DALTON’S BUNKER-JUST A WELL PLACED HAZARD OR A PIECE OF HERITAGE WORTH PRESERVING
Scottish Piper playing in front of Dalton’s Bunker welcoming the morning field for the inaugural playing of the Claret Cup Medalist Competition in July 2014
Many years ago I was fortunate enough to play with one of the senior players when a tee ball off the 18th bounded off the camber of the heavily sloping 18th into the fairway bunker situated some twenty or so meters short of the green. On the tee he remarked “another one into Dalton’s bunker”.
It is without doubt a bunker illustrating the design genius of Waterman and Waters, the designers of the Country Club course. It is perfectly situated taking into account the northeast and southwest prevailing winds and the camber of the rolling dunes that DCC is famous for. Once in the bunker the player is presented with probably the toughest shot in golf, the thirty to fifty yard bunker shot.
Even a tough shot for the better player, if heavily hit it will run off the green where a difficult up and down awaits, blade it or thin it and out of bounds or mayhem results.
This is best illustrated by the mishaps of member Carlyle Field who when recently playing in a monthly mug competition. He was playing well when his tee shot found its way into the middle of the large cavernous bunker that is Dalton’s.
“Pop this onto the green, two putts and out of here with a par” was no doubt going through his mind. A big swing, no sand, the perfect blade and the ball launched unerringly towards the balcony of the Waterman Bar where one of the Club’s loyal sponsors and Member, Richard Michaels was “safely ensconced” with his ‘True Blue” PUMA clowder having a cold beverage after morning golf.
Despite a wild yell of fore or something similar beginning with ‘f’ and a general scattering befitting scalded cats, the ball arrowed into the clowder striking one of the group, Kevin Peterson. Fearing the worst Carlyle abandoned the “Eva” option of playing another from the bunker and ran upstairs to assess, like a good lawyer, the quantum of the damage suffered. Thankfully (probably because) cats have nine lives and no one was injured but a no-return for the golfer in the monthly mug and a round of drinks for the relieved was ordered.
ERIC LONDESBROUGH DALTON –JACK OF ALL TRADES AND MASTER OF MANY!!!
POSSIBLY COUNTRY CLUB’S BEST ALL-ROUNDER EVER
Due to the willingness of many of our Senior Members to impart knowledge about our history, heritage and traditions I was able to find a little bit of information about Eric L. Dalton’s sporting prowess, namely at cricket and football before I did a little research. After doing the research for this article I was completely overwhelmed by the scale of his all round ability and versatility. Unfortunately as is the case with many of our great amateur achievers, and Dalton is on a par with Suddards and Mr. Grindrod, scant acknowledgment of his achievements are found inside the Club.
A look at the Club Honours Boards reveal the following achievements:
Club Champion – 1971, 1963, 1957-58, 1953,1950,
Scratch Medalist – 1950, 1960
Prince of Wales Trophy – 1956
Holed out in one on the 15th on the 28th November 1948 and on the 4th on 15 May 1964
SA Amateur Champion in 1950 beating F. AGG at DCC 5 and 4. [36 holes]
Eric Dalton was born on the 2nd day of December 1906 in Durban and attended Durban High School. Despite this obvious disadvantage the ‘Horse-fly’ excelled at sports but was a somewhat surprising selection to tour with the South African Cricket team in 1929 thereby following in his fathers footsteps who had represented South Africa in 1902.
The Wisden Almanack wrote:
“Considered fortunate to have been picked for the 1929 South African cricket tour to England, with only nine first-class matches behind him, in which he had limited success, Dalton, by late-summer, was giving every sign of developing into a very good, attacking, middle-order batsman. Against Kent at Canterbury, towards the end of August, he scored 157 and 116 not out, followed by 102 and 44 not out against Sussex at Hove and 59 against Sir Julien Cahn’s XI at West Bridgford.
A vintage postcard featuring Natal and South Africa cricketer Eric Dalton, 1929
On returning to South Africa, Dalton quickly established himself as an extremely fine cricketer. He was an automatic choice for the South African tour to Australasia in 1931-32.”
In those days touring was a major challenge with players away for months, usually travelling via mail-ship to their destinations. Shortly after their arrival in Australia the Adelaide Advertiser carried the following article:
The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1931 – 1954), Friday 30 October 1931, page 22
“After you Dalton, of Natal? Well, my wife’s sister”. Those are familiar words to Eric Dalton, the South African cricketer, who is playing against South Australia today. Ever since he landed in Australia he has been meeting relatives or people who know his family. One of his most interesting meetings was made at the oval the other afternoon, when he was introduced to Ernest Jones, who played against his father when Australia was in South Africa in 1902.
Dalton, whose Christian names are Eric Londesbrough, is the chief singer of the team. He leads the folk songs that flow from train carriages on long journeys, from dressing-rooms after the close of play, and, not infrequently, from hotel bathrooms.
In Durban, his hometown, he was awarded a gold medal for winning the baritone class in the Natal Eisteddfod. He attended the same school as I. J. Siedle and the ex-South African captain, H. G. Deane. He has also represented his province in Association football.” [My emphasis]
Statistics show that Eric Dalton had a successful tour but it was against the Sheffield shield-side Tasmania that fate intervened and Dalton was thankfully, for us, introduced to golf. In the first innings he made his first century of the tour but a mini collapse in the second innings meant that Dalton was to face the hat trick ball from Tasmanian fast bowler Laurie Nash who later routed the South African tourists in the 1932 Melbourne test with match figures of 5 for 24.
Expecting a wicket taking delivery Dalton was surprised when Nash bowled him a bouncer that felled the South African leaving him with a broken jaw.
At the time Dalton had just met one Ivo Harrington Whitton, the celebrated Australian amateur golfer, who is even today along with Greg Norman the only Australians to have won the Australian Open five times (1912, 1913, 1926, 1929 and 1931). He became Dalton’s golf mentor during his lengthy convalescence in Australia (for in those days the injured remained with the touring party for the full five months of the tour). Under the guidance of the famous Australian amateur Dalton’s love for golf was ensured and the beginnings of a fine amateur career in golf had begun.
Golfer Ivo Whitton at the Australian Golf Club in Rosebery, New South Wales, Australia
His cricketing career was not over and he successfully toured England in 1935 and was one of the standout players in the 1938/1939 tour by the English during which the ‘Timeless Test’ will forever be immortalized as one of the historic events in cricket folklore.
It was only the intervention of the Second World War that ended his career as a cricketer at national level in 1939 and he played for two years after the war for his Province.
Wisden wrote about Dalton:
“His bowling, too, came on tremendously…: in 1934-35 he captured 25 wickets at 19.08 each with his leg-breaks.
The South African cricket team during their Tour of England, circa 1935.
Left to right: Tip Snooke (manager), Bruce Mitchell, Chud Langton, Cyril Vincent, Denis Tomlinson, Dudley Nourse, Herby Wade, Ken Viljoen, Sandy Bell, Bob Crisp, Eric Dalton, Xen Balaskas, Jock Cameron and Eric Rowan.
Of the five Test series, four matches were drawn and South Africa won one.
The value of having taken him to England in 1929, when only 22, was reflected in his performances on his return there in 1935. So well did he play that by the end of the tour he had scored 1,446 runs at an average of 37.07, including his First Test hundred at The Oval. With the wickets of Wyatt and Hammond in England’s first innings he also contributed valuably to South Africa’s famous victory at Lord’s, their first over England in England.
Despite a decline in form over the next couple of years, he was back to his best for the visit of W. R. Hammond’s MCC side to South Africa in 1938-39, averaging 44 in the Test series, including 102 in the First Test at Johannesburg (the last Test hundred to be scored by a South African at the old Wanderers Ground), and, for good measure, hitting 110 for Natal against the Englishmen at Pietermaritzburg and three times taking the important wicket of Hammond, once in the First Test and twice ( stumped) in the timeless Fifth Test.
SA Team Timeless Test
His ninth-wicket partnership of 137 with A. B. C. Langton, against England at The Oval in 1935, still stood as a record when South Africa last played Test cricket.”
Although this is an account of his golf prowess it would be incomplete not to say a few words about the Timeless Test which lasted all of 10 days before being called off because the English cricketers had to leave Durban in order to board their ship the “Athlone Castle” in Cape Town.
During 10 days of pedestrian batting, Dalton provided the spectators with some respite when defying the norm for the match, scored a quick-fire 57 in the first innings and a bristling 21 in the second innings which included three fours and a six.
He was South Africa’s standout bowler taking 4/59 in the first innings and 2/100 in the second innings including the prized wicket of Walter Hammond when Hammond was leading the England charge towards an improbable victory. When the rain came Dalton had the distinction of taking the final wicket in a test match that at the time set many records.
During the course of the match the following cricket records were established:
- The match lasted until tea time on the tenth day and was the longest ever played in first-class cricket.
- Biggest aggregate of runs in any first-class match, 1,981.
- England’s 654 for 5 wickets, the highest fourth innings score in a first-class match.
- South Africa’s first innings total of 530 was their highest in Test cricket, and the longest in England – South Africa Tests, lasting 13 hours.
- Verity bowled 766 balls in the two South African innings – 17 more than J. C. White against Australia at Adelaide in 1929.
- P. A. Gibb and Paynter, in putting on 280 for the second wicket, set up a record partnership for any wicket in England – South Africa Tests.
- On eight consecutive days when cricket took place stumps were drawn before time on seven occasions through bad light and once through rain.
- A. D. Nourse’s 103 in six hours four minutes was the slowest hundred scored for South Africa in Test Cricket.
- P. G. Van der Byl’s innings was the longest played by a South African in a Test. It occupied seven hours, eighteen minutes.
- R. E. Grieveson’s 75 was the highest first innings in Test cricket by a player chosen to keep wicket.
- P. G. Van der Byl was the first South African to score a hundred and a ninety in the same Test. Only P. A. Gibb had previously accomplished the feat – in the first Test of the same series.
- A South African Test record of nine fifties was set up in the two innings. No previous Test had ever produced as many – 16 fifties by both teams.
- Each side in the Test scored over 900 runs – South Africa 1,011, England 970.
- P. A. Gibb’s 100 in seven hours thirty-one minutes – the slowest Test century scored for England, rate being 15.96 runs per hour.
- In the match a record number of balls was bowled – 5,463.
- W. R. Hammond hit his twenty-first hundred in Test cricket, equaling the record of D. G. Bradman.
Eric Dalton – The Golfer
He retired from first class cricket in 1947, this coincides with the first mentions in the archives of Dalton the Golfer and what an impressive record it is especially as he was a late starter in competitive golf at 41.
In the 1947 SA Open played at Mowbray, Dalton finished third behind another amateur Ronnie Glennie. Glennie won the Open by a single shot (293) from E. Moore (294) and fellow amateur Eric Dalton (298). Earlier this year Glennie was inducted into the South African Golf Hall of Fame.
He followed this up in the 1948 with another good performance at the SA Amateur played at the East London Golf Club. Dalton qualified in fourth place and lost in the semi final.
In 1950 the SA Amateur was hosted by Durban Country Club and Dalton won the Proudfoot Trophy for the low qualifier over two rounds counting out another DCC stalwart Frank Agg. Unusually in a statistical aberration they would also go on to compete in the final where Dalton prevailed in the 36 hole final by 5 and 4.
Agg was also a highly skilled golfer with an exceptional amateur golf record. He was the bridesmaid in the South African Amateur on two other occasions, namely 1932 and 1935; he won the Natal Amateur Championship in 1932 and was the runner up in 1934 and 1935.
In tandem with Durban Country Club’s long serving resident golf professional Jimmy Ockenden he won the Natal Alliance Foursomes in 1952.
Around this time Dalton also won the Natal Amateur Championship five times, in 1947, 1948, 1952,1953 and 1955. He was runner-up in the Natal Amateur 1949,1950,1956 and 1957.
He was runner–up in the Natal Open Professional tournament in 1950 and 1952, won the Natal Alliance Foursomes which is played with a professional in 1950, 1956 1958 and in 1960 with Gary Player. Dalton followed this up with victory in 1961 when he was 55 years of age.
In 1963 the South African Inter-Centre Teams Championships was played at Durban Country Club and the historically significant team of the youthful Jannie Le Roux, Mr Murray Grindrod, R D Evans and the evergreen 57 year old Eric Dalton won the tournament on a very good score of 610 defeating Transvaal A. at the age of 60 he won his final club championship.
Dalton was also part of the team that won the same trophy in 1956 with Evans at DCC with Transvaal A again being the bridesmaids.
He was rewarded for his consistently good performances when Eric Dalton was selected to represent South Africa in the first Commonwealth Tournament at the home of golf, the Old course at St Andrew’s in 1954.
Dalton’s golfing achievements place him fairly and squarely as one of the greatest amateur golfers of his era and without doubt one of the five top amateur golf achievers ever to come out of Durban. It is when one considers all the other sports and qualities he showed in other activities that you realize how much he achieved in widely differing activities.
Not only was he an accomplished Baritone vocalist but also even before Nash’s jaw breaking intervention in Tasmania he was already an accomplished footballer at the highest level in South Africa. Some “Old-Timers” made mention to me that he was an accomplished tennis player and table tennis player as well.
Research revealed this paragraph on Dalton in the Wisden Almanack – ‘Dalton was also a fine bowls player, hard to beat at both tennis and table tennis, an accomplished pianist and the possessor of a fine baritone voice. He led many a singsong on board the Kenilworth Castle, bound for England in 1929. A lovable character, he made the most of his many talents.’
Although information on his lawn bowling and table tennis ability is scarce and I am not a historian, neither do I have the time to trawl nor troll the internet but I did come across references suggesting Dalton was a top tennis player.
Unfortunately I have been unable to verify the accuracy of the reports that appear on the World Wide Web.
As I mentioned earlier Dalton overcame the disadvantages of being an old boy of DHS and the DPHS larvae but according to the websites of these two fine breeding grounds Dalton also played Davis Cup tennis.
Wikipedia seems to confirm this where the following appears on the Wikipedia page devoted to the insect school – “Eric Dalton, SA Davis Cup.” The DHS Foundation, the Trustees of which seem to be a mish mash of unreliable Country Club reprobates, their website has the following reference to Dalton “Eric Dalton. SA golf and tennis also”
However independent searches could not confirm this or the year that he played but did show that Member and fellow Horse Fly John Yuill, who is a regular competitor in the ‘Sunday Mixed Challenge’, played for South Africa in the Davis Cup in 1974.
Dalton was clearly a multi talented and versatile individual who excelled in almost everything he dedicated himself too. An accomplished Baritone, one of the top all rounder’s at cricket in his era, played football at the highest level locally, was clearly a skillful lawn bowls exponent and a very, very good tennis player… and played a mean game of ping pong!!!
In addition his golf achievements mark him as one of the great amateurs ever to play our great links, surely worth more than a few lines on an Honours Board.
DCC is littered with many talented sportsmen who excel at golf but their fame was etched on other canvasses, such as Kevin Curren particularly at Wimbledon, John Yuill in professional tennis, Figjam Hansen at squash, Brian Whitfield at cricket.
Errol Stewart is probably the most versatile, cricket for South Africa, rugby, at Provincial and Super Rugby level, hockey, tennis and a single figure golfer… but Errol can you sing?
Yours in golf
Garth Davis – DCC Golf Captain, Proud Grasshopper of the school now affectionately called “Glenwood Seuns” by my friends.