History of the Tournament

The pioneer helps give birth to Indian Open and wins it, too

Peter Thomson, one of the legends in the annals of the British Open, preferred to stop over in India enroute to the Open each year. Over a period of time, he became friends with the Indian golfing community, many of whom were members of the Indian Golf Union.

 

Thomson had a soft corner for National Opens, so he was keen to see that India, too, got its own Indian Open. He won the British Open five times – four of them even before the start of the Indian Open. In his career Thomson also won the Australian Open three times, the New Zealand Open nine times and the Indian Open three times and overall, he won National Opens of 10 countries.

 

A few years earlier in 1962, Thomson helped set up the Asian Circuit, which till then had various National Opens dotting South East Asia. But no one had strung them together into a circuit.

 

In 1964 with Thomson as the driving force, the Indian Open was born.

 

To bolster the Indian Open, he promised, that not only would he play as often as possible, but also ensure top stars who were his friends. For the inaugural edition Thomson was there as were Welshman Brian Huggett, Ralph Moffit and Malcolm Gregson and the next few years also saw Irishman Hugh Boyle and Englishman Guy Wolstenholme, who played a lot of his golf in Australia, and Miguel Angel, an amiable Spaniard, who was fourth at the 1957 British Open and eighth at the 1964 Open.

 

More than four decades later Thomson still had vivid memories of that win in 1964. In 2006 at Hoylake, he recalled, “Two rounds were played on the last day of the first Indian Open. In the morning, I think I scored an 81 or 82 (it was actually 80) and I was sort of a goner. I had visited the bushes too many times. But in the afternoon I rallied myself and shot a 67 and so I was the winner.”

 

Thomson added, “The Delhi course was fraught with trouble because of those impenetrable bushes and I was fascinated with the use of the ‘agewallahs’ who would somehow get into the bushes and find your ball in a good lie!” Thomson opened with first two rounds of 73 and 72 and held the lead. On the final day, two rounds were to be played and Thomson ended with an 80 in the third round and he seemed to have blown his chance. Moffit with rounds of 75, 72 and 76 led the field after 54 holes at 223, and he shared the lead with Gregson (75, 73 and 75) and India’s own Shadi Lal (77, 74, 72).

 

Thomson was tied for fourth with Huggett (77, 73 and 75) at 225. But in the afternoon, Thomson roared back like a Tiger and shot a five-under 67, which stayed as a course record for a long time. He had an eagle and five birdies to go with two bogeys and zoomed to the top at four-over 292. Second placed Moffit, despite a steady 73, was four shots behind at 296 and Huggett despite a 72 was third at 297, while Gregson and Burma’s Mya Aye were tied for fourth at 299 and Shadi Lal, with a 79 in final round was fifth at 302.

 

India’s best was Shadi Lal, who had shared the lead with Ralph Moffit and Malcolm Gregson after three rounds, but he slipped in the final round with a seven-over 79. He ended fifth. R.K.Pitamber was sixth at 303. Behind him, also in top-10 among professionals were Lekhi Chand Sharma and Hira Lal. The top amateur was P.G.Billoo Sethi at 303.

 

The Australian superstar loved the Delhi Golf Club. Among the other ‘gifts’ that Thomson gave Indian golf, was the re-designing of the RCGC and the DGC in the 1960s and ’70s.