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Maurice Bembridge

Golf mourns death of former Masters course record holder Maurice Bembridge

The Honorary PGA member, who has died at 79, played in four Ryder Cups, won multiple European Tour titles, and held the course record at the Masters

 

For two magical hours during the final round of the 1974 Masters, it wasn’t Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, or Arnold Palmer, who transfixed the world’s attention, it was Maurice Bembridge.

The Honorary PGA member, who has died aged 79, did something on that Sunday afternoon that had never been achieved before – and so staked his greatest claim to fame in a tournament he didn’t win.

They say the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday. But where so many have seen their dreams of a Green Jacket destroyed over the decades, Bembridge dominated.

He took just 30 strokes to negotiate the famous stretch – posting a 64 that equalled the course record shared by Nicklaus and Lloyd Mangrum. It would be more than a decade before that mark was bettered.

He birdied the 10th, 11th, and 12th – hitting a 4-iron to 10-feet. “Three in a row and I was very happy about that,” he told NCG in 2018. “I was looking at the board and suddenly I was in red numbers. My big goal was to get into the top 24 to claim an automatic invitation for the next year.”

Bembridge would achieve that admirably, dodging a snake at the 13th to make another birdie, before picking up further shot at the 15th and draining a long putt at the last, as he finished in a tie for 9th.

It was only the third 64 in Masters history, and Nick Price and Greg Norman are the only players to have eclipsed it since.

But one week in Georgia was only part of the legend. Maurice Bembridge was a Ryder Cup fixture, at a time when Great Britain & Ireland were up against some of the greatest players ever to have represented the United States, and he claimed notable scalps.

Born in 1945, Bembridge turned professional at 15 when he began working as an assistant at Worksop, in Nottinghamshire.

Early successes came when winning the PGA Assistants’ Championship in 1967 and, the next year, he claimed the Kenya Open, before finishing fifth at the Open at Carnoustie.

In 1969, Bembridge beat Dai Rees 6&5 in the final of the News of the World Match Play before, barely two weeks later, playing a key role in the Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale.

Maurice Bembridge

Maurice Bembridge 1945-2024: Ryder Cup stalwart and PGA legend

The famous tie might be remembered most for ‘The Concession’ between Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, but the debutant Bembridge won two and halved one of the five matched he played – seeing off Lee Trevino and Ken Still, in partnership with Bernard Gallacher, in the day one morning foursomes.

He would represent GB&I in the following three matches – a highlight coming in 1973 at Muirfield when he and Brian Huggett defeated Nicklaus and Palmer 3&1 in the afternoon fourballs.

“Brian and I seemed to gel pretty well, we had the same sort of round-the-corners game,” he told NCG. “I remember chipping in to finish the game off. After the game we would all be in the bar and have a drink together. Everyone was in the same place unless you had a team talk which were mainly to discuss the rules.”

Bembridge would record six victories in Europe – his most profitable season arriving with the birth of the European Tour in 1974. That year, he won the Piccadilly Medal, Double Diamond Strokeplay, and Viyella PGA Championship. The latter two victories coming just 10 days apart.

His final win was in the 1979 Benson & Hedges International Open. But he also won two tournaments on the European Senior Tour, after joining in 1995.

Having earlier moved to Switzerland, where he represented Ostschweizerischer GC between 1990 and 2000, Bembridge also served on the European Senior Tour committee for nine years and was chairman from 2007 to 2011.

He would regularly return to the UK to play in the PGA Super 60s Championship and his final outing was in 2018 at Wollaton Park.

PGA Chief Executive Robert Maxfield said on the PGA website: “Maurice enjoyed playing in the event and it was always good to see him.

“Furthermore, that he took the trouble to make the long journey to play in it, was testament to his love for the game and ongoing support for the Association.

“Despite all the success he achieved, Maurice never forgot his PGA roots. He will be greatly missed.”

Have you say

Did you see Maurice Bembridge at the Masters? Did you see him play and what do you remember about his feats as a golfer? Let us know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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