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England and Wales (North) Region

Birkdale legend Halsall dies at 99

13 Dec 13

Former Royal Birkdale PGA Professional and Open Championship stalwart Robert Halsall has died at the age of 99.

Halsall, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in June 2014, caddied at the Southport-based club as a boy and went on to work as the club’s pro from 1945 until his retirement in 1979.                                  

Taking up his first full-time role at the club as assistant professional in 1928, Halsall was soon eagerly anticipating meeting the world's best players at the 76th Open Championship which were due to be played at the links for the first time in 1940.

Instead the event was cancelled, the Second World War began and Halsall joined the First Battalion of England's Cheshire Regiment.

Halsall, who had crossed the Rhine with the Cheshire Regiment, made it home unscathed and returned to his role at the club in time for the 1946 British Amateur Championship.

Five years later, King George VI gave the club its royal title. And in 1954, after a 14-year delay, the Open Championship made its long-awaited Birkdale debut.

Peter Thomson won the Claret Jug that year. He finished a shot ahead of Bobby Locke, Dai Rees and Sid Scott, and eight-up on surprise contender Halsall.

Halsall went on to make several appearances in the Open, finishing in a share for 23rd place at St Andrews in 1955 where Thomson retained his crown.

For many years he would spend the winter months teaching in Monte Carlo, entrusting his brother Vincent, his assistant, to hold the fort in his absence.

Halsall was made an Honorary Member of The PGA in 1979 and never lost his enthusiasm for the game. He was often spotted playing on the links for many years after his retirement.

Royal Birkdale PGA Professional Brian Hodgkinson said: "He'd often pop into the shop and had an enthusiasm for playing golf which continued into his 90s."

Halsall, a life-long PGA Member, is survived by daughters Sophie, who followed in her father’s footsteps by coaching in Monte Carlo, and Catherine, who resides in London.

The funeral is at Southport Crematorium on Thursday, December 19, at 2pm. The crematorium is situated just outside Southport in Scarisbrick on the A570 Southport to Ormskirk Road.

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