venturi out on the course and there’s another guy I’m not familiar with named Craig Wood who looks like he might be interesting. I’m going to incorporate the master card ratings of momentum, clutch, bounce-back, sand, and scramble into the next go-around. Judging from past experience, I know it’ll only make the experience even better.
Congratulations to Bobby Locke. As current and past champions, Locke and Nicklaus have earned themselves lifetime exemptions from selection and will be entered in all future tournaments. I don’t think Locke will be a 16 seed next time. Now I think I’ll give my brain a few days rest from all the math and maneuvering of APBA Golf and play a little baseball. I’m addicted to the golf game and I’m sure I’ll have it spread out all over my kitchen table within a week. Now if only I can convince APBA to release some more courses.