25 Feb 2021 | Industry news |
Vale Lyndsay Stephen
by Mike Clayton
As the golfing world mourns the loss of Lyndsay Stephen, Mike Clayton remembers his pal 'Lynds' ...
There has been a long-time joke on the Australian tour about getting caught on the wrong side of the draw. You know, when half the field gets a perfect, windless morning only for the afternoon lot to have to play through a heavy seaside wind on greens drying out and getting slicker by the minute.
It’s been universally known in Australia as the ‘Lyndsay Stephen draw’ because you could guarantee ‘Lynds’ would be off in the brutal afternoon conditions. Or so it seemed.
Of course, these things are always 50/50 but the long hitting man from Perth perhaps noticed his misfortune more than some others.
“We would all joke about it when playing tournaments. You had no chance if you were on the same side as Lynds. We loved him for that,” said Ian Baker-Finch when his friends heard the, sadly, inevitable news he had died in Perth.
Lynds - no one ever called him Lyndsay - had been sick for a few years, but he always seemed so optimistic that he would somehow beat the cancer.
He was a beautiful looking player. Blessed with perfect rhythm and a big, handsome swing, he was one of the few who could keep up with Greg Norman off the tee when both were at their flying best.
Not that it did either of them much good one day many years ago at Royal Melbourne. They were drawn with an ageing Kel Nagle who, at his longest, earned the nickname the ‘Pymble Crusher’.
But the older man’s length was all but gone by the time the trio teed up on the Composite Course in the mid-1980s. Playing into the 18th green, Kel was going in from a long way back with a 4-wood and both Lynds and Greg had only 9-irons left.
Kel bumped his wood on to 15 feet, well inside the two bombers' decidedly average pitch shots. As they got to the green, Kel turned to them both and said: “Not really too much you can say, boys.”
It was one of those stories that, no matter how many times you heard it, one more time was never one too many.
Lynds played in Europe in what really was a golden era for Australians on the European Tour. Greg was just heading off to the United States when our lot started, but Rodger Davis, Finchy, Wayne Grady, Mike Harwood, Peter Fowler, Wayne Riley, Vaughan Somers, Peter Senior, Frank Nobilo, Greg Turner (we always counted the New Zealanders as ours) had about as much fun as you can imagine. It was competitive, but if anyone needed help it was always there.
But there was one torment none of us could ever help Lynds with. He was desperate, as we all were, every year, to play in The Open. Finchy famously won it, Harwood, Grady and Davis played well enough to finish second at different times, but Lynds never got to play the game’s oldest championship.
It really was a pity because he was easily a good enough player, but the cards just fell where they did.
One particularly torturous year was 1986. The top five non-exempt players in the previous week’s tournament at Moortown made it straight into Turnberry – the famous Greg Norman Open.
Lynds jumped out to an early 65-67 lead on the famous Alister MacKenzie course, but a 76 on Saturday did him no favours and a 70 on the final day tied him for ninth and a place in a four-man playoff for one spot.
He missed it, drove all the way to Scotland, teed up in the 36-hole qualifier and missed that by a shot. There’s not much you can say to a mate in that situation, but you can bet it was a long drive back to London.
Later in the same year, Norman was on his triumphant homecoming tour and in his best form. He won the Queensland, New South Wales, South Australian and West Australian Opens, but Lynds was second at Concord, a shot ahead of Steve Elkington, tied with Mark O’Meara for fourth at Lake Karrinyup, 10th in Queensland and 14th at Kooyonga. Greg, of course, eclipsed us all but it was an awfully nice run of form for the sweet swinger.
Three growing children brought him home from Europe and he parlayed his reputation into a career of corporate golf. He was a terrific imitator of swings, a great storyteller and had the necessary patience of a saint when it came to teaching amateurs, many of whom were there because they’d bought an expensive car and not because they were any great shakes as golfers. He would always make them laugh and sent them away better players than when they arrived.
Lynds truly did get the bad side of the draw when it came to the most important of things, but he handled it was well as anyone could have, and with nary a word of complaint.
Like golf, it wasn’t fair, but the many who met him all over the world will remember someone who, as Finchy said: “(Lynds) was everyone’s friend with not one enemy in the world.”
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