Dick Burton (golfer)

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Dick Burton
Personal information
Full nameRichard Burton
Born(1907-10-11)11 October 1907
Darwen, Lancashire, England
Died30 January 1974(1974-01-30) (aged 66)[1]
Kingston upon Thames, England
Nationality England
Turned professional1929
Professional wins14
Best results in major championships
(wins: 1)
Masters TournamentDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNP
U.S. OpenCUT: 1946
The Open ChampionshipWon: 1939

Richard Burton (11 October 1907 – 30 January 1974) was an English professional golfer.[2][3]

Burton, a former four-loom weaver at Cobden Mill, is mainly remembered for winning The Open Championship (British Open) in 1939, when it was played on the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland and holding the Open title for the longest time – from 1939 till after World War II.[4] He played for Great Britain in the Ryder Cup in 1935, 1937, and 1949, and won two of his five matches.

Early life[edit]

Burton was born on a farm at Winter Hill in Darwen, Lancashire. The Burton family lived next to the Darwen Golf Club before moving to Lynwood Avenue. Richard was the youngest, but tallest, of three boys and with his brothers, Tom and John, used to watch members playing past their farm which was just above the clubhouse. As they had no golf equipment themselves, they had to make do with hitting bobbins from their mother's workbasket around the farm with an old walking stick. Eventually the brothers were given a few old hickory shafted clubs. Burton had started out as a caddie at Darwen Golf Club before applying for the position of greensman. After a number of years, in 1929, he then replaced his brother John as the club professional when John moved to the Hillside Club in Southport. Three years later, in 1932, Burton was appointed the professional at Hooton Golf Club, which is now known as Ellesmere Port Golf Club, which gave him more opportunity to play competitive golf. Also around this time Burton's remaining brother, Tom, was appointed the club professional at Darwen to complete a unique trio for the Burton family.


In 1934, Burton won the Northern Professional Championship, the first of many titles, the following year he collected the Dunlop-Northern Tournament and made his first appearance in the Ryder Cup for Great Britain. He was also runner-up in the Dunlop-Southport Tournament, semi-finalist in the News of the World Match Play and third in the Scottish Penfold Tournament. In 1936, Burton added the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament at Leeds Golf Club to his list of titles and he was runner-up in the Dunlop-Southport Tournament again but made the England team to play the annual match against Scotland, the first of three consecutive appearances. 1937 saw Burton win the Dunlop-Southport Tournament and he also appeared in the Coronation Match for King George VI. He appeared in the Ryder Cup again and was appointed the professional at Sale Golf Club on the Manchester Cheshire border and was the club professional until 1946. The following years brought more success, winning Manchester and District Professional Championship, being selected for the England team to play Ireland & Wales and finishing joint 4th in the 1938 Open Championship, held at Royal St George's in Kent, eight shots behind Reg Whitcombe.

At the 1939 Open Championship at the Old Course at St Andrews, his first three rounds of 70, 72 and 77 put in him contention. Burton started his fourth round already knowing that he needed to score 72 or better to win the title as his rivals had completed their rounds. He did not start well as he 3-putted at the first hole but he recovered and carded two birdies in the last three holes on the front nine to go out in 35 and leave him in a great position. On the second part of the course, Burton played cautiously at the treacherous 14th for a five and avoided the sandtraps on the 17th. He came to the last needing a four to win and hit a huge drive, then pitched to 15 feet. His putt looked like it might race past the hole but as Burton walked after it, it dropped in the hole for a closing birdie. A 71 left him on 290 to win by two shots from Johnny Bulla. Burton was the sixth British winner in a row since Denny Shute had won the last Open at St Andrews in 1933.

In 1939, apart from his Open triumph, Burton also won the True Temper Foursomes Tournament, partnering Fred Robson and lost in a playoff to Alf Padgham for the Silver King Tournament.

He won the News Chronicle Tournament, at Hollingbury Park Golf Club, in 1949 with a record aggregate for 72 holes, at the time, with 266 strokes.

Personal life[edit]

Burton's only book, named Length with Discretion, was published in 1939, shortly after his Open triumph, through Hutchinson & Co Publishers. It was a golf instruction in 13 chapters with illustrations.[5] However, a few weeks after his Open triumph, Burton was serving in the RAF and never really had the opportunity to capitalise on his success. The fairways at the Old Course at St Andrews ended up being used by the RAF as runways. When asked, later in life, if he regretted not being able capitalise on the Open Championship win he replied "I was lucky enough…a lot of those who watched me at St Andrews also went off to war and they never came back. Some of my friends didn’t make it either, I did." Burton also helped the war effort by raising money for the Red Cross by playing charity matches with Henry Cotton, who was also serving in the RAF.

In the spring of 1946, he wrote to the Royal and Ancient, "Dear Sirs, Please find enclosed my fee of five guineas for this year's Open. I will bring the trophy back when I come."

Burton is still celebrated at Sale Golf Club. Every year the club holds the Richard Burton Trophy on the weekend of the Open Championship, and have a display including the putter he used to win the Open. In later life, he was the club professional at Coombe Hill Golf Club in Kingston, Surrey. His assistant there was Neil Coles. Burton once bet a rival that he could beat him using only a putter. He lost his bet, but only on the 18th hole.

When Burton played fourball with other members, rather than pair up with a member, he would play against all three, and give full handicaps. He still won more often than not.

Also, Burton reputedly hit the 120-yard 17th hole with every club in his bag, including the putter.

Burton died in hospital on 30 January 1974 after a long illness.[6]

Tournament wins (14)[edit]

Major championships[edit]

Wins (1)[edit]

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1939 The Open Championship 4 shot deficit 70-72-77-71=290 2 strokes United States Johnny Bulla

Results timeline[edit]

Tournament 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
U.S. Open
The Open Championship T48 CUT T39 CUT T12 CUT T4 1
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT 12 5 T18 T14
Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
U.S. Open
The Open Championship CUT T12 T47 CUT CUT CUT
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968
U.S. Open
The Open Championship CUT CUT CUT

Note: Burton never played in the Masters Tournament or the PGA Championship.

  Top 10
  Did not play

NT = no tournament
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Team appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "Deaths - Richard Burton". The Times. 2 February 1974. p. 24.
  2. ^ Alliss, Peter (1983). The Who's Who of Golf. Orbis Publishing. p. 219. ISBN 0-85613-520-8.
  3. ^ "Dick Burton". Darwen Golf Club. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  4. ^ "1939 Dick Burton". The Open. Archived from the original on 26 November 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  5. ^ Burton, Richard. "Length with Discretion". Ilkley, West Yorkshire, UK: Fine Golf Books.
  6. ^ "Richard "Dick" Burton". cottontown.org. Retrieved 9 June 2016.