An ode to Langham: Grafton's greatest golfer
PETER Langham is Grafton's finest golfer and still stands as one of the best amateurs in the history of Australian sport.
From winning multiple club championships as a teenager to a round with Sir Donald Bradman, Langham has led an extraordinary life, taking him to unimaginable places.
His curiosity for golf stemmed from his love of sport at a young age and has never stopped.
"I loved playing all sports as a kid, I even played basketball and I was pretty short,” Langham laughed.
"I played a bit of cricket and lots of football but once I had left school, golf really took hold. My mum and dad didn't play but they could see I had a feeling for the game and they encouraged me as much as they could.”
Langham first started out as a caddy at 13 years old, working for two-bob a bag at what is now known as Westlawn Golf Course.
"There were about eight or ten caddies and we got paid around 25 cents for our work. I was saving up for a jamboree in Sydney and I had 12 months to save up.”
Langham's association with Carl Schaeffer helped spark an early interest in the game.
"I caddied for Carl, who was the president and club champion at the time. When he saw that I was keen he said 'you can have my clubs on caddies' afternoon' which was on Mondays,” he said.
"I only lived a block away so it was easy to go straight from school, grab my clubs at home and go straight on the course.
"We weren't allowed to play on the course unless it was Monday, so a couple of mates and I used to hit balls around the racetrack until we saw the workmen go home and we'd jump on the course and play the last few holes.
"Knowing just how keen we were, Carl changed the rules so that 16-year-olds could join instead of the original 18-year-old limit and the next month I was a member.”
Before too long, Langham saw his handicap reduced and was ready for his first big test - a club championship against Schaeffer.
"The first year I didn't qualify for the club championship but the second year I played Carl for it and won. After that I got a job washing bottles at his hardware store,” he said.
"He was my 'father of golf'. He took me to all the open days as a caddy and he used to pick me up as a member and take me where I needed to go. He was very good to me.”
Langham set aside his allegiances and claimed victory before going on to win the next two and the first on the brand new course.
One afternoon, honorary course warden Claude Lovell was victim to a cloud of sand as Langham tried to exit a bunker.
"I didn't think he was aiming to give me a kick in the pants so I appealed to him to show me how to play bunker shots before I was sent on my way,” Langham said.
When the two parted ways it was almost dark and Langham felt he had got the better end of the deal.
His meteoric rise continued with honours in 1951/52/53 Northern Rivers, North and North-West country tournaments.
Naturally, Langham was drawn to Sydney, the mecca of the sport at the time. After an exhibition with golfing legend Norman Von Nida, he was convinced that was where he needed to be.
The budding young star's first trip to the big city led him to Bonnie Doon Golf Club but things didn't quite go to plan after a disastrous course of events drove him to a poor performance.
"The first time I played in Sydney was a real education because the guys I was playing knew the course inside and out but I had no idea,” he said.
"The second time around I played the same course and did a bit better but it was hard work.”
His next trip to Sydney was preceded by far more preparation and an early arrival as he entered the NSW Amateur Championships and two solid rounds placed him at the top of the leader board.
A disappointing exit in the quarter-finals was enough to get him selected in the NSW team for the interstate carnival played in Adelaide in 1954.
Langham then found a job at Slazenger Sporting Goods in Sydney and worked with the company for 20 years, finishing in Adelaide as state manager.
"I moved to Sydney in 1955 after winning four club championships in Grafton. While I was on a trip with the NSW team they said to me 'you'll never improve if you stay in Grafton, Sydney has better competition',” he said.
"I didn't take much encouraging because I was excited by the prospect of living in the big city.
"It wasn't easy getting around in Sydney without a car but I was lucky to meet some friends that really helped me out.”
Even after his move, Langham looked to endorse Grafton and managed to talk a number of golfers into playing at the Jacaranda Tournament in 1955.
"After I left I kept coming back for that tournament and each year I started bringing more players with me. It got to the point where we had Sir Leslie Herron, Chief Justice of NSW, who would arrange us our own train following the Brisbane Express,” he said.
"Then we started to charter a plane each year thanks to Leslie. We had around 35 people coming back then, it was great fun.”
He often travelled back for a number of events including the July Carnival.
Langham has travelled the world playing golf and watching sporting events but one of his more memorable moments was a trip to Colorado Springs for the world masters.
"There were 10 of us from Australia and we got there a couple of days earlier. You leave your clubs on the cart and they take it out into a storage shed for the next day,” he said.
"I came to get the cart the next day and there was only one bag on the cart and it wasn't mine. I had this shiny damn thing and someone had pinched it the night before.”
Langham's incredible career included a number of club championships, 15 course records, travelling overseas to play in international tournaments and playing against some of the best in the world.
NSW Amateur Championship: 1959
Australian Foursomes: 1958 Royal Adelaide, 1959 Royal Sydney, 1954-64 NSW interstate team
NSW Mixed Foursomes: 1961 Long Reef
NSW Champion of Champions: 1956 Royal Sydney
NSW Open: Leading Amateur 1956/1962
NSW Stroke Medal: 1954/1960
Club Championship: 1951-1954 Grafton, 1956/1961 Concord, 1963/1965 The Lakes
South Australian Seniors: 1989 The Grange
Course records: 15
Lowest scores: 63 Concord, 66 Manly
Sydney Club Pennants: 4 times at The Lakes
Adelaide Club Pennants: 1974 The Grange