Nobody has done more to raise the profile and change the landscape of golf in Europe and around the world than Tony Jacklin CBE.
When Tony Jacklin burst onto the global golfing stage, the world was very different than it is today. There was no European Tour, for a start. Perhaps even more remarkable, not since Max Faulkner won 18 years previously had a British player won The Open Championship. All that was about to change, and the world of golf would never be the same again.
Jacklin started making history from the beginning. Achieving success in tournaments in Europe, Jacklin was one of the first European players to have the confidence to take his game to the USA to take on the very best from the PGA Tour. It didn’t take him long for the fearless competitor settle in. In 1968, he won the Jacksonville Invitational, becoming the first European player to win on the tour since the 1920s and the first British player ever.
Making waves on both sides of the Atlantic, Jacklin’s childhood dreams were about to come true:
“As a young man I would practice on my own for hundreds of hours and in my mind Ben Hogan was always standing over my right shoulder making a critique of every shot. In my mind I was always coming down the 18th having to play an incredibly difficult shot to win the Open.”
Tony Jacklin CBE
By winning the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 1969, Tony not only became a national hero, he also singlehandedly sparked a revival of golf among British youth when he became the first British player since Max Faulkner in 1951 to win the championship.
"It always seemed a miscarriage of justice that no British player had for so many years proved himself to be a real champion at the highest international level," said Arnold Palmer, in the foreword to Jacklin's autobiography. "Tony has put the matter aright and I salute him."
"This was my Everest, and no one can ever take away the recollection of that moment when I sat on its peak," he wrote in his book, Jacklin: The Champion's Own Story, of capturing the British Open.
One year later Jacklin continued his history making streak when he became the first player since Ben Hogan to hold both the U.S. and British Open titles simultaneously upon his triumph at Hazeltine Golf Club. Jacklin endured extraordinary conditions, including 40mph winds that howled through the Great Plains. He shot 71 in the first round on a day when Arnold Palmer posted 79, Gary Player 80, and Jack Nicklaus 81. Jacklin led from start to finish and was the only player to break par in the tournament. He holed a 30-foot birdie putt at the last hole to put an exclamation mark on a glorious week. Few champions ever travelled to glory in as steady a march or by as decisive a margin of victory. His seven-stroke triumph was the largest margin in 49 years. Jacklin also became the first British player to win the U.S. Open since Ted Ray in 1920.
"I walked on water that week. Hazeltine was unquestionably the best week of golf I've ever had in my life," Jacklin said. "It was as near a perfect week as I have ever experienced."
The impact of these victories cannot be overstated. He spurred on a rejuvenation of golf in Europe and created the conditions that would see one of the greatest ever generations of golfers follow hot on his heels, including the famous Big Five of Ian Woosnam, Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo.
Jacklin narrowly missed out on his second British Open in 1972. He and Lee Trevino remained tied for the lead and one stroke in front of clubhouse leader Jack Nicklaus as they reached the 17th hole. Already hitting his fourth shot to the par-5, Trevino's next effort sailed long to the upslope behind the green. He tossed his club to the ground in disgust. Meanwhile Jacklin was sitting pretty on the putting surface 18 feet from the hole and studying his birdie effort. What happened next will be forever part of British Open lore. Without as much as a practice swing, Trevino nonchalantly hit his pitch and impatiently walked after the ball. As it continued to roll on a path to the hole Trevino slowed and watched in disbelief as it fell into the hole for par.
A superstar of world golf, Jacklin was a consistent performer on the PGA Tour and continued to win tournaments on the European Tour, including the Dunlop Masters, the PGA Championship, the Jersey Open and the Braun German Open.
"He gave the impetus for the modern European Tour to be started on the back of Tony's success and the marvelous energy that he brought at that time to British and European golf," Ken Schofield, Executive Director of the European PGA Tour.