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  Monday, 31 December, 2001, 00:07 GMT
Faulkner's reward for Open triumph
Faulkner (back row, black suit) achieved his boyhood dream
Faulkner (back row, black suit) achieved his dream
Max Faulkner, winner of the 1951 Open at Royal Portrush, has been honoured with an OBE for "services to golf".

The victory proved to be Faulkner's only Major title, something of a surprise for a player of such undoubted talent.

It was also the last Open triumph for a home golfer for 18 years, until Tony Jacklin's victory at Royal Lytham in 1969.

When Faulkner, now was asked for his signature ahead of the final round of the championship, he famously wrote: 'Max Faulkner, 1951 Open champion'.

"There was no way I was going to lose," Faulkner recalled.


It meant so much that one victory in '51 sapped my will
Max Faulkner
"When I was handed the trophy, I looked at the names on it - Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Henry Cotton - and thought 'Wow'!

"It was marvellous, I was very lucky."

Luck, of course, plays a part in any sporting triumph, but Faulkner, could afford to be confident when writing that famous autograph.

Going into the final round at Royal Portrush - the only Irish venue to stage the Open - he enjoyed a six-shot lead courtesy of some wonderful putting and shot making.

One of golf's great shots

Leading the field by four strokes at the 16th hole of the third round, Faulkner hooked his tee shot within a few inches of the out-of-bounds fence and was faced with a tricky decision.

He could either take a wedge and chip the ball onto the fairway and probably accept a bogey, or he could take a full swing and start the ball out of bounds, hoping to fade it back into play.

Reaching for his three wood, Faulkner lashed the ball over the fence and, as the gallery watched spellbound, it dutifully turned right, right and right again as it crossed the fence and bounded up the fairway on to the green.

"It was," said American playing partner Frank Stranahan, "the greatest shot I've ever seen."

That shot helped Faulkner to a third round 70.

But, with the final two rounds in those days played on the Friday to allow the club professionals to get back to their shops, the burden of leading was expected to prove too much for the colourful character.

Agonising wait

Dressed in a horizontal striped shirt and primrose-coloured plus-fours, Faulkner went to the turn in 37 and dropped further shots on the 12th, 15th and 16th for a closing 74 and 285 aggregate, three-under-par.

There was no such thing as the leaders going out last for the final rounds so Faulkner then had an agonising wait in the clubhouse, sipping a succession of cups of tea as he waited for his challengers to finish.


It was all I ever wanted - the Open meant everything to me
Max Faulkner
Argentina's Antonio Cerda emerged as the biggest threat as he approached the last five holes needing one more birdie to tie.

But Faulkner was not to be denied as Cerda eventually carded a 70 to leave the Briton the winner by two shots.

"It was all I ever wanted," Faulkner said. "The Open meant everything to me.

"In fact, it meant so much that one victory in '51 sapped my will.

"I remember I had a putt at the second hole of the first round at Lytham the following year from about four feet which I managed to miss and my immediate thought was: 'That's it, I'll never win the Open again'.

"To this day I don't understand it. I'd made a vow at 12 and when I finally achieved my ambition at the age of 34, when I was cracking on a bit, the desire had gone."

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