SA Open Fast Facts – Most Prolific Champions

Grand Slam champion Gary Player holds the record with 13 SA Open victories; credit Getty Images 2016

December 2020 – The South African Open is one of the oldest golf championships, dating to 1903. Not surprisingly, Grand Slam champion Gary Player has the most victories, with Bobby Locke – the youngest champion at age 17 – second with nine.

Gary Player: 1956, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981

Gary Player is the biggest winner in the history of the South African Open Championship and his record 13 wins are the stuff of legend. Player’s unprecedented successive victories between 1965 and 1969, and again from 1975 to 1977 make him by far the most dominant figure in the tournament’s history. He won in four different decades, and Player remains the South African sportsman of the century. Along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, he is regarded as one of the biggest superstars golf has ever produced and his nine Major victories stand as testimony to that.

Bobby Locke; credit Golf Monthly

Bobby Locke: 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1946, 1950, 1951, 1955

Bobby Locke had his career interrupted by the Second World War, but represented the country with distinction. His nine South African Open Championship victories testify to the talent that Locke possessed. Until Player came through, Locke was considered the best ever South African, having claimed his first victory in 1935. From 1937 through to 1940, Locke would dominate the South African Open, winning it four consecutive times, and winning it again in 1946, 1950, 1951 and the last one came in 1955. The following tournament in 1956 would be Player’s maiden SA Open title.

Syd Brews (left in this picture, with Reg Whitcombe, Henry Cotton, and Bobby Locke on the right)

Sid Brews: 1925, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1949, 1952

Brews (left in this picture, with Reg Whitcombe, Henry Cotton, and Bobby Locke on the right) was born in Blackheath, London, England. He turned pro in 1914. He won the South African Open title a total of eight times between 1925 and 1952, when he became the tournament’s oldest-ever champion aged 53. He also won the South African PGA Championship six times. His brother Jock Brews won the South African Open four times. He enjoyed considerable success outside of South Africa. In 1934, probably his finest year, he finished second in The Open to Henry Cotton, and won both the French Open and Dutch Open championships. He would retain both of those titles in 1935.

SA Open champion George Fortheringham

George Fotheringham: 1908, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1914

George Fotheringham only won five tournaments – and they were all the South African Open Championship. He was a Scottish-American professional golfer who played in the early 20th century. In 1903 he moved to Durban, and took up a position as professional at the Royal Durban Golf Club and remained there until 1914. He finished tied for 13th place in the 1912 Open Championship held at Muirfield. In 1914 he was posted as professional at the Williamsport Country Club in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He was one of the founding members of the PGA of America and played in the first two PGA Championship tournaments, in 1916 and 1919.

Ernie Els; credit Sunshine Tour

Ernie Els: 1992, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2010

Ernie Els, or ‘The Big Easy’, has been the most dominant South African among his contemporaries when it comes to the South African Open Championship. He has won it an astonishing five times, his first win a three-stroke defeat of Derek James in the 1992 edition of the tournament. He followed that up with another victory four years later. Els went on to win it a further three times when he beat David Frost in the 1998 event and compatriots Trevor Immelman and Retief Goosen in 2006 and 2010 respectively.