Tony Jacklin, 71, is one of Britain’s most successful golfers. He looks back on his most memorable moments from his life and career.

…I was born and raised in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

Tony Jacklin as a child with mother and sibling

My dad was at the steel works and my mum Dorothy worked on the market at the weekend. Times were hard. Money was tight and we always seemed to be scrabbling around for a few extra quid. As soon as I was old enough, I started a paper round and joined my mother on the market, helping the older blokes load the vans. Sure, it was a tough childhood, but was I unhappy? Not for a second! 

 

…My dad deciding to take up golf

We used to live next door to this bloke called Eric Markee. In 1953—I would have been about eight or nine—he stuck his head over the fence and called out to my dad. “Arthur, I’ve just been up to the golf club. You ought to have a go. I reckon you’ll like it.” Sure enough, my dad went to the Ashby Decoy Golf Club, not far from where we lived; followed by his son. That was it...that was the start of my love affair. Dad continued to play for the rest of his life and he had a great appreciation of the game. 

 

…Winning the Lincolnshire Junior Championship

After that first visit with my dad, the golf club became my second home. I was completely self-taught and, at 13, I won the first of four Lincolnshire Boys’ Championships. I was also beginning to beat blokes who were much older than me—which didn’t go down too well in the clubhouse! The grown-ups didn’t like this cocky, young lad showing ’em how it was done. 

After I left school, I got a job in the steel works, but I knew it wasn’t for me. The only thing I wanted to do was play golf. 

 

…Meeting my first wife Vivien

Tony Jacklin and his first wife Vivien

After I turned professional in my late teens, I suddenly realised what a lonely sport golf can be. Sure, there was a lot of boozing and gallivanting with the rest of lads, but that was never my thing. I preferred the quiet life. What I needed was someone to share that life…and I found her in Belfast in 1965. As soon as I clapped eyes on Vivien, I knew it was special. We got married the following year and had a three-year honeymoon, travelling round the world and playing golf. I was doing all right too—I had 2000 quid in my bank account. I’d never seen so much money!

 

…WIinning the British Open and the US Open

Each year, I was climbing higher up the ladder­—beating established names such as Arnold Palmer—and my game was just getting better and better. I won the British Open in 1969 and followed that with the US Open in 1970—the first English player to win the US Open since 1924! We were living in Elsham at the time, not far from Scunthorpe, and the council threw a huge party for me. I was driven around town in a Cadillac and taken to meet the local grammar kids in Brigg. I think that’s when I knew I was famous!

 

 …Not every game puts a smile on your face

Tony Jacklin on the draw backs of being a golfer

Everyone likes this photo, probably because it shows the other side of game…the what-might-have-beens. I can’t remember exactly where or when this was taken, but I’m pretty sure it’s late-1960s on the American tour. You miss that important putt and that’s it; game over. You beat yourself up as you walk back, but every champion will tell you the same thing. You take those failures and you put them somewhere right at the back of your mind.  

 

…Playing golf with James Bond

Sean Connery with Tony Jacklin

I first met Sean Connery in 1973; he was such a keen golfer that he used to hold his own tournament. He’d just stepped down as Bond and, of course, there’s a bit of you that goes, “Bloomin’ ’eck, it’s 007”. But, over the years, I became aware that all the entertainers were just as respectful to us professional golfers; there was a sort of mutual admiration. 

I’ve played with some big names, people like like Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Evel Knievel, Andy Williams, Glen Campbell and Bing Crosby. Bing took his golf very seriously. I think the entertainers enjoy golf because it’s so different from their day job. No razzamatazz, just you and that ball.  

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