Pro Players Who Didn’t Get a Lot of Recognition…But Deserved It

By Tony Jacklin


A big difference between golf when I went on the tour and today is that we weren’t on television. I made the first hole in one ever televised in Britain. It was at Sandwich, I was leading on the 16th hole, a par 3, and bingo! It went in. But what people don’t realize is that in those days, they only televised the last three holes.


            It was for a completely practical reason: this was cable TV. If you wanted to televise the entire tournament, you’d have to run cable over all 18 holes of the course, which would have been madness. When I played in the Canadian Open with Palmer and Nicklaus, they still televised only the final three holes. It wasn’t until wireless broadcasting came in that we started seeing six holes, then the back nine, and now we’re watching five different tours all over the globe. I had to learn about golf from magazines.


            Because of the tech explosion in golf over the last 30-40 years, we take for granted that we see and know about all the top and up-and-coming players. That wasn’t the case back in my day. There were plenty of great players who didn’t get a lot of recognition. Bruce Crampton is an Australian who won 14 times on the PGA Tour. Bruce Devlin, another Aussie, won eight times on the Tour. Harold Henning from South Africa was a terrific player who only won twice on the PGA Tour but dominated in Africa. Graham Marsh had 70 professional wins, mostly on the European Tour and in Asia.


            The reason you probably haven’t heard of them is that they never won Majors. Fame in golf is all about winning Majors. Winning a Major elevates you above the pack. If you don’t win one, you’re never going to capture the audience. Fair or not, that’s the way it is.


            It didn’t take me long to find out as a young man on the tour that if you didn’t have a Major to your name, you hadn’t fulfilled your existence as a pro. In the 1950s when Hogan and Bobby Locke were playing, Majors were special, but they didn’t become the pinnacle of achievement until Nicklaus and Palmer. Palmer won the British Open in 61 and Nicklaus came on the scene at the same time. Ten years went by and there wasn’t a year when those two, plus Gary Player, didn’t win at least one Major. Suddenly, Majors became everything.


            But make no mistake, there were plenty of great players around the world in those days who never won Majors but deserve to be recognized. If you fancy yourself a golf historian, look them up.

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