Dark Journey A four-time winner of the British Open, Bobby Locke was celebrated as a hero in his homeland, but he left those he loved a legacy of sadness and tragedy

April 01, 2001

Elias Nhlapo has had the same routine since he came to work at
Bobby Locke's apartment building in 1995. He is the watchman,
and when he works, casting his eye over the sleeping complex and
its tenants, he has learned to look for certain things. Security
has become a problem since Locke died in 1987. The underground
parking lot is a worry. Tenants sometimes arrive home drunk and
clip their cars on the entrance. Thieves cruise by looking for
an opportunity. Tenants forget to lock the gate at the top of
the entry stairs, leaving it swinging on its hinges like an
invitation.

Bobby Locke lived here in his prime, when he was a match for any
golfer alive, even Ben Hogan. This neighborhood Elias now patrols
was decidedly upscale then. Locke stayed in a two-bedroom cottage
that still sits at the back of the building. The cottage has a
heart-shaped swimming pool because his daughter Carolyn loved
hearts. "I have made more than a comfortable living," Locke wrote
in 1953, when in a moment lit by hubris he prefaced his
autobiography. "Frankly today at thirty-five I am glad to say
that I am practically independent. One of the solid assets golf
has enabled me to acquire is a block of flats in Johannesburg,
with my own home adjoining, a home I named Sandwich in honor of
my first Open victory."

The building is old South Africa and was built with tiny rooms on
the roof to house 14 servants. Elias lives up there now, and to
reach his room, you must cross the big ridge on the roof. Not
many people have the nerve for it. At night when electrical
storms light up Johannesburg, Elias can sit up there and watch
the rain hop on the roof. Tonight, though, he is working.

How good was Locke? They still tell stories of his precocity.
Arthur d'Arcy Locke--or Bobby as his black nanny called him--was
born in 1917 in Germiston, outside Johannesburg. Grainy footage
of him playing golf at age six ran in the Empire Exhibition at
Wembley, London. By 1957 he had won his fourth British Open
title, the final flourish of a career interrupted by World War II
and later by a ban from the American circuit. There might have
been more glory, much more. For instance, his seven tilts at the
U.S. Open yielded five top five finishes.

How good? He invented the maxim, Ya drive for show and ya putt
for dough. About him Hogan once said, "Everyone examines greens,
but only he knows what he's looking for." Until Bruce Keyter
defeated him by a stroke in 1955, Locke went 20 years without
being beaten over 72 holes on South African soil. That took him
from the era of the late Sid Brews to the early days of Gary
Player.

He was this good. In 1946 a South African financier, Norbert
Erleigh, paid Sam Snead to come to South Africa for a series of
exhibition matches. Of 16, Locke won 12. Snead two. They halved
two. "Everything he played was a hook," says Snead today. "I
could beat him from tee to green 15 times out of 18 and still
lose. He was the greatest putter I have ever seen. He'd hit a
20-footer, and before the ball got halfway, he'd be tipping his
hat to the crowd. He wore out his hats tipping them."

There's a story the old South African pro Denis Hutchinson tells
about the early days. Locke arrived in the U.S. in 1947 and went
straight to Augusta to play in the Masters, entering the old
cathedral without so much as the genuflection of a practice
round. He finished 14th and proceeded to North Carolina to play
the Carolina's Open Tournament. He won that.

When he arrived for the Houston Open the following week, touring
pro Clayton Heafner detected opportunity. Locke had what
newspapers described "as the worst swing ever seen," and he
always looked as if he were getting set to drive the ball to
some point well right of the fairway. Heafner pounced upon the
little audience that he had assembled to watch Locke tee off.

"Boy'd better learn how to aim his shots," said Lloyd Mangrum
blithely.

"Well, if you want, we can have a little money ride on it,
Lloyd," said Heafner. "I say he beats you this week."

Jimmy Demaret volunteered that he'd like a bit of that, too.
Heafner almost overegged the pudding.

"I'll make it interesting for you boys," said Heafner. "I'll let
you both bet on Hogan against him. How's 'bout that?"

They bit hard on the hook and watched Locke sail the ball way out
to the right and then watched as it came back and landed in the
center of the fairway.

Mangrum couldn't accept what he was seeing. He lost $500 that
weekend, and by the time the tour got to Cedar Brook Country Club
a fortnight later for the Philadelphia Inquirer Open, he was
steaming. Locke won the tournament. Heafner took a Cadillac off
Mangrum.

That season Demaret was the top earner on the tour, with
$27,936. Locke, who popped over for the summer months, was only
$3,600 behind. He'd won seven times, finished second twice and
third once. Snead, Hogan, Mangrum and the boys brought up the
rear.

So great was Locke's celebrity that when he went to George May's
Tam O'Shanter Tournament in Chicago, he received a $5,000
appearance fee, legal in those days. He beat Porky Oliver in a
playoff and pocketed $7,000. Resentment festered.

Old Muffin Face, they called him. Also Droopy Chops and Vinegar
Puss. He had an ample belly, and he walked with a funereal
deliberation that made the world slow to his pace. Locke hove
into sight again in 1948, and although he was not quite as
successful, he did win twice and finished second five times. The
boys simmered some more.

Locke won his first British Open in 1949 and in the glorious
aftermath canceled his promised participation in a couple of
tournaments in the U.S. That was sufficient excuse for the PGA to
take action. George Schneiter, the association's tournament
administrator, announced that Locke would no longer be considered
a temporary summer visitor, and that given his recent breaches of
contract, he was banned for life from all PGA events.

The motivation, thinly concealed, was that "someone is afraid
that Locke will pick up all the marbles," wrote Arthur Daley in
The New York Times. "No other conclusion could be drawn even
though [Locke's] personal popularity or lack of it undoubtedly
enters into it."

The ban was lifted early in 1950, but with typical haughtiness,
Locke made his way to the States only on the assurance of another
hefty guarantee to appear at the Tam O'Shanter, which he won,
beating the still unimpressed Mangrum in a playoff. "You know,
it's funny," Locke said later. "There are more horses' asses than
there are horses."

He came back from time to time, but America never had the same
pull for him. If he was aware of the growing resentment among his
hosts, he didn't show it. After one tournament in Maryland he
came to the podium to collect his check and produced his ukulele.
To the tune of Sioux City Sue he regaled the crowd with a ditty
he called Sue Sammy Snead. Pleased with the response, he
performed an encore: Please Don't Talk about Me When I'm Gone.

Elias has just begun his night's work. He does what he always
does at the start of his shift--heads upstairs to call on the
building's owners, the two ladies in flat 33, Locke's widow,
Mary, and their daughter.

They are a curious pair, 80 years old and 40 years old,
respectively, but virtually of one mind. They have been living up
here for 12, maybe 13 years, apart from a brief period when
Carolyn was married to Elias's friend Mike Paledi.

They'd met at a party. Mike came from about as far on the other
side of the tracks as is possible in South Africa. Zone 1,
Diepkloof, Soweto, to be precise. Yet something clicked, and
about eight months later they moved into the cottage behind the
apartments. They had a ceremony in the Sandton Sun hotel in the
posh northern suburbs. Not a wedding ceremony proper because Mike
still had obstacles from his first marriage, but enough of a do
to make it seem like a wedding. Carolyn did nothing to detract
from that impression. "I never thought I'd marry, until I met
this angel," she told the journalists who showed up, and she
wrapped her arms around Mike in a big hug.

The relationship was as brief and troubled as the doubters had
predicted. Black guys don't marry white girls, they said. If
Bobby were alive, there'd be a shooting.

While Carolyn and Mike occupied the cottage, her mother lived
alone upstairs in flat 33, but as Mike says now, "It was like the
two of them were married. That was what broke us up. The mother,
the building, the way they were." Mike went on his way in 1998.

Elias knocks at flat 33. Announces himself, and a shout comes to
let himself in. It's early, but the women are already in bed,
preparing to sleep. They could have lived in one of the
apartments with two bedrooms or in the cottage which lies vacant
out back, but they prefer it up here on the third floor with
their two beds in the one bedroom. Elias goes into that room now
and speaks to them, cracking jokes and making a fuss over them,
just as he's done for the past couple of years. Nothing
different tonight.

Mary Elizabeth Fenton had talent. The daughter of a judge, she
was raised in Rutland, Vt., and educated at Wellesley. During
World War II she served as a research analyst at the Office of
Strategic Services. When she met the love of her life, she was
working for the Central Vermont Public Services Corporation.

Locke had been married in 1943 to Hester Elizabeth (Lillian) Le
Roux, with whom he had a daughter, Dianne, but he struck up a
relationship with Mary as soon as he met her at an exhibition
match in Burlington, Vt. He told her to wait for him, and wait
she did. Eleven years passed before they married in England in
August 1958. The wedding caused a stir back in Johannesburg.
Lillian Le Roux had divorced Bobby in 1953 on the grounds of
desertion, but two years later the South African newspapers had
reported that Locke had married a Sheila Sanford at a Magistrates
Court. Three years after that, with Mary Fenton on his arm, hot
denials were issued. Nothing was ever heard of Sheila Sanford
again.

In September 1958 Locke brought his bride back to South Africa
and installed her in the cottage behind his apartments on Harley
Street, in a section of Johannesburg known as Yeoville. Yeoville
had a leafy swankiness to it back then, and it adjoined Hillbrow,
where all the best parties were held. Briefly the Lockes enjoyed
busy, glamour-soaked lives, hopping between continents. Money was
easy, and nothing was hard.

Two years later, though, two events in the same week changed
their lives. Carolyn was born on Feb. 16, 1960. Three days later,
Locke was nearly killed in an automobile crash. He was riding in
a car driven by Morris Bodmer, the pro from Clovelly Country
Club, after a day's golf. They came to a level crossing and
waited for a train to pass before edging over the tracks.
However, the train that had just passed obscured their view of
the other direction, and their car was rammed by the 8:53 from
Southfield. The vehicle was flung backward 30 yards down a bank,
and Locke was tossed through the back window.

It was a couple of days before he came to, and a month before he
could open his left eye. His head ached, he had double vision and
he suffered from pain in both legs. Those ailments would keep him
company forever. He had a list of prescribed medications longer
than his arm and orders not to touch another beer. The second
half of his life was beginning.

Outside and inside, the apartment building has changed over the
years. After Locke's death, Carolyn got permission from the city
to rename it. She held a bright little ceremony and christened
it Bobby Locke Place. That was in 1988.

Yeoville and Hillbrow went downhill quickly. In the late '90s
Mary and Carolyn's flat was broken into three times by men with
guns. Almost weekly Mary would call Raal Nordin, the building
manager, to tell him that she was frightened and depressed.

"Don't be silly," he would say, "the area is gone black, the
country is black. What's wrong with that? We've got to live with
it, make the most of it. It's a black country. What's so
depressing?"

"Yes, Raal, you're right. We have to get our minds changed."

Across the street a little shack appeared, gray-painted and
low-slung, and people with no jobs came there to drink coffee and
make calls on the public phone. Yeoville was suddenly full of
people with no jobs. Full of Nigerians fleeing their own hell,
full of South Africans living in theirs. First the problem was
squatters, and then the squatters drove down the rents and the
businesses left and the rents were so low that most landlords got
out. Now people wander the streets all day, and at night nobody
goes out because the crime rate is so high.

Raal and Mary had cat and dog fights about the tenants. Mary paid
for a lift and a new boiler for the building. It cost her huge
chunks of money, but the place was still in decline. She didn't
want to spend any more. She didn't trust the tenants, even blamed
them for wear and tear. Raal thought that a bit more money spent
here and there would improve the place. He thought Mary and
Carolyn should stop worrying and move to the suburbs.

"Look," he would say, "we can rent the cottage for you, and flat
33 and the one-room flat you store things in on the bottom floor.
You'd get 4,500 rand [$563] a month. You can get a nice place out
in Sandton for 3,000 rand a month." And they would shake their
heads and tell him that they could never leave. This was Daddy's
place.

When Locke came to after the accident, he had suffered severe
memory loss. He wasn't well and never would be again, but for
Mary he had become root and sap. For Carolyn he was simply Daddy.
Perhaps now he would have more time for them. Perhaps.

The medication exacted a price. Locke was a sociable man. He
enjoyed his beer too much to obey doctors' orders, but now one
beer hit him the way half a dozen might another man. Friends
recall birthday parties that Mary planned for him, and he would
turn up late and drunk. "Never a thank you for her," says
Lorraine Korsen, an old friend.

Beer fertilized a mean side of his character. One night he drove
Mary to Parkview several miles away, dropped her there and let
her walk home. He resented her having friends of her own or a
life outside the cottage. In the '60s a group of American
ex-patriots used to meet in the President Hotel in Johannesburg
to talk about home. Mary, who missed Vermont, loved those
meetings. Bobby grew resentful, so Mary stayed home.

With the drinking, his manners became diluted. Mary and Carolyn
were often called to golf clubs to take old Bobby home. Outside
he was a character. At home he was a nightmare.

"Mary was a saint," says Korsen. "She saw to everything. She saw
to it that he had his tablets. She would drive him everywhere,
fetch him from anywhere. She got a rotten deal."

What had Mary Locke to live with? Some incidents from the life of
Bobby Locke:

In May 1969 Bobby was arrested for drunken driving. The driver
of the other car, a J.D. Van der Merwe, testified that he
couldn't understand a word Locke said. Locke refused to let the
police push his car from the road. He jumped in and attempted to
drive it, but the back wheels were stuck. The police pushed the
vehicle away with the old pro still inside it.

In 1985 in Southbroom, Natal, Locke was playing a four-ball with
John Cockayne, a club pro. Early on, Locke felt that Cockayne
was standing too close behind when he swung on the tee. By the
3rd hole he started shouting at Cockayne. Finally on the 17th,
as Cockayne was addressing his ball, Locke stood right behind
him and refused to move. Walking down the fairway, he hit
Cockayne on the elbow with his club handle. In reply Cockayne
swung his driver, hitting Locke three times on the back and
shoulder.

Then there was the Big Boy Ndlovu business. The year was 1978.
The apartment building needed a fresh coat of paint. Big Boy
Ndlovu was contracted to do the job. When he had finished, there
was a slight disagreement over the quality of the work. Ndlovu
demanded 220 rand for his labors. Locke refused to pay. When the
case came to court, Ndlovu testified, "I walked away from him,
and as I started down the stairs, I heard a gunshot. I felt a
pain in my right shoulder and saw a little hole there."

Locke testified, "I thought there was going to be a drama. I
returned to my cottage and fetched my gun. He was about to turn
when I fired a shot. He was obviously coming back to make a
contest."

Why had Bobby fetched his gun?

"I am a golf professional and didn't want to damage my hands."

Even in the old South Africa, the court had difficulty not seeing
Ndlovu's wound. Locke was found guilty of attempted murder. He
was fined 120 rand and had his gun license suspended for six
months.

Bobby Locke Place is a pretty building, three stories tall,
shaded by palm trees. Tracy Korsen, Lorraine's daughter, has a
photo that she took in the cottage. Carolyn and her friend Jill
Reeves are on a sofa. Both are young and beautiful. Their faces
advertise the fact that they've just had a good night out. They
are lying back, slumped, carefree and happy.

They could be wild, Carolyn and Jill. One blonde, one brunette.
Crazy when they were together. But a few years ago Jill hired a
car and drove out into the depths of Kruger National Park. She
turned off the engine and took a massive overdose. "That hit
Carolyn hard," Tracy says.

"You know that song," says Nordin, "Life Is a Rollercoaster by
Ronan Keating? Well, Carolyn loved that. I think of her whenever
I hear it."

"We called her K.C.," says Jules Gordon of Carolyn, with whom he
played in a band, Image, for more than 20 years--she on keyboards,
he on vocals. They practiced every Tuesday in the cottage. "She
would say to us, 'Guys, this band is my life. What would I do
without you?'"

It was the other way around, really. K.C. did the musical
arrangements, schlepped the gear, kept the group going. Even
later, in her roller-coaster years.

Elias asks Mary and Carolyn if they would like him to call back
during the night or early in the morning. He can slip them fresh
hot-water bottles and check to see if everything is O.K. In the
long nights of the South African winter, he did that often.

"No thanks, Elias," they say, "not tonight. Good night, Elias."

Later, though, shortly after eight, Carolyn hollers for Elias.
The women have a couple of lightbulbs that need changing, one in
the dining room, one in the bedroom. Elias sets about his
business, and Carolyn is fussing now, asking Elias if he still
has the list of phone numbers she'd given him three months
before.

"Yes, I have the numbers."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I am sure"

"Should I write them again? Just in case?"

"No."

It is past nine when he is done.

"Can I switch off the kitchen light for you, Carolyn?"

"No. Don't switch it off. I need something to eat."

"O.K. Good night, Carolyn."

"Good night, Elias."

And that was it. For the rest of the night Elias stayed away from
flat 33 and didn't think of its occupants again until the next
morning when Miriam Magorosi, the maid, told him that she
couldn't get into the apartment with her keys.

It was Monday morning, Sept. 24. Elias took the keys from Miriam
and strode upstairs. Tsk, tsk! Women! He would show her how to
open a door.

In the cottage there is a room that the band used to call the
post office. It was filled with junk and memorabilia. In 1993
Carolyn went to England, to Christie's, and auctioned off most
of her father's trophies to see herself and her mother through a
lean period. The four British Open medals alone fetched
[pound]82,800. The auction took in [pound]178,089 in all. Still,
though, the place was filled with memories and mementos that
couldn't be discarded. There was a picture of Mary, Carolyn and
Bobby coming down the steps of an old De Havilland airplane
sometime in the mid-'60s. They looked like royalty. Two pretty
faces and old Bobby's solemn chops.

There were other pictures, too. Mary's eyes gaze out of a
Polaroid, through a puffery of bruises and discoloration. Her
jumper has blood on it. Bobby's fists had done that. She is an
old woman in the picture, and she looks totally defeated. She
asked Carolyn to take photographs of her when she still had anger
left in her. "She allowed abuse," says Tracy Korsen.

"But Tracy," says her mother, "what could she do, who could she
tell? Only me. He couldn't think straight. He wasn't rational
anymore."

Bobby Locke died of meningitis. His friends, those few who knew
about the raging confusion of his final years, are reluctant to
talk about his failings. "I loved them all," says Janette Makin,
a friend of the family for almost 50 years. "I'd like to leave it
like that."

"I try to remember the good," Lorraine Korsen says.

Really, it was the tidiest of endings. Mary and Carolyn picked up
the four corners of their lives, folded them quietly in over
their heads and evacuated this world. No fuss. Days before,
Charlie, the snappy spaniel, had been taken to the vet with
arrangements for his demise. Sylvia Sampson, the administrator of
the women's estate, received a visit. They even went to the
undertakers, spun a yarn about being afraid for their lives and
picked out a psalm, Abide with Me. Black farewell notes from two
failed landladies.

They had their hair done and had a last lunch at Bennigans. They
took a call from Makin during which they gave no hint of their
plan. In all likelihood, after Elias left flat 33, nobody thought
about Mary and Carolyn again till morning when Elias came to
jiggle the key in the lock.

"I failed," he says. "The lock had been changed. I remembered the
paper from three months before, all those numbers, and I started
shaking. I knew their cars were still there. Where could they
have gone? I ran to police station. I ran. They came after an
hour. They said they couldn't break the door. It would be like a
burglary. I said I could break it while they were here watching
me. They said yes."

So Elias broke the door. Mary and Carolyn were in bed, holding
each other's hands. Their faces were blackened from the drugs
they'd taken. They had drunk half a bottle of champagne to wash
down the sleeping pills they'd been hoarding for months. The last
CD recorded by Carolyn's band was on the bed. One of Mary's eyes
was open, fixed into a stare at her daughter. The police told
Elias to fetch an ambulance to certify the deaths.

Four months later, on a sunny Monday morning in January, Elias
still can't speak about their deaths without the shock
registering in his voice. He has questions. Everyone has
questions. Who influenced whom the most in those last months?
What signs did everyone miss? Why such desperation when their
estate reveals they were solvent?

Bobby was buried near his father in Westpark. In accordance with
their wishes, Mary was interred in a different section of the
same cemetery and Carolyn was cremated, her ashes scattered over
her mother's grave.

All that survives is a broken link. Dianne, born to Bobby and his
first wife, Lillian, teaches in a private school in Johannesburg.
Tracked down, she is regretful. Too many years and too much
distance. It wouldn't be appropriate to comment on such sadness,
she says politely.

In the basement of Bobby Locke Place, Mary and Carolyn's cars are
still parked side by side. Soon the bank will take them away in
discharge of an old overdraft. And that will be that.

B/W PHOTO: CAPE NEWSPAPERS ARCHIVE COLLECTION Match play On their honeymoon in England in 1958, Mary took a crack at Bobby's game. B/W PHOTO: TIME PIX At St. Andrews in '57, Locke (crouching) won his fourth Open, but with that his glory days were over. B/W PHOTO: CAPE NEWSPAPERS ARCHIVE COLLECTION In 1964 Locke tutored Carolyn in the intricacies of the game he had played so well before the accident. TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF KORSEN FAMILY (2)When Carolyn's well-publicized marriage to Mike dissolved, her band, Image, became her life. TWO COLOR PHOTOS: LOUISE GUBB/CORBIS SABA Elias, who made the gruesome discovery at Bobby Locke Place, treasures the heart that Carolyn made for him. B/W PHOTO: ACME Locke had little respect for U.S. pros, once saying, "There are more horses' asses than there are horses."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)