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How Max Faulkner denied local favourite Fred Daly when the Open last visited Portrush

Colourful champion: Max Faulkner with the Claret Jug
Colourful champion: Max Faulkner with the Claret Jug

By Paul Kelly

It was 77 years ago almost to the day (July 6, 1951), that Englishman Max Faulkner won The Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Born in 1916, Faulkner stood out from the crowd with his bright colourful outfits and his flamboyant character. In a career disrupted by the Second World War, he recorded 14 wins as a professional and played in the Ryder Cup five times.

The first and still only Open Championship to be played outside of England or Scotland attracted a crowd of between 7,000-8,000 thousand to Royal Portrush, many of them hoping that local legend, Fred Daly, could repeat his 1947 success.

Qualifying took place on Monday and Tuesday (July 2-3), with 18 holes on The Dunluce course at Portrush and 18 holes at Portstewart Golf Club.

Argentinian Antonia Cerda led the way on 138 with Tom Haliburton, Bobby Locke, and Norman Von Nida a stroke behind. The final qualifying mark was 155 and 98 players advanced to the event proper.

Scotland's Jimmy Adams and Australian Von Nida fired a pair of opening-round 68s to lead the way on Wednesday with Faulkner well placed in a tie for fifth after an opening 71.

Faulkner had twice been a runner-up in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush and the 34-year-old took control of the Championship in round two, posting a two-under-par round of 70 to lead England's Norman Sutton by two shots with Fred Daly and another Englishman, Harry Weetman, a shot further back.

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Just 46 players made the halfway cut on the mark of 154 for the final 36 holes on Friday. According to legend, Faulkner signed autographs with the addendum: "Open Champion 1951" on the evening before the final two rounds although it's possible the whole thing was dreamt up by a journalist.

In the third round on Friday morning, Faulkner posted another 70 and stretched the 54-hole lead to six over Sutton and Cerda. The only moment of drama came on the 16th when he pulled his drive and it finished right up against a boundary fence with a stile at his back. There was a possibility that he could strike the steps in his backswing but he somehow fashioned a stunning four-wood approach to the green 160 yards away and two-putted for par.

In the final round that afternoon, Faulkner finished 5-5-4-5 for a score of 74 (+2) and a total of 285 (-3). Cerda was the only player still on the course with a chance to tie.

Going out in 34, he reached the 16th needing to play the last three holes in 12 shots. His challenge ended when his drive ended up against some steps straddling a barbed wire fence and he took six, eventually finishing two shots behind the winner.

Faulkner was recognised as a superb putter and took only 105 putts over the four rounds on his way to victory. "It was all I ever wanted. The Open meant everything to me," he said

Home favourite Fred Daly finished tied for fourth with the 1950 champion, Bobby Locke, in a tie for sixth. Locke secured his own place in Portrush folklore by hooking his tee shots at the dangerous par-three 'Calamity' into the hollow to the left of the green. Thus christened 'Bobby Locke's hollow' the South African got up and down for par on most occasions.

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