19 Feb 2018 – Metropolitan Golf Club
Record attendance at February Dinner
by Renny Cunnack
The first dinner of the year on the 19th February at Metropolitan GC was attended by a record 140 guests. They were attracted no doubt by the unique opportunity to hear three legends of Victorian – indeed Australian – golf; Head Professionals Bruce Green (Royal Melbourne), Brian Simpson (Victoria) and Brian Twite OAM (Metropolitan).
Hosting the session, Tony Rule was able to elicit many interesting and very entertaining observations from each of the distinguished panel, even going back to the very first jobs in their collective 147 years of service. Brian Simpson was a clubmaker and Brian Twite’s journey to Metropolitan started at Sunningdale in England. He recalled being rebuked as a junior professional by Henry Cotton for having the temerity to speak to him at Wentworth. Cotton added insult to injury by telling Brian, “If you can’t improve on that last round, you’ll never make it.” Brian then had the last laugh by outscoring Cotton by five shots and beating him in the event.
Bruce Green caddied for six shillings (caddies now command $140 plus tips!) and hunted for lost golf balls. Then as Assistant Professional at Peninsula, Bruce applied for the Head Professional position at Victoria, where manager Jack Merrick told him that the job involved being starter on the tee for 30 hours a week. Bruce baulked at that, and went to Royal Melbourne, where he has been ever since – “you find a job you like, and you never have to work!” The Victoria job went to Brian Simpson, who later told Bruce, “The first thing I did was hire a starter!”
Asked who was the best golfer they ever saw, Brian Simpson named Peter Thomson and Tom Watson, who “could play in the States, here, anywhere”. Brian Twite said Sam Snead was the best swinger he ever saw. Bruce Green cited Bob Stanton and Lee Trevino, who “had the ball on a string all day” – except on a famous occasion when he stormed off
6W at Royal Melbourne, never to return, saying “No wonder you b*st*rds don’t have any hair, putting on these greens! I’m outta here!” 6W is Bruce’s favourite hole: “a challenge to drive, a challenge to get it on the green and keep it on, and a challenge to get it in the hole.” Brian Twite likes 9 at Metropolitan: “a thinking hole – Lee Trevino birdied it four times out of six, because he could work the ball.” Brian Simpson’s favourites are 11 and 15 at Victoria.
Asked about the most memorable lesson, Brian Twite had a new pupil who was having great difficulty making contact with the ball, which led Brian in some desperation to suggest left-handed clubs. Brian got great credit for the resultant progress; later it transpired that the person was blind in the right eye. Brian added that he himself shanked a ball onto the next fairway at Rosanna and was asked by an indignant player what club he belonged to. When he said, “Metropolitan”, he was told, “Well, you should get a lesson from Brian Twite!”
Bruce Green also had a blind pupil, one Eric Hales, who despite his disability shot 47 for nine holes at Peninsula. Eric challenged Bruce (Victorian PGA champion at the time) to a match for $100, giving Bruce 7 strokes – on just one condition: the match to be played at 3 a.m.
Brian Simpson recalled Gary Player, plagued by a persistent low fade in a tournament at Victoria, turning to him for advice. Brian gently offered, “I think you might be hitting it a tiny bit late, Gary?” Good results followed.
Finally, asked “How do you get into, and get back, into the zone?”, Brian Simpson’s answer was, “Play the course a thousand times in your mind”. Doing this before a round, about which he was rather nervous, he shot 63. He also believes in balance and rhythm, and the need to hit the ball in the centre of the club, which small clubheads made you do.
Bruce believes there is too much “paralysis by analysis”, but how to get back into the zone: “impossible!” Brian Twite reflected that the modern preoccupation with gym work gives players such as Tiger Woods, and potentially Jason Day, big, wide shoulders with muscles that actually don’t relate to the golf swing. Muscles must be relaxed, he said.
The Society is very grateful to Bruce Green, Brian Simpson and Brian Twite for being so generous with their time and making possible a memorable evening which the audience acknowledged with enthusiasm.