Henry Longhurst

Henry Longhurst (Journalist/Author)

1909 - 1978

Henry Carpenter Longhurst (18 March 1909 – 21 July 1978) was a British golf writer and commentator. For 45 years, he was golfing correspondent of the Sunday Times. During World War II, Longhurst was also a member of parliament (MP) for Acton in west London, England. Longhurst was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame and will be inducted in September 2017.[1]

Longhurst was born in Bedford, the son of Harry Longhurst who established the firm of Longhurst & Skinner, a house-furnishing business at Bedford. He was educated at St Cyprian's SchoolEastbourne, close to the Royal Eastbourne Golf Club, where he records "gazing at them – the caddies, not the golfers – with deepest envy as I peered surreptitiously up from the Greek unseen." He was "hooked for life" during a family holiday in 1920 at Yelverton in Devon, where he started playing golf on a home-made three-hole course on a common. Here Longhurst was encouraged by the local professional.[2] He was subsequently educated at Bedford School before winning a scholarship to Charterhouse School and in 1928 went to Clare College, Cambridge, where he later became Captain of the Cambridge University Golf Club.

After starting work in the family business, he found a post selling advertising space for the Hardware Trade Journal. He had been attracted by the politics of the proprietor, Sir Ernest Benn, and had become a member of the Individualist Society, which Benn founded. Longhurst started writing for a monthly golf magazine called Tee Topics and came to the attention of the editor of the Sunday Times who invited him to contribute to the sporting page. Thus, he became the golf correspondent of the Sunday Times, and retained that position for 40 years. He was also a regular contributor to Golf Illustrated.

In 1943, Longhurst was elected at a by-election as Conservative MP for Acton in West London, but lost the seat at the 1945 general election.[3] During the 1931 general election, Longhurst had spoken at a campaign meeting supporting Bedford's Conservative candidate, which he described as "a heady introduction to politics, and once you have been bitten by the bug it is almost impossible, as in golf, to throw it off".[4]

From the late 1950s to the end of his life, he was BBC Television's senior golf commentator. Longhurst featured on US Golf telecasts working for both CBS and ABC. CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian hired Longhurst to work selected broadcasts starting with the Carling Tournament in 1965. He is best remembered by American audiences for his calls at the 16th hole of the Masters Tournament including Jack Nicklaus' 40-foot birdie putt that led to victory in 1975. Longhurst's call of the putt ("My my.... in all my life I have never seen a putt quite like that.") is a regular feature in Masters broadcasts. He had many lifelong friends including the cricket writer and commentator E.W. Swanton, and Alistair Cooke. Cooke referred to his writing as "the prose style, which was as effortless as falling out of bed."[5]

In 1953, Longhurst acquired the Clayton Windmills (Jack and Jill) near Brighton in Sussex. He lived for a number of years at "Jack", first in the mill itself and then in a modern house next to it built for him in 1963 by the architect Peter Farley who also designed Brighton Marina. "Jill" was derelict but with a grant from East Sussex County Council it was restored and opened for visitors.[6]

In his memoirs, My Life and Soft Times, (1971), he defended St Cyprians, the school he had arrived at in 1915, from critics like Gavin Maxwell, and George Orwell who had attacked it in his polemic Such, Such Were the Joys. Notwithstanding, Longhurst's mention of being made to eat up a bowl of porridge into which he had been sick has been described as 'an own goal'.[7]

He died in Cuckfield, Sussex, in 1978, aged 69.