Follow in the footsteps of the greats
The 1952 Southern & Overseas Championship & The 'News of the World' PGA Match Play Qualifier
Not every sport allows amateurs to play on the same venue as the professionals. Dunstable Downs is proud of its association with the PGA Match Play golf tournament held in the days of wooden clubs when guile, strategy and technique were important factors for securing a par beating score.
A visit to Dunstable Downs will give you the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the greatest golfers in the world such as Max Faulkner, Henry Cotton, Dai Rees, Neil Coles, Flory van Donck and Richard Burton to recreate for yourself some of the most iconic moments in the history of the game.
The 'News of the World' Match Play Championship was one of the oldest and most prestigious golfing tournaments in Britain having first been played in 1903. Its winners in those early years included J.H. Taylor, James Braid and Harry Vardon. In 1946, it became officially recognised as the British PGA Match Play tournament and the proprietors of the News of the World gave £5,025 in Prize Money.
In August 1952 there were no player exemptions to secure a place in the final at Walton Heath so Dunstable Downs Golf Club was chosen to host one of the qualifying competitions for this event and held, concurrently, the Southern England & Overseas Professional Golf Championship. It was the first time the tournament was held at Dunstable and the course was described as being in marvellous condition.
"It was apparent that none of the players would have anything to grumble about. The club is renowned for the general state of its course, but it appeared that the ground staff have excelled themselves in order to get the greens and fairways in absolutely tip top condition for this weeks important fixture. The club is very proud of its fairways and claims that they are among the finest in the country. The pleasure of the game is greatley enhanced if the player has a 'brassie-lie' for every shot on the fairway, and that is the reality at Dunstable Downs"
Initially organised as the championship of British professionals, the list of participants was like a who’s who in golf that included 6 Open Champions, 20 Ryder Cup players and 10 previous PGA Match Play event winners. This was all before The European Tour had started so it was rare to see International players and tournament winners of such quality on UK shores.
Flory Van Donck
Until the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer burst onto the golf scene in the late 1970s, Van Donck was one of the few golfers from continental Europe who had been able to win regularly in professional tournaments in Britain. Van Donck’s fame rested on his great putting ability. After winning at Dunstable Downs he went on to win the following season , in 1953, the Belgian Open, Dutch Open, German Open, Italian Open, Swiss Open, Silver King Tournament and the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament. He won his own national title 16 times between 1935 and 1968 and held most of the national titles in Europe, including the Dutch Open (1936, 1937, 1951, 1953), the French Open (1954, 1957, 1958), the German Open (1953, 1956) and the Swiss Open (1953, 1955). He was also runner up in The Open Championship twice. Such was his consistency, he did not finish outside the top five for five years succession from 1955, and finished inside the top 10 eight years out of ten during the 1950s; quite an impressive record!