The Tour Golfer Who Was Murdered By His Tournament Host

In 1976, a tour golfer from England was staying with a "host family" in a private residence prior to a tournament. One night, he asked another pro if that pro's host family had any extra room: He was getting a bad vibe from the man at the home he was staying in. Within days, the English pro was dead — murdered by his host.

The Pro Was David Moore

David Moore was a 29-year-old tour pro in 1976. He wasn't a "name" player on the European Tour, but there were other pros, bigger names, who thought he had good potential.

He was from Essex, England, and his first love had been soccer. As a teenager Moore had been an apprentice with Ipswich Town Football Club. But once he took up golf, Moore discovered a new love and his game advanced rapidly.

He turned pro in 1969 and soon was playing in tournaments on the precursor circuit to the European Tour, and, later, on the European Tour itself, as well as other circuits around the world. While he didn't have any wins, Moore was, as noted earlier, considered an up-and-comer in some circles. He also qualified to play in the 1973 British Open, where he made the 36-hole cut but missed the 54-hole cut.

In March of 1976, Moore headed to Africa for a series of tournaments, and in the third week of the month he was in Zambia for the Mufulira Open.

The Safari Circuit

From the late 1960s into the 1990s, a series of golf tournaments took place in Africa that at first were only loosely related and organized, but later came under the purview of the European Tour. These tournaments came to be known as the Safari Circuit or Safari Tour.

Tournaments were played mostly in West and East Africa. The Kenya Open began in 1967, the Lusaka Open in Zambia in 1969, and the Mufulira Open in 1970. The Nigerian Open, Ivory Coast Open and Zimbabwe Open were among the other tournaments. Once the European Tour became involved in organizing the Safari Circuit, it crowned an Order of Merit winner. Vijay Singh won the Safari Circuit OOM in 1988 and 1989.

Many of the tournaments, especially in the early years of the circuit, were played in rather remote places, sometimes sponsored by mining companies that had built golf courses for their management, families and visitors.

In March of 1976, David Moore arrived in Mufulira, Zambia, to play in the Mufulira Open. That tournament was played from 1970, when its first champion was Bernard Gallacher, until 1984, when its last winner was Eamonn Darcy.

"Big events, excellent purses," Pete Cowen has remembered. "All the best Ryder Cuppers were in the fields as well as Jack Newton, who'd just lost an Open playoff to Tom Watson at Carnoustie."

Golfers' Host Families and Housing

Mufulira was a copper mining town with few lodging options. Moore and most of the other golfers in town for the 1976 Mufulira Open took up lodging in the homes of locals who volunteered to house them for the tournament.

Golfers staying with local residents — often members of the club where a golf tournament is being played — is still common today. The higher up a pro tour is, the larger the purses of the tournaments on that tour, the more successful a golfer is in earning a share of those purses, the less likely they are to need housing. PGA Tour golfers don't bunk with locals, for examples.

But golfers on less-lucrative tours, and high-level amateurs in town for a tournament, still commonly stay with host families. Many Symetra Tour golfers, for example, stay with host families. Even some golfers who matriculate to the LPGA Tour still search out "housing," as the custom of staying with a host family is called.

For the 1976 Mufulira Open, Moore's "housing" was with the Ginnes family, a husband and wife. Ray Ginnes was a manager with the company that operated the copper mine. He was also the murderer of David Moore.

The Murder of David Moore

It was a murder-suicide, actually, but given the state of news coverage of international golf at the time, and of the Safari Circuit in particular, many of the specific details are still unknown today. But from the scant news reports at the time, and the recollections of a few pros who were also there in Zambia, a story (or two) emerges.

The basics are this: Ray Ginnes, perhaps drunkenly, perhaps crazily, became convinced that one of the two golfers he was hosting was having an affair with his wife. He shot and killed that golfer, David Moore, then turned the gun on himself, blowing his brains out.

One golfer who has recollected about the event is Pete Cowen. Today Cowen is recognized as one of the world's best golf instructors. In 1976, he was, like Moore, an English golfer playing in Africa trying to catch a break. (In fact, Cowen's only pro win was in the 1976 Zambia Open, played prior to the Mufulira Open.)

In an interview with Golf Digest, Cowen recalled that Moore asked him for help getting out of his current housing and into new lodging:

"A few days into it, David asked me who I was staying with, and could he possibly arrange to stay with us as well. 'I don't like the atmosphere of the house I'm in,' he said. 'Something is not right with the guy who is hosting us.' I sympathized and looked into it, but the house I was in was full of guests."
"My inability to get David into another house has always haunted me," Cowen told GD.

There are multiple versions of what happened two nights later. We contacted people who were there at the time, but none was willing to speak about the incident. According to Pete Cowen's comments in GD, Moore and the other golfer who was staying with the Ginnes family attended a party at a rugby club. Ray Ginnes and his wife were also at the party, and Ray Ginnes, roaring drunk, accused Moore of sleeping with his wife.

Ginnes left the party and staggered home. A couple hours later, Cowen said, Moore and the other pro also went back to their lodging in the Ginnes household. When they got to the front door, Ginnes opened it and shot Moore in the head.

David Feherty was not one of the golfers in Zambia in 1976, but in his book, Somewhere In Ireland a Village is Missing an Idiot (affiliate link), he wrote about hearing of the killing from other pros who were there. This is the version Feherty included in his book:

"One night the husband came home from the club with a skinful of beer, accused David of sleeping with his wife, loaded up his .45, and chased both boys (referring to the fellow pro who was also staying there) around the house. He emptied the gun through the locked bathroom door, mortally wounding David. Overcome with remorse, he then turned the gun on himself."
The newspaper articles reporting the killing appeared on March 22, 1976, and appear not to have been followed up in later days with additional reporting. The initial articles are, in retrospect, clearly wrong on the facts — one of them even referred to Ginnes as a good friend of Moore's. (He was a complete stranger to Moore prior to Moore's arrival in Mufulira.)

The newspaper accounts do agree on something, though, and that is Ginnes seems to have had a "what have I done" moment and tried to get Moore medical help.

The Associated Press article about the shooting that appeared in U.S. papers said that "Moore's body was found in the courtyard of a hospital beside that of a friend who had also been shot. ... Police were investigating a theory that the friend, Ray Ginnes, had carried Moore to the hospital and had shot himself before staff reached the door."

The Aberdeen (Scotland) Press and Journal published a statement from tournament director George O'Grady that we know includes factual errors but repeats that Ginnes attempted to get Moore to the hospital: "Moore was immediately rushed to hospital accompanied by a fellow British professional and his host. Moore died after being admitted and his host then took his own life. It was an accident of the most tragic proportions."

The Glasgow Herald got down to the basics by writing that Moore "was shot dead by a Mufulira mine chief, Ray Ginnis (sic), who later committed suicide by shooting himself, police said."

Outlining the chain of events: David Moore's "housing," Ray Ginnes, irrationally accused Moore of sleeping with his wife, flew into a drunken rage, and shot him. Ginnes and Moore's fellow pro rushed Moore to the hospital, and when he was confirmed dead Ginnes then killed himself.

Regardless of the specifics, it is certainly one of the most tragic incidents in golf history.

And what happened to the 1976 Mufulira Open? They went ahead and finished the tournament. The winner was Australian Jack Newton, a winner of tournaments in Australia and on the European Tour and who, at the 1975 British Open, lost in a playoff to Tom Watson. But, alas, tragedy awaited Newton, too: In 1983, Newton walked into an airplane propeller. He survived, barely, but lost his right arm and right eye.

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