11th January 2018 | Sunshine Tour
The man behind the Freddie Tait trophy
Today is the 147th anniversary of Freddie Tait’s birth, and it’s worth reflecting on the man after whom the trophy for the leading amateur in the BMW SA Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni is named.
Frederick Guthrie Tait (11 January 1870-7 February 1900) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He quickly established himself as a fine young golfer, most notably for his power and distance off the tee. He played at St Andrews, the home of golf, at the age of seven and was granted membership soon after. In 1894, he set the course record there, and a few months later went on to finish as the low amateur at the Open Championship.
He was a tall, powerful man and one of the longest hitters of his era. He became famous nationwide when on his birthday in 1893 he produced a record-breaking drive of 341 yards on the 13th hole of the Old Course. His gutta-percha ball flew 250 yards and ran a further 91 yards on the frozen fairway.
In 1896, he won the Amateur Championship and finished third at the Open. His last competitive year in golf was in 1899. That year he finished as the low amateur at the Open for the third time, and also registered the course record at Archfield with a remarkable 63.
Tait was first and foremost a soldier, and his golfing career came to an end as he boarded the SS Orient bound for the Cape to fight in the Boer War. After surviving the battle of Magersfontein in December 1899 when his battalion was decimated, Tait recovered from his wound and went on to lead his platoon at the battle of Koedoesburg Drift near Kimberley. Here he tragically suffered a fatal shot to the chest while leading a forward rush.
In 1928 the Freddie Tait Cup was purchased courtesy of the surplus funds from the British Amateur Tour to South Africa. The cup bears the R&A Club die and crest and the medal die of the Army Golfing Society.
Bernard Wynne was the first amateur to be awarded this honour way back in 1929. South Africa’s Brandon Stone won the prestigious trophy in 2011, and he joined an elite list of players that includes the likes of Jock Verwey, Bobby Locke, Denis Hutchinson and Dale Hayes. Cameron Moralee won it last year.
In 1936 Tait’s putter was presented to the Kimberley Golf Club. Tait’s will had asked for his putter to be given to the club closest to the site of his death. The club holds an annual Freddie Tait Putter competition, in 1990 a Freddie Tait Museum was opened, and, to mark the centenary of his death, a Freddie Tait Golf Week was instigated in 2000.