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THE CAPTAIN’S RAMBLINGS

I was humbled this past week by the number of Members who expressed their thanks for my writing a brief tribute to Mr Grindrod last week. As a result of the feedback received I will endeavour to convey to Members some of the history of our older golf schools and touch on some of the newer ones for they form such an important aspect of golf at DCC.

Similarly, some Members have stopped me to inform me that they did not realise how significant Mr Grindrod’s golf achievements were and I fear that might also be true of other great golfers in our history. Meaningful acknowledgment needs to be made by us as a Club to the achievements of Eric Dalton and in particular to the contribution of our first professional Sid Brews.

Indeed it is perhaps timely to remind Members that the KZNGU event “The David Suddards Trophy” which acknowledges David as the most capped ‘Springbok’ golfer ever, will be played in a month’s time on the “Grand Old Lady”.

Unfortunately shortly after I submitted my tribute to the great man last week, past Captain Murray Leyden sent me a copy of an article he wrote that was published in the then glossy quarterly magazine published by the Club about an interview he did with Mr Grindrod and I could not publish it last week.

With his kind permission I publish the article in its entirety, the erudite writing and style is all Murray Leyden, the pictures the courtesy of the world wide web, hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Lest we forget.

Yours in golf
Garth Davis-Golf captain DCC

MURRAY GRINDROD – Springbok Golfer Extraordinaire

Murray Leyden chatted recently to one of Durban Country Club’s greatest amateur golfers, recalling some of his most memorable achievements in the game

Walter Murray Grindrod has accomplished a great deal in a long and illustrious career in business and in golf. On 1 March 2007, he achieved another milestone – fifty years a Member of Durban Country Club – which passed uneventfully and, so I thought, unnoticed by the man himself, such is his quiet, unassuming demeanour. Forget it. Murray’s eye for detail would never miss fifty years’ membership of the Club he holds so dear to his heart. Coincidentally, it was also the year he retired as chairman of the Grindrod Group after fifty years in the business his grandfather had started way back in 1907. Murray had been chairman since his father WB Grindrod retired in 1965.

“I had been a Junior Member in the early 1950’s when Blaize and Ian McIntosh, John Cradock and I used to play golf every day during our school holidays. It was on my return from Cambridge University in 1957 that I joined the family business and became a Full Member of Durban Country Club” he recalls. He returned from Cambridge with an engineering degree and a full blue for golf, having captained the university team in his final year.

Back home, twenty three year old Murray Grindrod announced his arrival as a golfer to be reckoned when he won the 1959 Free State Championship at Bethlehem by three strokes from an equally youthful Denis Hutchinson with a score of 284 (76-70-66-72).

Dennis Hutchinson – The voice of SA Golf

The following year, during which he won an incredible 34 of 35 matchplay singles, his only loss being to Springbok Arthur Walker in the Interprovincial, Murray won both his provincial and the national amateur championships. After winning the Natal Amateur, defeating Transvaal’s Dave Symons in the final at Maritzburg Country Club, Murray travelled to Cape Town for the South African Amateur championship at Mowbray Golf Club. He was in-form and playing well and went on to take the title, defeating Cobie Le Grange 3/2 in the final. “On the 6th hole of the final, a spectator kicked Cobie’s ball from the rough onto the fairway, resulting in his being promptly escorted from the course, but otherwise the final was relatively uneventful.” Murray recalls. Following this success, Murray was selected to represent South Africa in the 1960 Eisenhower Trophy at Merion in the USA, the world amateur team event which was to introduce the golfing world to a young man named Jack Nicklaus.

The golden Bear in the 60’s – Jack Nicklaus

It was also the trip when Big Red, as Murray is affectionately known, struck a chord with Big Jack and was invited to spend the week between the Eisenhower and the US Amateur with Jack at their family home in Columbus, Ohio. “I feel rather fortunate to have played golf every day that week with arguably the game’s greatest golfer of all time. It was great fun.” he recalls. Murray still has a copy of Nicklaus’ 1969 autobiography “The Greatest Game Of All”, written with the legendary Herbert Warren Wind, which contains a black and white photograph of himself, Nicklaus, Australian Bruce Devlin and Nicklaus’ Walker Cup partner Ward Wettlaufer taken at Merion. It remains a source of great pride.

Jack Nicklaus and his American team, which included Bill Hyndman, Bob Gardner and Deane Beman, were to dominate the international team event, Nicklaus scoring 269 with rounds of 66 – 67 – 68 – 68 to take individual honours by 13 strokes from compatriot Beman. The United States won the Eisenhower Trophy by a whopping 42 strokes from their nearest challengers! To put twenty year old Nicklaus’ performance in some perspective, Ben Hogan had made 279 before winning the US Open in a playoff at Merion a decade earlier. In his 1997 autobiography, “Jack Nicklaus – My Story” written with Ken Bowden, he wrote “They still represent one of the finest straight 72 holes I’ve played.” Grindrod’s own Eisenhower performance is one he would prefer to forget, but he and his fellow Springboks Jannie Le Roux, Reg Taylor and Arthur Walker finished fourth overall.

As national amateur champion, Murray received an invitation to play in the US Amateur at St Louis Country Club, but went out in the second round. Yet it was defending champion Jack Nicklaus’ defeat to a raw 16 year old kid from Arkansas named Chuck Lewis that drew most attention. When asked if his son might get just a little big-headed from reading what the press had to say about him after this victory, Chuck’s father replied “Naw, I sure don’t think so ‘cos the boy can’t read!”

Murray Grindrod made a gallant effort to defend both titles the following year, losing the 1961 Natal Amateur final to Jannie Le Roux and reaching the semi-finals of the SA Amateur at East London Golf Club before going down to John Hayes. Le Roux was to repeat Murray’s feat of the previous year by defeating Hayes to win the 1961 National Amateur Championship. For a few short years, their careers were to cross and they had many titanic battles in provincial and national tournaments as well as in the local derby league matches with Royal Durban, where Le Roux was a member. I watched every stroke in that 1961 Natal Amateur final at Royal Durban, a hard-fought encounter between two current Springboks, with Le Roux eventually getting home 2/1. Murray believes the afternoon’s short 15th hole really decided that championship. “I had been putting poorly all day and was one down playing the hole. My tee shot ended up within three or four feet of the flag, while Jannie hit a poor tee shot and came up short of the green in the rough. A weak chip just made the green, but he promptly holed from 30 feet and I missed mine. That hole was crucial and when I didn’t make par at the 17th, it was all over.”

The 1964 Natal Amateur was back at Durban Country Club and Murray Grindrod was again a losing finalist, this time by one hole to Peter Vorster in an unforgettable final. Between 1961 and 1982 the championship alternated between Durban Country Club and Royal Durban and it was only later that other Clubs were included on the roster. That one hole loss to Peter Vorster, when five up with eight holes to play, still hurts all these years later. Vorster, a reinstated amateur after a brief spell in the paid ranks, was definitely no slouch. Far from it. The tall, immensely powerful Free Stater had been a finalist in the 1957 SA Amateur and was destined to become the champion at Humewood in 1965 and again at Bloemfontein Golf Club in 1975, becoming the only golfer to contest three SA Amateur finals over three decades. He also just happened to be a Springbok. That 1957 SA Amateur final at Humewood, in which Peter Vorster lost to Arthur Stewart at the 41st hole, is still the longest ever final – in more ways than one. The 36 hole final was played on a Saturday, but after the first four playoff holes had been halved and the players had hit their drives at the par four fifth, it was too dark to continue, so the players marked their balls to return later in more favourable light. But as the country’s laws forbade sport on Sundays, the playoff only resumed the following day! Can you imagine waiting all that time with the national championship just a stroke or two away? Little wonder Vorster would three-putt that 41st green from just twelve feet and hand the title to Stewart!

I saw Peter Vorster for the first time at Durban Country Club in 1964. He was a tall man with a ruddy complexion who played wearing sun glasses – no doubt tinted prescription lenses – and used to tee the ball up higher than anyone I’d ever seen, inserting a wooden tee into a hollow plastic tee for extra height before hitting the ball a country mile! “Tee it high and let it fly” has never been more appropriate. And don’t forget we played the small 1.62 golf ball in those days. But I digress. Back to the eleventh hole of that 1964 Natal Amateur final. “After we had hit our tee shots, a spectator shouted “Be kind to him, Murray. You’re giving him a hiding. “Strange how I still remember that incident, probably because it must have motivated Peter.”

“I was on the 11th in two, while Peter’s approach found a greenside bunker, his weak third finishing just inside me, still some 30 feet away. Two putts should do it, I thought, as my approach putt came up a little short, but when Peter holed his for par and I missed mine, I left the green four up, not six. It was like losing two holes right there. That’s matchplay golf for you. Still, I was four up with seven to play. I missed the green at the Prince of Wales and, when Vorster birdied the next two holes, I was just a hole ahead. We halved the 15th in pars, but when my second from the rough flew the old 16th green and ended in a horrid lie, the match was all square. I took three to get down from the fringe at 17 and found myself one down on the final tee. Inexplicably, I had lost six of seven holes and when we halved the 18th in birdies, I had lost the championship. One has to be philosophical about these things, but yes, it still hurts when I think of it.”

I asked Murray what one could learn from such an experience, whether he had any advice on how best to handle a situation where a match seemingly won was beginning to slip away. “I suppose it boils down to remaining positive, reminding oneself one is ahead and playing well. Nobody wants to be labelled a choker, so in my case, I think I allowed negative thoughts to remain in my mind. One has to refocus and remain in the present, the reality of the present as it changes with the unexpected. I suppose I just got ahead of myself.”

After representing South Africa in two tests against the Federation on a tour of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1963, Murray was accompanied by Reg Taylor, Dave Symons and Dorian Wharton-Hood to the 1964 Eisenhower Trophy in Rome. He represented Natal with distinction throughout the sixties until his last Interprovincial at Royal Johannesburg in 1969. Natal’s victory against Southern Transvaal to take the title at a windswept Durban Country Club the previous year remains a highlight.

Murray Grindrod won the Durban Country Club Scratch Medal four times between 1958 and 1969 and was Club Champion on five occasions in his golden era in the sixties, winning the championship in 1960 and 1961 and each year between 1964 and 1966. He also won the Prince of Wales trophy in 1958. Along with Gordon Cheshire, Neil Evans and Wallace Ferguson, he was a founder member of the popular Divots, a group of forty members who have played at the Club every Thursday for almost forty years. Murray is also a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, but we are especially proud that he is a Member of our Club. We salute you, Murray, for your achievements in amateur golf and for a lifetime’s support of Durban Country Club.

Posted by dcc_admin on 05/06 at 11:45 AM in
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