Golfer Harry Weetman: Big Drives, Big Wins, Big Mouth

Harry Weetman was an English golfer who was one of the top players in Britain and Europe during the 1950s and into the early 1960s. He won more than 15 notable tournaments during that time, and also played in numerous Ryder Cups. (He captained a Ryder Cup squad, too.)

Weetman was a powerful golfer known for his long, but wild, driving. Yet he had a good touch in the short game, and was known for his ability to sometimes pull off great escapes from the trouble his wayward drives landed him in.

In The Master Key to Success at Golf by Leslie King, the author calls Weetman a "rugged strong man who lashes into the ball so fiercely in the long shots." King writes that Weetman is "one of the most exciting players to watch by reason of the unbelievable recoveries he makes from almost impossible shots in the heavy rough."

Weetman also got himself into trouble with his mouth wedge: He generated multiple controversies by speaking out.

He died at the age of 51 following a car crash.

Date and place of birth: October 25, 1920 in Oswestry, Shropshire, England

Date and place of death: July 19, 1972 in Redhill, Surrey, England

cover of book written by golfer Harry Weetman

Weetman's Biggest Wins

These are Harry Weetman's victories on British PGA and European circuit events in the years prior to the establishment of a formal European Tour:
  • 1951 News of the World Match Play
  • 1952 Spalding Tournament
  • 1952 Dunlop Masters
  • 1956 Spalding Tournament
  • 1957 Penfold Tournament
  • 1957 German Open
  • 1958 Penfold Tournament
  • 1958 News of the World Match Play
  • 1958 Dunlop Masters
  • 1960 Spalding Tournament
  • 1960 Penfold Tournament
  • 1961 Northern Open
  • 1962 Penfold Tournament
  • 1963 Blaxnit (Ulster) Tournament
  • 1964 Hennessy Round-Robin Tournament
Weetman also won several regional events in the 1950s: the West of England Professional Championship in 1955 and 1957; and the 1958 Southern Professional Championship.

In the Majors

Weetman played in the British Open 20 times, in any of the other majors just twice (the Masters in 1957 and 1960). That was not uncommon for the era given the harder travel and smaller purses.

In the Open Championship, Weetman tended toward boom or bust. In the 16 tournaments from 1949 through 1964, he missed the cut five times, but finished in the Top 16 in every other year. That included six Top 10 finishes. His best showing was a tie for fifth in the 1955 Open. Weetman first played the Open in 1949 and last played it in 1968.

In the Ryder Cup

Harry Weetman played on seven Great Britain & Ireland Ryder Cup teams: 1951, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1963. That was a period of near-total American domination of the event, and Weetman's career record in Ryder Cup matches — 2-11-2, one of the worst in the event's history — reflects that.

But both of Weetman's wins were in singles play. He beat Julius Boros, 1-up, in his final appearance as a player, in 1963.

One of the highlights of Weetman's career was his 1953 Ryder Cup singles match against Sam Snead. Snead led 4-up with six holes to play when Weetman reeled off five wins in a row. After halving the final hole, he had a 1-up victory over "the Slammer."

In the 1957 Ryder Cup, GB&I captain Dai Rees left Weetman out of the singles play. Weetman said to the press after the match that he would never play for Rees again. The controversy didn't hurt the team: They dominated that singles session and won the match, GB&I's only Ryder Cup victory of the era.

Weetman was roasted for undermining his captain and was banned from tournament play for a year by the British PGA. But Rees later in the year asked that the ban be lifted, and it was.

Weetman and Rees were teammates on the very next Ryder Cup squad, and Weetman went on to captain Team GB&I himself in 1965.

Suspensions and Reputation for Troublemaking

The incident with Rees and the subsequent suspension was just one of several times over the years that Weetman's occasional hotheadedness got the better of him.

After Weetman died, the New York Times ran a 2-paragraph obituary. One of those paragraphs was this one:

"Mr. Weetman was suspended twice by the Professional Golfers Association for his outspoken criticism. In 1960 he insulted British pros, remarking after he won a five-stroke victory in the Spalding tournament: 'Thank heavens the Yanks weren't here. They would have murdered me.' He had just returned from an American tour, and, declining to practice, told legislators, the players and the press that British golf was '35 years behind the times.'"
"At various times he was warned, fined and suspended," Peter Alliss once wrote of Weetman. In 1968 the British PGA suspended him again for non-payment of one of those fines.

In the late 1960s, Weetman decked Christy O'Connor in a fight during the Agfa-Gevaert tournament near London. In Ben Wright's book Good Bounces and Bad Lies, the author writes that O'Connor began drinking in the clubhouse bar following a poor round, and when Weetman walked in after his round O'Connor started in on him:

"Weetman was strong, and built like a brick outhouse. He growled at Christy, 'I don't have to take any of this s***. You come outside.' O'Connor went outside with Weetman, but it was a pathetic fight. O'Connor attempted a few ill-judged and ill-aimed blows, but Weetman just whacked him twice straight in the face, knocked him back over a hedge, and left him unconcious. Weetman left and O'Connor eventually crawled away to his lodgings."

More About Harry Weetman

With British golf interrupted by World War II, Weetman's career as a tournament winner got off to a late start. He was 29 years old before his first tournament wins of note: the PGA Assistants' Championship titles in 1949 and again in 1950.

His first big win was at the News of the World Match Play, one of the biggest events in Europe, in 1951. He won it again in 1958, and lost in the championship match three times (1956, 1959, 1960).

Weetman holds the record for wins in another big event of the era, the Penfold Tournament, with four victories. In the six tournaments played from 1957-62, Weetman won four of them and was runner-up in one of the others.

In 1956, Weetman became the first-known golfer in Great Britain to score 58 on a golf course of more than 6,000 yards, doing so at Croham Hurst Golf Club in Croydon, Surrey, England.

Weetman authored two golf instructional books: The Way to Golf, first published in 1953; and Add to Your Golf Power in 1963.

In July of 1972, riding in a car with his wife, Weetman sustained a fractured skull and other injuries when the car plunged off the road. His wife suffered only minor injuries, but Weetman never regained consciousness. He died of his injuries three days later.

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