Sports

Peabody’s Bill Locke adds to his golf legacy

Peabody native Bill Locke hits a shot during the Winchester Country Club Father-Son Tournament. (Item Photo by Anne Marie Tobin )

WINCHESTER — The oldest man ever to play in the oldest continuously-played Father-Son golf tournament in the United States? 

That would be Peabody’s  Bill Locke Sr., a Brooksby Village resident and honorary member at Thomson Country Club in North Reading, who added to his legacy by setting another age record for a second straight year at the 100th Winchester Country Club Father-Son Invitational tournament last Thursday.

Locke was the talk of the tourney when he matched his age.  Locke, who will turn 97 in October, teed it up with son Timothy Locke, dodging downpours most of the back nine en route to a 96 to finish T-140th out of 222 teams, in the tournament which wrapped up play Friday morning.

But it wasn’t easy.

“I left him a really tough 3-foot, sidehill, downhill putt on the 18th hole,” said Timothy Locke.  “But he drained it, right in the center of the cup to hit his age right on the number. It was a great putt and he played great. I bet we used nine of his drives, they were that good. It’s just amazing to watch him swing a golf club the way he does at his age.”

Locke is said to be the oldest man ever to play in the tournament.

“He’s definitely the oldest as far as our records show,” said Winchester head professional Jim Salinetti. “We keep index cards for every team that shows the years they played along with scores and partners and there’s nobody close. It’s pretty special this year. It’s 100th anniversary of the tournament.  As far as we know, it’s the only tournament of its kind to have been played that long without interruption. Somehow, the tournament just always carried on no matter what was happening.”

The tournament’s a grueling event with three days of 18-hole, selected-drive, alternate-shot stroke play. Tee times run from 7 a.m. to almost 5 p.m. with play winding up sometimes in pitch-dark conditions. There are multiple age divisions featuring gross and net prizes along with a grandfather-grandson division.  

The tournament is a real family affair for many participants.  It is not uncommon for players to team with not only their sons, but grandsons as well.

This year, nearly 700 players participated.

“It can’t get much bigger than this year with three full days of tee times running from dawn till practically dusk,” said Salinetti. “Being the centennial year, the field was a little fuller than past years so we had to limit the new invitees to a handful, but luckily we didn’t have too many new requests so we really didn’t have to turn too many people away.

“But it’s just crazy to think that this event has been played 100 times in 100 years with 100 winners now in the books.  It’s amazing that there never any interruptions, not due to war or hurricanes or anything, so that is pretty impressive.”

Equally impressive was Thursday’s final round, which somehow was completed despite a heavy rainstorm that passed through the area, starting at about 3:15.  Play was suspended and the course was evacuated when some of the greens had taken on too much water and were borderline unplayable.

Nonetheless, in typical Winchester Father-Son tradition, play carried on after a delay of a little more than an hour..

“It just came on suddenly and came down in buckets,” said Locke.  “You really couldn’t see anything it was so heavy, but we were determined to finish.  It was just a great day.

“We missed some shots, and that hurt us, and I hit some bad putts. Timothy hit it in there about three feet for birdie on the ninth hole (a par 3), and I just read it wrong.  The greens were really tough as everything seemed to be cut on a slope.”

A retired teacher (he taught at the McCall Junior High School in Winchester), Locke still plays golf two to three times a week at Thomson, where he and wife Barbara Breslow Locke (a Lynn native, who passed away in 2014), joined in 1964.

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