Sid Brews, South Africa's First International Golfer

Before there was Gary Player, before there was Bobby Locke, there was Sid Brews. Brews, although English by birth, became the first South African golfer to achieve international notice. He won more 30 tournaments in South Africa (mostly in the 1920s and '30s, but even into the 1950s), but also won in Europe and the United States.

Full name: Sydney Francis Brews

Date of birth: May 29, 1899

Place of birth: Blackheath, London, England

Date and place of death: May 24, 1972, in Bryanston, Johannesburg, South Africa

Nickname: Sid

Brews' Biggest Wins

Brews lived in South Africa during most of his competitive playing career, but he did record multiple national open wins on the European circuit of the 1920s/1930s:
  • 1929 Belgian Open
  • 1934 French Open
  • 1934 Dutch Open
  • 1935 French Open
  • 1935 Dutch Open
He also had one win in the United States:
  • 1935 Philadelphia PGA Invitational
In South Africa, Brews won more than 30 times. His biggest South African wins:
  • South African Open: 1925, 1927, 1930-34, 1949, 1952
  • South African PGA Championship: 1926, 1928, 1933-34, 1936, 1952
  • South African Professional Match Play Championship: 1926, 1928, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1952
That's eight South African Open wins and six each in the South African PGA and South African Match Play. He also won the Transvaal Open eight times (1924, 1930-36) and Natal Open four times (1926, 1927, 1929, 1937) in South Africa.

In the Majors

Brews played the U.S. Open once, tying for 21st in 1935. He never played The Masters or PGA Championship. Brews played the Open Championship seven times, first in 1921 and last in 1938. In the 1934 British Open, Brews was runner-up to Henry Cotton. He started the final round 13 strokes behind Cotton, but finished it only five off the lead. Brews had two other Top 20 finishes: tied for 18th in the 1929 British Open and tied for 13th in his final appearance, the 1938 British Open.

More About Sid Brews

Sid Brews' father was a clubmaker who worked at Minchinhampton Golf Club in Gloucester, England, and that is where Sid got into the game. His older brother Jock Brews also started there, but Jock emigrated to South Africa before World War I. Around the same time, when he was 15 years old in 1914, Sid Brews turned pro.

Ten years later, Sid followed his big brother to South Africa, and lived there for the rest of his life. He had tremendous influence on golf there, first as a tournament player.

Brews' eight South African Open wins were, at the time of his last in 1952, the tournament record. Today, he still ranks third, behind only Gary Player (13 wins) and Bobby Locke (nine wins).

Brews' wins came over four different decades. He was 53 years old when won the "triple crown" of South African golf in 1952, the South African Open, South African PGA Championship and South African Professional Match Play. And he remains to this day the oldest winner of the South African Open.

Jock Brews won the South African Open himself four times. In 1924 the Brews brothers tied for second. In Sid's first win in 1925 Jock was the runner-up; in 1928, Jock won and Sid was second; in 1930 Sid won and Jock was second. In addition to his eight wins in the South African Open, Sid was runner-up another three times.

In the South African Pro Match Play (the tournament that was called the South African Masters after it switched to stroke play), Sid defeated Jock in the championship match in 1928. Sid also twice lost in the championship match to Bobby Locke, in 1938 and 1946.

All of Brews' wins in South Africa pre-date the formation of the Sunshine Tour, but that tour retroactively credits 26 of Brews' victories as official wins on the tour. That total ranks fourth in Sunshine Tour history, behind only Locke (30), Mark McNulty (33) and Gary Player (63).

But Brews still found time to make the long trip back to England and play some tournaments in Europe. He won the Belgium Open in 1929, and in 1934 and 1935 he recorded back-to-back wins in both the Dutch Open and French Open. He also represented England in the England-Scotland Professional Match of 1935, and lost to Alf Padgham in the championship match of the 1934 Yorkshire Evening News Tournament.

Brews' win in America in 1935 (the Philadelphia PGA Championship) is not counted as an official PGA Tour victory. The PGA Tour credits Brews with seven official starts. In one of those, he finished sixth in the 1938 Lake Placid Open. His best finish in an official PGA Tour event was runner-up to future Hall of Famer Henry Picard in the 1935 Metropolitan Open.

What was Sid Brews' playing style? He had a naturally high ball flight and liked to play a fade. He was notable as a very fast player — quickly playing all shots but particularly quick to pull the trigger on putts. The compilers of the 1975 Encyclopedia of Golf wrote of Brews:

"It was said of Sid Brews that he addressed the ball in a flash, but that it took him longer to play a drive or hit a brassie shot than it took him to putt."
While he played a lot of tournaments, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s, Brews also worked as a club professional. He spent 30 years as the pro at Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg. That club still plays the Sid Brews Trophy, an annual fourball tournament.

Brews also designed golf courses in South Africa, including the Firethorn Course at Randpark Golf Club near Johannesburg. Many of Brews' designs were in conjunction with Gary Player, with whom Brews formed the first golf course design and construction company in South Africa: Gary Player, Sid Brews & Associates.

Brews was the subject of Volume I of South African Golf, a history of the game in that country, and the volume is subtitled The Story of South Africa's First Internationally Famous Golfer.

Today, the Sid Brews Golf Heritage Trust still exists to promote golf in South Africa, and it was a primary mover in the creation, in 2009, of the Southern Africa Golf Hall of Fame. Sid Brews was one of the 23 inaugural inductees into that Hall.

And every year on the Sunshine Tour, the winner of that tour's Order of Merit is awarded the Sid Brews Trophy.

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