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Horace Henry Alfred (Ossie) Pickworth (1918–1969)

by Weston Bate

This article was published:

Horace Henry Alfred (Ossie) Pickworth (1918-1969), golfer, was born on 17 January 1918 at Manly, Sydney, fifth child of Sydney-born parents Harold Thomas Pickworth, stonemason, and his wife Helena Doris Matilda, née Grey. Ossie left school at 14 and, despite admonishment, caddied at Manly Golf Club until he was appointed assistant-professional there in 1934. Fair haired, slim and strong, he practised tirelessly, but did not win the State assistants' title until 1938.

After seven tournament wins, he enlisted in the Militia on 9 August 1940 and began full-time duty in the Australian Army Service Corps. Transferring to the Australian Imperial Force in July 1942, he trained as a cook and served (from 1945) on Morotai and in British North Borneo before being discharged from the army on 4 February 1946. At St Matthew's Anglican Church, Manly, on 15 December 1942 he had married Lorna Estelle McDougall, a 20-year-old waitress. He often seemed more proud of his cooking and home life than his golfing feats.

In 1946-48 Pickworth became the only golfer to win three Australian Open championships in succession, the last in a play-off with Manly's earlier wonder boy, Jim Ferrier. Following his first Open, Pickworth was invited to a teaching and playing position at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, where his earthy language and camaraderie offended the long-serving incumbent, Arthur Le Fevre, whose retirement in 1948 only softened a nagging embarrassment. Although pleased with Pickworth's successes, many members missed Le Fevre's polite attentiveness; they were also uneasy about Pickworth's frequent tournament absences. Social incompatibility and contractual issues ended Pickworth's stay at Royal Melbourne in 1953. In the following year he accepted the post of professional at the Cranbourne Country Club, won his fourth Australian Open and kept on winning tournaments. Even so, he could not have afforded to represent Australia in the 1957 Canada Cup without a £10,000 Tattersall's lottery win. That, and failing health, changed his life. A committed family man, he decided in 1958 to become licensee of the Railway Hotel, Hawthorn.

Always nonchalant, a cigarette on his lips, Pickworth sized up situations rapidly and played without hesitation. 'My feet ache from walking' was his explanation for his speedy rounds. He was famous for bunker play, fairway woods and fearless putting. He liked to back himself—to break a course record or hole out a ball embedded in a bunker. Never daunted, he was smilingly at ease with galleries; over a beer, he was a born story-teller, with an infectious giggle that anticipated laughter. He gave generous support to charities and served as president (1955-58) of the Professional Golfers' Association of Australia.

Pickworth won every major Australian event: four Opens, three Australian (1947, 1953 and 1955) and four Victorian (1948, 1954-56) Professional championships, six Ampol tournaments (1947-49, 1951 and 1953) and the Victorian Open (1957). He considered his greatest round to be a ten-under-par 63, to beat Bobby Locke's 65, at Royal Melbourne in 1950. That year Royal Melbourne members helped him to visit Britain. The British Open eluded him, but he won the Irish Open, drawing from Henry Cotton the comment, 'the best pair of hands I have ever seen'. In retirement, Ossie played golf socially, but failed to regain amateur status. In 1968 he was made a life member of the P.G.A. He died of chronic hypertensive renal failure on 23 September 1969 at Parkville and was cremated; his wife, daughter and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. de Groot, Pro Golf (Syd, 1991)
  • J. Johnson, The Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Melb, 1991)
  • Victorian Golf, Oct 1969
  • Herald (Melbourne), 17 Feb 1956, 24 Sept 1969
  • Sun (Sydney), 27 Sept 1969
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 28 Apr 1978, 24 Dec 1984.

Citation details

Weston Bate, 'Pickworth, Horace Henry Alfred (Ossie) (1918–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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