The Loop

The Loop

The lefty before there was 'Lefty' turns 80

March 18, 2016

This particular point of the calendar is a good time to celebrate all things Bob Charles.

The patron saint for lefthanders, the New Zealander and World Golf Hall of Fame player turned 80 on Monday. But big career moments occurred in this March-April stretch for the original Boss of the Moss. The last of his six PGA Tour victories came on April 7, 1974, when he won the Greater Greensboro Open by a stroke over Ray Floyd and Lee Trevino. And he won his first Champions Tour title on March 22, 1987, at the Vintage Chrysler Invitational.

The winner of the 1963 Open Championship—making him the first lefthander to win a major—Charles had bought an 800-acre farm in 1973 in Christchurch, New Zealand, when he thought his days of being a contender were over and needed a fallback plan that included sheep. But he won at the GGO, and after joining the Champions Tour in 1986, finished sixth on that tour’s all-time tournament wins list with 23. In 1990, Golf Digest published a profile of him with the headline “Bob Charles Puts His Sheep on Hold.”

Charles was a lean physical specimen. While 6-foot-1, Charles weighed just 175 pounds thanks to a focused exercise routine and strict diet. And not only was he the best lefthanded golfer in the world when he played, he was likely the best putter from either side. Charles was proponent of a pendulum stroke with the shoulders and arms forming a triangle, and his putter of choice was a Bulls-Eye. He said “feel” was the key putting element to develop. “I think the most important concern in putting practice should be judging distance,” he wrote in Golf Digest in 1969. “This really is what putting is all about—the development of touch or ‘feel’, the coordination of eye and hand.”

Prior to turning pro in 1960, Charles was a banker for six years, a skill that was undoubtedly helpful in handling $9.6 million in tour earnings.