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Golf and its History - 1946 - 1960 : The Emergence of the World Game

If the First World War decimated Scottish golf, the second came close to gutting it completely. The First War took the players - the Second War took the golf courses.

The Scottish links lands border long sandy beaches, usually in remote places of low population density. As a result, it did not take a brilliant military mind to reason that the links beaches would make for ideal disembarkation sites and the courses equally perfect places for airborne landings. The huge concrete blocks that were erected to stop the movement of tanks from the beaches can still be seen today. The hallowed fairways of the Old Course were staked with massive wooden poles to prevent aircraft landings and Turnberry made the ultimate sacrifice when it was turned into a runway. Few courses remained unscathed - golf was not only suspended for the duration of the War, it was very nearly extinguished.

US golf became pre-eminent and though the Americans may not have been entirely responsible for winning the war, they did win the battle of post-war golf. One could argue that not having experienced the social and economic upheaval of Europe or the long interruption of play, they were infinitely better prepared for the resumption of golfing hostilities. Equally, the sheer numbers that were now playing golf in the US made pre-eminence statistically inevitable. Whatever the reason however, American golfers certainly came to the fore, following the War years.

The US domination of the Open Championship itself however, did not occur after the war as it had in the pre-war era of Hagan and Jones. Sceptics argue that the Americans did not play because doing so would have resulted in loss of earnings at home but history tells a different story. Though Sam Snead won the first post-war Open at St Andrews in 1946 and Ben Hogan was victorious in his only visit to Carnoustie in 1953; every other major figure in US golf had come and gone with notably less success. English players were dominant in the immediate post-war years, with Cotton, Burton, Faulkner and Daly (Irish) all winning.

It was the Colonials however, who were to do the real damage as far as the Open was concerned. Bobby Locke from the Transvaal, a first generation South African Irishman and Peter Thomson, an Australian of solid Scots stock were about to take the golfing world by storm. These two overwhelmed golf in a period of a few years when Locke won in 1947 and '51 and Thomson in '54, '55, '56, '58 and again in '65. Indeed, Thomson never finished worse than second from 1952 to 1958. Their achievements, although less impressive in the US, were nevertheless significant. Thomson beat Hogan on his home turf to take the Texas Open, while Locke was the leading money winner on the US tour. Both these players found their spiritual home on the Scottish links where their best golf was played. Locke was a near resident visitor throughout his life and Thomson now has his home in St Andrews, only a wedge away from the R&A.

Peter William Thomson (born 23 August 1929) was born in Melbourne. Thomson's Open Championship wins came in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, and 1965. He was the only man to win the tournament for three consecutive years in the 20th century.

Thomson was a prolific tournament champion around the world, winning the national championships of ten countries, including the New Zealand Open nine times. He competed on the PGA Tour in 1953 and 1954 with relatively little success (finishing 44th and 25th on the Money List) and after that was an infrequent competitor. However in 1956, playing in just eight events, he won the rich Texas International and achieved his best finish in one of the three majors staged in the United States (fourth at the U.S. Open) to finish ninth on the Money List.