Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Edward Arthur Webber

If THERE is one thing diminutive Teddy Webber knows as much about as playing golf, it's how to keep a cool head, even when the chips are well and truly down. Always a good golfer, it was this ice-cool temperament which made this young man from Umtali a great sportsman.

A leading Rhodesian amateur for many years, Webber's first major achievement was winning the South African amateur match play title in 1977. That firmly established him as a 'name' in Southern Africa. He was the first Rhodesian to win the title and it capped a great year on the local circuit in which Webber won the Rhodesian amateur by a massive eleven strokes, the Mashonaland, Manicaland and Midlands championships and the Follow-the-Sun tournament at Triangle.

Looking at those achievements, few would have thought that the quietly spoken, unassuming Webber would go one better in 1978, his truly golden year in which he was to keep his head when all about him were losing theirs.

It was a historic occasion on 11 March when Webber disposed of Etienne Groenewald three and two on the tricky beach-front course at Durban Country Club to carry off the South African amateur match play title for the second time. The little Rhodesian was the first man in the 54-year history of the South African amateur championship to win the title twice.

Victory was not easy for Webber and if he had not taken heed of Rudyard Kipling's advice and met triumph and disaster, treating "those two impostors just the same", things could easily have gone wrong for him. But temperament and determination to stay unruffled, won the day.

The final against Groenewald was Webber's fifth match in three days after seventy-two holes of stroke play — a gruelling test of golf stamina. His calmness helped him to overcome two bad patches.

He was four up when he stepped on to the first tee to start the last eighteen holes of the final. He hit his first bad drive and got into trouble in the rough. After going out of bounds, Webber was forced to concede the hole.

But he did not let it upset him. Again he was able to keep his cool when he gave Groenewald a chance by chipping poorly and then three-putting on the fifth when he should have had the hole sewn up. Webber then tightened up his game and by the sixteenth the match was over.

"I was speechless, but it was a great feeling," Webber said afterwards. "It wasn't like last year. This time I had lots of Rhodesians giving me support and it helped plenty."

South Africa's most widely travelled golf personality, George Blumberg, who is better known as 'Uncle George', watched Webber win the title at Durban. "Webber is the most professional amateur in the business as far as playing the game of golf is concerned," Mr. Blumberg said. It was a remarkable achievement especially as Webber had completed an Army call-up only two weeks previously and was not particularly well-prepared for the championships.

Edward Arthur 'Teddy' Webber was born on 28 August 1951 at Umtali where he was educated and lived until 1979 when he moved to Salisbury. He started playing golf when he was six but did not take it seriously until he played in his first competition when he was twelve.

His first official handicap was thirty-two and playing off this at Umtali Golf Club he once scored fifty-two stableford points and was then cut to twenty-three. Within a year he was down to thirteen and a year later he was a six, then a three. He then joined the Hillside Golf Club and within six months was down to scratch. As a leading amateur his handicap fluctuated between plus two and plus three.

Webber continued to flourish, and he won the Rhodesian junior championship in 1968 after picking up the Mashonaland title the year before. In 1974 he was runner- up to Mark McNulty in the Rhodesian senior championship and in that year first represented Rhodesia in the Eisenhower Trophy in the Dominican Republic where the team finished thirteenth. In 1976 he again represented his country in the international Eisenhower Trophy at Penina Golf Club in Portugal.

The young Webber did as well at Penina, turning in the best four-round score for Rhodesia, which earned him fifth place in the world individual placings. There was no stopping the curly-haired Umtali golfer after that, and in 1977 he won the Rhodesian championship, the Manicaland and Mashonaland titles, the Hillside Masters for the third year in succession, and then crowned a great season by pocketing his first South African title in beating Richter van Niekerk on the thirty seventh hole at Bryanston Country Club.

People often talk of Simon Hobday, George Harvey, Nicky Price and Mark McNulty but few Rhodesian amateur golfers have been able to compare favourably with Webber's record.

November 1978 crowned a great season for Webber. He was elected Rhodesian Sportsman of the Year for some great achievements, the best of which was winning the South African title for the second year in succession. Webber was also a finalist for this top Rhodesian sporting award in 1977, when he was elected Golfer of the Year.

Webber was always the epitome of true sportsmanship on and off the course and was held in the highest regard by players and officials alike. After Webber won his second South African title, the Rhodesia Golf Union president, Doug Pechey, was at Salisbury airport to welcome Teddy home. "We are thrilled and proud of Teddy's achievements. There are not enough adjectives in the book," Mr. Pechey said.

In the latter part of 1978, Webber made the big decision to turn professional and he finished nineteenth in the South African Professional Golf Association's order of merit in his first crack at the Sunshine Circuit.

He would most certainly have finished higher had he been allowed to compete in the final event, the Holiday Inns in Swaziland, but he was refused a visa on his Rhodesian passport. At the time he had been in good form and was lying fourteenth.

In March 1979, Webber accepted the post of professional at Royal Salisbury Golf Club where members were happy to gain the full benefit of his expertise.



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