John Panton, Scottish Golf Champion

Cover of John Panton golf book
John Panton was a Scottish professional golfer on the British and European circuits from the 1940s into the 1960s. He was considered one of the best iron players and best wind players of his era, but driver was a weakness: He lacked distance and his accuracy off the tee with the long stick sometimes was a problem, too.

As a sign of the esteem in which Panton was held in British golf circles, he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), becoming a knight, in 1980.

Like Arnold Palmer, Panton was beloved enough in his home country to have a drink named after him. The John Panton drink is ginger beer with a splash of lime cordial in a glass rimmed with angostura bitters.

Date of birth: October 9, 1916

Place of birth: Pitlochry, Scotland

Date and place of death: July 24, 2009, Windsor, Berkshire, England

Nickname: Gentleman John

In the Majors

John Panton played in only one of the four major championships during his career, the British Open. He never won it and had only four Top 10 finishes (1956, 1959, 1965, 1970). His best finish was solo fifth in the 1956 British Open. When he finished tied for ninth in the 1970 Open Championship, he was 53 years old (in terrible weather, he shot 71 in the final round — the best score of the round by two strokes).

Panton first played the Open in 1937 and last played in 1974.

John Panton Profile

Panton turned pro at the age of 19 in 1935. Two years later, while working in a pro shop, he made his Open Championship debut.

He served in the Army during World War II, and upon his return from the war Panton became professional at Glenbervie Golf Club, near Larbert, Scotland. He remained the head pro there until 1984, and today you'll still find the John Panton Academy teaching facilities at the club.

Panton began winning tournaments in Scotland the last two years of the 1940s. Eventually, he won the Scottish Professionals Championship eight times, the Northern Open seven times, West of Scotland Strokeplay Championship seven times and the West of Scotland Match Play Championship four times, over the span from 1948 to 1962. He was certainly the dominant golfer in Scotland during that time.

He won plenty of tournaments outside of Scotland, too. One of his best years was 1951, when the Daks Tournament was one of three wins, he led the European circuit in scoring average (winning the Vardon Trophy), and he made his Ryder Cup debut.

Panton also played on Team Great Britain in the 1953 and 1961 Ryder Cups, although he never won a match, going 0-5-0.

Panton won the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament in 1954. Another big year was 1956 when he won the News of the World Match Play and had his best finish (solo fifth) in the Open Championship. He was runner-up in the News of the World Match Play once, as well, in 1968 at the age of 51.

"John Panton was a magnificent golfer, a model professional and a true gentleman." — Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A
Something else Panton is remembered for: He was a very good senior golfer. Just how good is difficult to say with certainty because there were no senior tours at the time and barely any tournaments at all specifically for 50-and-over top-level golfers.

But Panton won the PGA Seniors Championship, the oldest major senior tournament in European golf, in 1967 and 1969, and was runner-up in 1968 and 1971. His victories got him into the World Senior Championship, a 36-hole match against the winner of the American Senior PGA Championship. In 1967, Panton defeated Sam Snead, 3-and-2. In 1969, he lost to Tommy Bolt on the 38th hole.

He last represented Scotland in the World Cup in 1968, having previously played for Scotland 12 other times (every year from 1955-66).

Without much in the way of senior pro golf available, Panton kept playing the "regular" events, too, including European Tour tournaments once that circuit formed in the early 1970s. He finished sixth in the Piccadilly Medal in 1976 at the age of 60; his final European Tour appearance was in 1977.

In 1988, Panton became the honorary professional at The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. He retired from that position only in 2006. Panton was 92 years old when he died three years later.

Today, the John Panton Award is given annually by the PGA in Scotland for outstanding service to golf. Panton was also the author of a golf instructional book titled My Way of Golf, first published in 1951.

One of his daughters, Catherine Panton-Lewis, won the British Ladies Amateur Championship in 1976. She was a founding member of the Ladies European Tour and won its first Order of Merit in 1979.

Tournament Wins By John Panton

  • 1948 Northern Open
  • 1948 Scottish Professional Championship
  • 1949 Scottish Professional Championship
  • 1950 Silver King Tournament
  • 1950 Scottish Professional Championship
  • 1951 Daks Tournament
  • 1951 Northern Open
  • 1951 Scottish Professional Championship
  • 1952 North British-Harrogate Tournament
  • 1952 Northern Open
  • 1952 Goodwin (Sheffield) Foursomes Tournament (team tournament, partnered by Norman Roffe)
  • 1954 Scottish Professional Championship
  • 1954 Yorkshire Evening News Tournament
  • 1955 Scottish Professional Championship
  • 1956 News of the World Match Play
  • 1956 Northern Open
  • 1956 Gleneagles-Saxone Foursomes Tournament (team tournament, partnered with W.R. Alexander)
  • 1958 Woodlawn Invitation Open
  • 1959 Woodlawn Invitation Open
  • 1959 Northern Open
  • 1959 Scottish Professional Championship
  • 1960 Woodlawn Invitation Open
  • 1960 Northern Open
  • 1962 Northern Open
  • 1966 Scottish Professional Championship*
  • 1967 PGA Seniors Championship
  • 1967 World Senior Championship
  • 1969 PGA Seniors Championship
In addition to these tournaments, Panton won the West of Scotland Strokeplay Championship seven times and the West of Scotland Match Play Championship four times.

(*tied with Eric Brown, no playoff)

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