By Michael Davis

THE late Australian golf legend Peter Thomson had a favourite Jack Newton story.

It happened on the first tee at an exclusive Sydney club during a final round of a NSW Open.

Newton was leading the event and Thomson was waiting on the first tee for him to start his final round on the Sunday.

Jack, already a loveable larrikin and Robert Redford look-alike adored by local galleries, was nowhere to be seen.

As the hit-off time approached; still no Jack. Then, with literally seconds to go, Newton swept onto the tee to declare, ‘I’ve had a …. and two boiled eggs and I feel terrific’. 

The jaws of the members within earshot dropped in unison. But it was classic Jack. He went on to win by plenty. Perhaps it was the two boiled eggs.

Newton and Thomson were a generation apart and did not really socialise. But Thomson was very fond of Jack. The five-time British Open champion loved Newton’s mental toughness.

He was never so sure though that Newton ever forgave him for declining the invitation to his wedding, Thomson telling him glibly that he would come to the next one.

Of course, there was no ‘next one’. Newton married Jackie, who like the late Bob Shearer’s wife, Kathie, met her husband when both were working for the cigarette company sponsoring a golf tournament in England.

Jack Newton cut a swathe through the UK … on and off the course.

At the time, Newton, Shearer and Ian Stanley, all now sadly gone, were playing on the European Tour and cutting a swathe through the UK on and off the golf course. 

Their mode of transport was a van painted in psychedelic colours. They were living the dream. They had a lot of fun and played some great golf along the way.

Indeed, in 1975, Newton came within a whisker of winning the British Open at Carnoustie. He tied with the great Tom Watson after four rounds. 

In those days, there was no sudden-death playoff. Instead, players returned the next day to duel over 18 holes to decide who lifted the Auld Claret Jug. Watson beat Newton by a shot in what is still regarded as one of the all-time epic contests in the game.

As a reminder, Newton had his score that day engraved on a gold ingot and wore it as a pendant most of his life.

The men who handed out the invitations to Augusta liked what they saw and invited the swashbuckling young Australian to play in the Masters the following April in 1976. 

It was then that Newton said he made one of the biggest mistakes in his career. 

He bought a new pair of golf shoes for his first tilt at the coveted green jacket. He suffered terribly blistered feet but still battled on manfully.

After the tournament, the revered Masters boss, Clifford Roberts, invited Newton to his office. “I heard you played hurt and didn’t complain,” Roberts said.

Newton was invited back every year afterwards.

Indeed, he nearly won at Augusta in 1980, pouring the final round pressure on eventual winner, the late Seve Ballasteros, with whom he remained great friends until the Spaniard’s premature death.

Seve’s English was never great and he always called Newton ‘Yaark’ whenever he saw him. 

This always amused Newton, nearly as much as Seve’s insistence he was ‘lucky’ to beat Newton that day.

Even so, by the time the pair walked to the 15th tee in 1980, Newton had reduced the Spaniard’s nine-shot lead to just two. 

Newton was a massive supporter of Australian golf and, along with Shearer, always headed home for the big events on local soil. They never asked for a cent, while organisers forked out big bucks to lure ‘the names’ to Australia.

Practising with the great Jack Nicklaus before an Australian Open at the Nicklaus-designed Australian Golf Club in Sydney, Newton let his displeasure at overseas appearance fees being paid to the ‘stars’ at the expense of the tournament purse. 

Nicklaus was so impressed he forfeited his own appearance fee ($50,000) and tossed it into the pot. 

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