In 1960 Bobby Locke was playing with his nephew Alfred Pratt at Clovelly Golf Club near Cape Town when his wife Mary gave birth to a girl – Carolyn. Rushing back to Johannesburg, Bobby Locke’s car was hit by a train on a level crossing.
A train was passing and his driver started over the track but was hit by an obscured SAR train coming in the opposite direction. They pulled him out of the trunk of the car. He was left unconscious for two days.
The accident ended Bobby Locke’s days as a competitive golfing force as he suffered regular migraines and problems with his sight. His behavior over the following years became unusual to say the least and he disappeared from the public eye. His behavior which had always been the epitomy of courteousness and goodwill took a 180 degree turn. He became moody, bad tempered and forgetfull.Bobby Locke lived in Johannesburg in his prime, when he was a match for any golfer alive, even Ben Hogan. Locke stayed in a two-bedroom cottage that still sits at the back of the building of Apartments that he owned. "I have made more than a comfortable living," Bobby 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 1950's South African and was built with tiny rooms and an Ablutions block on the roof to house 14 servants for the Apartment block.
They were a curious pair, 80 years old and 40 years old in 2000, but virtually of one mind. They had been living up
here for 12, maybe 13 years, apart from a brief period when talented Musician Carolyn was married to the Black Soweto businessman Mike Paledi from 1996 until 1998. Carolyn played the keyboard in her Band which she had held together for 20 years.
Inter Racial Marriage.
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. 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 where they exchanged vows. Not a wedding ceremony proper because Mike still had obstacles from his first marriage, (He was still married!) "I never thought I'd marry, until I met this Angel," Carolyn told the journalists who showed up, and she wrapped her arms around Mike in a big hug.
Sandton Sun Hotel Johannesburg.
relationship was as brief and troubled as the doubters had predicted.
White Women don't marry Black men. If Bobby had still been alive there
would have been another 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.
Mary Fenton had talent. The daughter of a judge, she was raised in Rutland, Vt.,USA 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 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. in 1947. He told her to wait for him, and wait she did.
With Lilian & Diane 1951.
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.
Mr & Mrs Locke Mark II in England in 1958.
Bobby & Mary Locke Honeymooning in Kent England in 1958.
September 1958 Bobby Locke brought his bride back to South Africa and
installed her in the cottage behind his Apartments on the corner of Henson and Harley Streets,
in a section of Johannesburg known as Yeoville.
Yeoville was a "Dress Cicle" suburb in those days and it adjoined Hillbrow, where all the best parties were held. Briefly the Lockes enjoyed busy, glamor-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. 17, 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 Cape Town, after a day's golf with his nephew Alfred Pratt and Morris Bodmer who had been the Pro at Clovelly since 1935 and was an old friend. He had also partnered Locke against Sam Snead and Norman von Nida in 1947.
It was Bobby Locke's car and Bodmer was driving because Bobby had been drinking. Nephew pratt was not with them having made his own way home. They came to an ungated level crossing near Southfield Western Cape and waited for a train to pass before edging over the tracks.
the train that had just passed obscured their view of the other
direction, and their 1959 Vauxhall Cresta 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 and they found him in the trunk of the
car. Morris Bodmer survived the accident.
Southfield on Cape Flats line.
An horrific accident at an ungated level crossing.
It was a couple of days before he came to, and a month before he could open his left eye. He had lost his depth perception because he was vrtuallly unsighted in his left eye and therefore had no "triangulation" to enable distance perception.
This had been one of his golfing strengths. His head ached, he had double vision and he suffered from pain in both legs. Those ailments would keep him company forever more. He had lost his uncanny gift of reading Greens which had brought him fame and fortune.
He had a list of prescribed medications longer than his arm and orders not to touch another beer. The second half of his life had begun.
Outside and inside, the Apartment Building has changed over the years. After Locke's death, Carolyn got permission from the Johannesburg City Council to rename it. She held a bright little ceremony and christened it Bobby Locke Place. That was in 1988.
and Hillbrow went downhill quickly. In the late '90s Mary and Carolyn's
flat was broken into three times by armed thugs.
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 at "Edwin's Tuckshop".
Yeoville was suddenly full of people with no jobs. Full of Nigerians, Somalians and Sudanese fleeing their own hell, full of South Africans living in theirs.
First the problem were squatters, and then the squatters drove down the rents and the businesses left and the rents were so low that most landlords got out. Then people wandered the streets all day, and at night nobody went out because the crime rate was so high.
widow Mary had cat and dog fights about the tenants. Mary paid for an
Elevator and a new Boiler for the building. It cost her
"heaps" , but the place was still in decline. She didn't want to
more. She didn't trust the tenants, even blamed them for wear and tear.
Should they leave? Mary desperadly tried to sell the place but there
were no takers, not even at a bargain based price of £20,000. They were
trapped. All their funds were tied up in "worthless" Real Estate!. Bobby Locke's solid asset was depreciating day by day.
But, 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 everything. For Carolyn he was simply Daddy. Perhaps now he would have more time for them. Perhaps.
The medication exacted a price. The side effects were nightmarish and coupled with whatever "war combat and guilt stress" he had previously, Locke battled his daily existence.
Bobby Locke was a sociable man. He enjoyed his Beer and Whisky 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 inebriated.
This combination 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 and medication, 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 through no fault of his own. He had been dealt "a Bad Hand".
"Mary was a saint," . "She saw to everything. She saw to it that he had his tablets. She would drive him everywhere,
fetch him from anywhere. They both got a rotten deal."
What had Mary Locke to live with? Some incidents from the life of Bobby Locke:
May 1969 Bobby was arrested for drunken driving following an accident.
The Breathlizer reading was in excess of 0.08 alcohol. The driver
other car, (An Afrikaans speaking Mnr Koos Van der Merwe) testified
" Ek het nie 'n woord wat Mnr Locke het gesÍ nie verstaan". (Locke spoke gibberish).
Locke refused to let the police push his car from the road even questioning their right to apprehend him. He jumped in and attempted to drive it, but the back wheels had no traction. The police pushed the vehicle away with the Open Champion still inside it mumbling obscenities amid suggestions that they go and arrest real criminals.
In 1985 in Southbroom, Natal, Locke was playing a four-ball with a club Pro named John Cockayne. John Cockayne was the Golf Director of Southbroom Golf Club and was heavily involved in developments of Golf estates.
Early on, in his opinion Locke's swing was baulked by
Cockayne standing too close to him as he attempted making a shot. The Pro
stood so that his feet and legs were in sight of Locke as he commenced
his downswing and he prepared to walk off just as Locke swung. By the
3rd hole the Pro repeated this and Locke realised that it was an
intentional ruse and he
started shouting at
the Pro saying "Buddy, if you persist in doing that, I will use this
Club on you".
Finally on the 17th as the Pro was addressing his ball, Locke stood right behind him and refused to move preventing him from swinging. Walking down the fairway, jostling and pushing one another like a bunch of school kids, something snapped and he hit the Pro on the elbow with his Driver handle. In reply the Pro swung his Driver, hitting Locke three times on the back and shoulder thus injuring Locke.
Stories are legion about Bobby's social golf at this stage of his life. It was said that:
He would play at a nearby Golf Club on weekdays and make up a random fourball with members and play for money.
It would go something like this:
If your handicap was say 16 then Bobby Locke insisted that you would be an 8 for the day, if 10 then 5. The reason being that he was out of practise. No one would argue with Locke and they were pleased and felt priviledged to play with him.
The game would commence and when reaching the green Locke would insist on putting first. He would take his time, he was good and when he had putted out he would step back and say "hurry up lads the next group are coming up don't hold them up" or we will have to step on it to catch the 19th hole opening time. He was full of gamesmanship.
He would glare at you forcing you to concede him short putts somtimes up to 5 feet. He was Bobby Locke!
After the game the party would continue on into the night with Locke being the entertainer in chief on his Ukulele. Barmen would shudder at the sight of Bobby Locke as it meant a long night.
Bobby Locke Concede Putt.
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."
Warning shot fired.The Court could clearly see the Painter's wound. Locke was found guilty of attempted Culpable homicide (Man slaughter) and received a 3 months Jail sentence fully suspended. He was also fined and had his gun license suspended for six months. South Africa had no jury system because all jurors were White and this was unfair on Blacks and verdicts and sentences were therefore delivered by the Judge and two assessors.
Many News Correspondents visiting Johannesburg and seeking interviews with Bobby Locke in order to relive old times,
would have "no shows" after pre booking meetings with Bobby Locke usually at Golf Clubs where they would wait for him for hours on end only to be "stood up". The perception is that Bobby Locke had simply forgotten about them!
Near Bobby Locke Place today (2017). A 5 Star Hotel boarded up and occupied by squatters.
Bobby Locke Place was a pretty building, three stories tall, shaded by palm trees.
Bobby Locke died in a Johannesburg Nursing Home March 09 1987 of Spinal
Meningitis. A disease that causes inflammation of the protective layers
of the brain and spinal cord. This is usually due to bacterial
He had presented a Golf Award at a local club only 6 days previously. His friends, those few who knew about the raging confusion of his final years and associated psychological problems stemming from his 1960 accident, are reluctant to talk about his medication induced failings. It is rumored that he was living off benefactors at the time of his death.
Really, it was the tidiest of endings. In September 25 2000, Mary (80) and Carolyn (40) 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, admitted that they feared for their lives and picked out a psalm, Abide with Me.
had their hair done and had a last lunch at Bennigans.
and Carolyn were found by the Maid and Watchman Elias who was a friend of
Carolyn's former husband Mike Paledi, in beds they had pushed together and 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. It was sadly a suicide pact.
Their two Cars were left parked in the Carpark.
What Tragedy! Why such desperation when their estate reveals they were solvent? The truth is that they feared for their safety.Carolyn was cremated, her ashes and the spaniel's ashes were scattered over The Family Grave.
Locke Family Memorial
Westpark Cemetery Montgomery Park Johannesburg.
All that survives is a broken link. Dianne, born to Bobby and his first wife, Lillian, she teaches in a private school in Johannesburg.
down in 2000, she was regretful. Too many years and too much distance. It
wouldn't be appropriate to comment on such sadness,she says politely.
The deaths of Mrs Locke and her daughter, aged 80 and 40 respectively, marked a grim end to one of South Africa's most glamorous sporting stories Bobby was the nation's greatest pre and post-war golfing hero. (Greater than Gary Player even!).Nephew Alfred Pratt suddenly materialized in the early 2000's armed with Bobby Locke's Official War record (It appears on this Website) reportedly declaring that he had an agenda to eliminate inaccuracies about Bobby Locke's Military Service and early career implying that Locke and others had embellished his military exploits. (To what end?).
Proceed to Chapter 5.