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Warren Bennett

OBE for 1951 Open winner Max Faulkner

Max Faulkner may have been known as the 'Clown Prince of Golf' but he was deadly serious when a young autograph hunter asked for his signature ahead of the final round of the 1951 Open championship.

Approached on his way to the first tee, Faulkner was only too happy to oblige as a young lad proffered his autograph book, and wrote: 'Max Faulkner, 1951 Open champion.'

"There was no way I was going to lose," Faulkner recalled. "When I was handed the trophy, I looked at the names on it - Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Henry Cotton - and thought Wow!'

"It was marvellous, I was very lucky."

Luck plays a part in any sporting triumph, but Faulkner, now the proud recipient of an OBE to go with his Open title, could afford to be confident when writing that famous autograph.

Going into the final round at Royal Portrush Faulkner enjoyed a six-shot lead courtesy of some wonderful putting - only 26 putts in his second round 70 - and inspired shot making.

Leading the field by four strokes at the 16th hole of the third round, Faulkner hooked his tee shot within a few inches of the out-of-bounds fence and was faced with an important decision.

He could take a wedge and chip the ball safely onto the fairway, and probably accept a bogey, or he could take a full swing and start the ball out of bounds, hoping to fade it back into play.

Reaching for his three wood, Faulkner lashed the ball over the fence and, as the gallery watched spellbound, it dutifully turned right, right and right again as it crossed the fence and bounded up the fairway on to the green.

"It was," said American playing partner Frank Stranahan, "the greatest shot I've ever seen."

In the final round, Argentina's Antonio Cerda emerged was the biggest threat as he approached the last five holes needing one more birdie to tie, but Faulkner was not to be denied as Cerda eventually carded a 70 to leave the Briton the winner by two shots.

It was to prove Faulkner's only major title, and the last by a home golfer for 18 years until Tony Jacklin's victory at Royal Lytham in 1969.

"Oh, I'd been close," Faulkner, 85, remembers. "I was in the lead after three rounds at Sandwich in 1949 only to fade to sixth, and I was fifth at Troon in '50. Both times I finished four strokes behind the winner, Bobby Locke, of South Africa.

"Also, I only played one round of golf between 1939-45 when I was in the RAF; but for the war, I honestly think I might have won the Open on three or four occasions."

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