Tony Torrance: Golfer Helped Bring About 14-Club Limit

Tobacco trading card from the 1920s with a caricature of Tony Torrance
Tony Torrance was a Scottish golfer who was a rare bright spot for Great Britain in Walker Cups of the 1920s and 1930s. A friend of Bobby Jones', golf's 14-club limit grew out of a conversation between Torrance and Jones.

Full name: Thomas Arthur Torrance

Date of birth: March 13, 1891

Place of birth: Edinburgh, Scotland

Date and place of death: December 8, 1976 in Sandwich, Kent, England

Nickname: Tony, of course. He was often referred to in print by his initials, T.A. Torrance, or "T.A. (Tony) Torrance."

His Role In the 14-Club Limit

Tony Torrance played a role in bringing about the rule, still in place today, limiting the number of golf clubs in one's bag. That rule limits golfers to carrying 14 clubs. But before the rule went into effect, many golfers, including famous ones, carried more than that. Walter Hagen and Lawson Little, for example, sometimes carried as many as 25 clubs.

Jones and Torrance, in attendance during the 1936 Walker Cup, noticed one player in the competition carrying a whopping 32 clubs. They agreed the number of clubs should be limited, but what should that limit be? According to the story, they checked their own bags. Jones was carrying 16 clubs, Torrance 12, which averaged out to 14.

So the two friends, both very influential within the USGA and R&A, respectively, suggested that number to the governing bodies, and that very year the USGA and R&A said they would adopt the 14-club limit. It went into effect in USGA-governed territories in 1938 and in R&A territories in 1939.

It sounds a little like a tall tale, and there is no documentary evidence supporting the story. However, Torrance was about to become chairman of the R&A Rules Committee, and Jones was, well, Bobby Jones.

Torrance In the Walker Cup

Torrance represented Great Britain in the Walker Cup, against the United States, five times: 1924, 1928, 1930, 1932 and 1934. In 1932 he was playing captain for the British side.

And he had a remarkable record in an era of total domination by Team USA. Although his overall record was 3-5-1, he was 3-1-1 in singles. Remarkably, three different times Torrance was the only Great Britain player to win in the singles session.

After losing to Jesse Guilford in the 1924 Walker Cup, Torrance didn't lost again in singles. In 1928, he earned his side's only point (in an 11-1 defeat), beating Chick Evans, 1-up. In the 1930 Walker Cup, Torrance's 7-and-6 win over Francis Ouimet accounted for half of Great Britain's total points. In 1932, he and Ouimet had a rematch, this time resulting in a tie. And in the 1934 Walker Cup, Torrance once again earned half his side's total points in his singles win over Max Marston.

In the 1928-34 Walker Cups, Team Great Britain won six points total, and Torrance accounted for half of those points in his singles wins.

More About Tony Torrance

Torrance came from a golfing Scottish family, with both his brothers also accomplished players. An older brother, Willy Torrance, had preceded Tony in the Walker Cup, playing in 1922.

All three Torrances were members at Blackford Golf Club in Edinburgh, but in 1921 Tony resigned and moved to London. There he became a dentist (keeping a putter and piece of carpet in his consulting room so he could frequently work on his putting stroke), but, in the early 1920s, his golf game really took off, too.

Torrance, a lifelong amateur, represented Scotland in the Home Internationals (England vs. Scotland) six times, 1922, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1929 and 1930. He began playing Walker Cup during that same time period.

He won the Irish Amateur Championship in 1925, the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase in 1926 (he was runner-up in 1921), and the German Amateur Championship in both 1927 and 1929.

In 1932, Torrance, in America for the Walker Cup and U.S. Amateur, entered the Crump Cup at Pine Valley. He reached the final and defeated Cyril Tolley, becoming the first non-American to win the prestigious tournament that is still played today.

Torrance played in the British Open only twice, but made the cut both times: He finished 41st in 1928 and 22nd in 1932. In another professional event, Torrance tied for second behind Percy Alliss in the 1927 German Open.

He played the British Amateur Championship many times, first in 1920 and last in 1959. Torrance reached the quarterfinals in 1930, but his best showing was an appearance in the semifinals in 1935.

He eventually moved to Sandwich and bought a house near his favorite golf course, Royal St. George's. It was in Sandwich that he died, aged 85, in 1976.

After Torrance's death, Henry Cotton wrote about him:

"What a fine player he was, a natural. ... He was a big chap and had developed a personal crouch at address, in which his hands were kept down, but once he got swinging everything looked very good. He never looked as if he was trying to do anything artificial."

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