‘Ghost of Conquest’: How Maurice Flitcroft Cheated R&A

BBC Sport Insight banner

Maurice Flitcroft, posing next to a claret jug
Flitcroft is the topic of the 2022 and biographical 2011 movie ‘The Phantom of the Open’
place: St Andrews, Scotland dates: 14-17 July
protection: BBC TV, Radio and on-line on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Purple Button, BBC Radio 5 Reside, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport on-line and BBC Sport cellular app. Full protection particulars.

1988 will ceaselessly be related to Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards for British sports activities followers. However two months after the ski leap race completed final on the Calgary Winter Olympics, an eccentric underdog was heading throughout the Atlantic.

His title was Maurice Flitcroft. Or Jane Pacecchi. Or Gerald Pastime. Or James Bo Jolly. Or Arnold metric. Or Rely Manfred von Hofmenstall.

Dubbed “the worst golfer on the earth,” Flitcroft rose to prominence over a decade in the past with a report rating of 121 in his ill-fated quest to qualify for the 1976 Open. It was an try he repeated a number of instances, utilizing faux names in an uncommon sport of cat and mouse with the match organizers R&A.

His efforts piqued the curiosity of Michigan’s Clythefield Nation Membership, who within the late Eighties invited the Manchester-born Flitcroft to play in an occasion named in his honour.

“We felt it was solely applicable to get to know what we take into account to be a median golfer,” membership professional Buddy Witten stated on the time.

They known as him Maurice “Albatross” Flitcroft, and his exceptional story started in 1974, when he returned residence on the northwest coast of England.

short transverse gray line

Flitcroft was fascinated by watching the golf match on his model new shade TV in his Barrow-in-Furness front room. He ordered a bunch of golf equipment from a catalog, borrowed instruction books from the library and headed to the seaside to hit some balls.

He was a fantastic diver, ice cream vendor, and artist. At the moment he labored as a crane driver. On the age of 45, he’s now a golfer.

“The sport began within the fall of 1974,” Flitcroft later stated. “I used to be working full time and did not have a lot time to train that fall and winter however the next summer season I used to be working.

“I learn concerning the sport and about The Open and I believed it will be a fantastic match to play in. I believed it will be good to realize that degree, in order that was my plan.”

“He completely thought he might win the Open,” his good friend Trevor Kirkwood stated.

Maurice Flitcroft at the 1976 Open
Flitcroft (far proper) died on the age of 77 in 2007. His son Jane described him as a “actual character” who “beloved golf” and was “extremely popular”

Though he didn’t play a full 18-hole spherical, Flitcroft superior to enter qualifying for the 1976 Open, which was to be performed at Royal Birkdale, close to his residence.

The entry paper requires a field to be marked subsequent to the beginner or skilled.

“I entered The Open as an expert,” he stated. “I couldn’t enter as an beginner as a result of I used to be not a member of a membership and didn’t have a incapacity certificates.

“However I did not want these issues to get in as a professional. My entry was accepted and that was it.”

Flitcroft, whose follow was restricted to placing his front room into espresso cups and enjoying the odd gap after sneaking into programs—and all the time chasing him—was despatched to a 36-hole qualifying occasion at Formby. What occurred would have been hardly plausible had it not been documented.

He nearly missed the tee time, having gotten misplaced whereas driving to the observe. So as a substitute of getting time to heat up within the driving lane and placed on the inexperienced, he did what most of us do when he confirmed up for our weekly sport and sped straight to the primary tee.

Taking part in companions Jim Howard and Dave Roberts had been ready.

“Morris had a bunch of Harold Fowl golf golf equipment, which had been catalog golf equipment,” Howard, the primary black participant to change into a PGA skilled, recalled in a latest PGA interview.

“His mother had purchased these for him. And there have been 15 of them in his bag. The packer needed to take one to the professional store so Morris had Regulation 14. He was sporting a pair of shorts, a Fred Perry shirt ripped on the prime and a ham pie hat.”

“Dave and I did not suppose a lot about it. And when he skied on the primary tee and fell about 20 yards, we thought it was nerves.”

When Flitcroft transformed his second shot to tough and took two extra instances earlier than his ball reached the opening drives of Howard and Roberts, they despatched for an R&A official to examine on the rookie professional.

Nevertheless, the lads within the fits had been powerless to pressure the participant off the observe as quickly as he began.

What adopted was a “triple and quadruple stealth blizzard, destroyed by one particular person,” in response to a newspaper report.

On the ninth day, phrase unfold all through the course that one thing distinctive was occurring and that “a crowd of two or 300 individuals gathered to comply with us out of curiosity,” Howard stated.

“The official complete was 121 however it was in all probability much more,” he added, explaining that within the fifth minute – he and Roberts received into the inexperienced in two sections – “Morris was within the dunes and we did not know what number of pictures he took.”

Quantity 12 was scored with a query mark on the scorecard after a participant from the again group stated he noticed Flitcroft take a minimum of as many pictures into the dunes.

“I wasn’t glad in any respect as a result of this rating did not replicate my true skill,” stated Flitcroft actually indignant after his 49-point run.

“I ought to have used 4-wood, however I left that within the automotive. I used to be a 4-wood knowledgeable, and killer flour.”

Maurice Flitcroft, standing next to the Sword of Ballesteros
19-year-old Sefi Ballesteros (centre) would end second on the 1976 Open with six pictures behind Johnny Miller.

Realizing that he would wish to hit 23 within the second spherical to have any probability of qualifying, Formby left and went residence, leaving U.S. postal employee Walter Daneke, who equally made his option to the 1965 Open, with a qualifying report of 36 holes. 81 levels above equation 221.

Flitcroft was back and front web page information, with headlines celebrating the courageous detective who cheated R&A.

However R&D Secretary Keith McKenzie wasn’t amused. Flitcroft has been banned from enjoying.

When he tried to get within the following yr, McKenzie refused the request, stating that the sad hacker had supplied no proof that his sport had improved.

The pair continued to correspond through letters, with Flitcroft reportedly difficult a grumpy Mackenzie to a sport on the Outdated Course in St. Andrews. The request was denied, unsurprisingly.

Flitcroft, unchecked, started utilizing aliases to get his method. Strive 5 extra instances. In R&A’s efforts to thwart the persistent participant, R&A employed a handwriting knowledgeable to disclose his correspondence for one yr.

He used the names James Bo Jolly (Bo after his canine and pronounced Beaujolais as a result of he “performed like good pink wine”), Arnold Palmetre as a nod to Mr. Palmer, and the illustrious Rely Manfred von Hofmenstall.

He received to Swiss participant Gerald Hoppy – Gerald is his center title and Hoppy is a nickname given to him by his mom – and performed 9 holes earlier than being attacked.

“Think about their shock once they came upon that they had a Morris Flitcroft on their fingers,” he stated.

Flitcroft’s inventory was excessive. He appeared on ITV’s breakfast present Good Morning Britain, and was honored within the US, the place Blythefield in Michigan celebrated his imply look with an annual occasion.

Maurice G Flitcroft Spring Stag was created by Tim Moore in 1978. The occasion rewarded poor play with golf classes, bowling balls, and goldfish. By 2000, two holes had been reduce in a number of the greens.

In 1987, Tim’s brother, Terry, a golf author, was invited to play and “Within the Mist” after scoring a hole-in-one with one iron within the fifteenth, he made a plan to herald Morris for the tenth anniversary celebration the next yr.

“I spoke to Yorkshire Put up golf author Richard Dodd at The Masters and requested him to examine on Morris for me,” Terry instructed BBC Sport.

“Richard instructed me he was a ‘innocent eccentric’, so I known as British Airways to see in the event that they’d wish to fly him. They beloved the thought and in addition gave me two free enterprise class tickets to make use of for towing.”

Morris and his spouse Jean flew to close by Detroit. Based on a relative, it was “the primary time that they had been out of the home collectively for the reason that gasoline furnace exploded.”

“Their baggage did not arrive on the identical flight, so we needed to go and get them some garments,” Terry stated.

“We hit it fairly nicely though they went out to my home for dinner and we took them on a ship within the lake—though that was reduce brief as a result of Morris received slightly seasick, which is ironic given he was within the Service provider Navy.”

The exploits of The Flitcrofts made front-page information and several other US TV stations had been despatched in to cowl the golf occasion.

“He is happy with himself in Blythfield,” Terry continues. “Lots of people had been watching, the camcorders had been rolling and hitting his first tee proper down the center, 200 yards, was a superb drive.

“I feel the R&A staff would have been happy with him. He performed wonderful, with a profession swing and I feel he fired someplace within the ’80s, low ’90s. He is clearly been coaching.”

Flitcroft was 58 when he performed in Blythfield, and because of expertise, he made his last bid to qualify for The Open two years later.

He entered the 1990 match as Gene Pacecchi – stories differ as as to if this was a tribute to Danike or a play on phrases across the nickname, pronounced “paycheck”.

He was a good three after two holes earlier than he was caught and brought off the observe, regardless of wanting to complete the third the place he “had a superb probability of parity”.

Maybe it was a becoming finish to his open profession. The cranky underdog was caught once more whereas enjoying the final sport of cat and mouse.

About the BBC iPlayer BannerAbout the BBC iPlayer footer