Martin Vousden on Simon Hobday

Mar 06 2017

Thought for the Day
Don’t think of cost.  Think of value

Had you ever seen Simon Hobday amble down a fairway you would probably not have been impressed – words like ‘scruffy’, ‘unkempt’ and ‘shambolic’ would probably have sprung to mind. But then you might watch him swing a golf club and be forced to revise your opinion because his swing was so pure, so perfect that it is the template on which David Leadbetter is believed to base his teaching. Simon died at the beginning of this month but he leaves a lot of memories.

Simon Hobday

Nick Price, a fellow Zimbabwean, said that Hobday and Lee Trevino were the greatest ball strikers he had ever seen. Speaking in a Golf Digest interview in November ’03 he was asked who was best and said: ‘There are two, actually. Simon Hobday is one of them, definitely. Trevino was mesmerising on the practice tee. You can always tell a pure ball-striker by the sound the ball makes coming off the club. It’s a dull thud, a very solid sound. I always listen to that with good ball-strikers.

‘Simon would have been a great, great player had his nerves been better. People say he drank a lot. He didn’t drink that much. He had trouble sleeping. I know; I roomed with him for a year in Europe. He wasn’t the carouser and the party animal that people thought.’

But he was the stuff of legend as much for his irreverent refusal to take life, or golf, too seriously as for the quality of his play. Whenever Tour pros, caddies or golf writers gather in bars late at night and bemoan the soulless nature of modern tournament golf and the clones who play it, sooner rather than later Hobday’s name will crop up because he was, and remained, the antidote to all that is regimented, routine, orthodox and dull.

David Feherty, who let’s face it, is uniquely qualified to recognise a flake if he meets one, wrote on his own website in 2000: ‘I think my favourite mind-loser, though, would have to be Zimbabwean Simon Hobday, who has brightened up the Senior PGA Tour for the last few years. Always a crowd favourite, Hobbers was prone to taking off his clothes and swimming across snake-infested water hazards and doing his laundry in the bathtub, stirring anti-clockwise with his laminated wooden driver. Golf needs more people like him.’

The reason you may not be familiar with Hobday’s name is that the combination of a beautiful swing that could send the ball exactly where he wanted, and a terrible putting stroke that did the opposite, allied to a temperament that was, how shall I put this, delicate at times, are not a recipe for continued success. Great ball-striking and awful putting would make a basket case out of most of us and it is no surprise that Simon’s most notable victory (out of 17 in his career) came at the 1994 US Senior Open, where the round bellies are able to enjoy themselves in a more relaxed atmosphere than the main tour. That win was achieved at Pinehurst 2, considered the toughest championship course in the USA.

My favourite Hobday story, and there are many, shows what can be achieved against stony-faced officialdom with just a little wit. When playing in America once he found his ball in a poor lie and called over an official by the name of Joe Terry to ask if he could get relief without it costing him a stroke but the request was turned down. So Hobday, who was conscious of the penalties imposed for speaking out of turn, politely enquired: ‘Would I be fined if I called you an a**hole?’ The rules official said that he would. ‘What if I called you a f*cking a**hole?’ asked Hobday, to be told that in this circumstance he would be fined even more.

‘Okay then,’ said Hobday, ‘what if I think you’re a f*cking a**hole but don’t say anything – is that okay?’ and the official had no choice but to agree that yes, it was.

When I asked him if this story was true, Hobday confirmed it but added: ‘Only the word I used was much worse than “a**hole.’

Golf, and life, needs more people like Simon Hobday and I for one will miss him greatly.

Quote of the week
I have only one goal in golf – to leave it with my sanity
Joe Inman

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