The only European golfer ever to hold the course record at Augusta National – with a score one shot better than Rory McIlory’s best effort back in 2011 – returned to another historic venue today where his 48-year-old course record still stands.
Maurice Bembridge, 70, now living in Switzerland, qualified for the 1967 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool by scoring a blistering 63 (9-under par) at Delamere Forest Golf Club in Cheshire.
Now widely regarded as one of the finest traditional heathland courses in England and the best inland course in Cheshire, Delamere Forest is keen to welcome visitors to tackle the new-look course with many distinctive features.
Maurice’s record, which was matched last year by 16-year-old club member Lewis George, featured a back-nine of just 29 shots, including birdies at the first four holes around the turn. Today, in the company of Lewis, Maurice played over the final holes that have been remodelled recently by the acclaimed golf course architects Mackenzie & Ebert.
“It was really great to be back at Delamere Forest and to remember what I achieved all those years ago,” said Maurice. “They’ve done a great job with the re-design, but I can still see some of the course that once stood out there.
“I have very fond memories of this course and it was a pleasure to be playing with Lewis who recently matched my record, although he wasn’t playing for a place in The Open!”
The course record Maurice set at Delamere Forest was reminiscent of the one he recorded at Augusta National seven years later.
With just over two weeks until the first major of the season, Maurice’s course record in the final round of the 1974 Masters was thanks to another remarkable back-nine, where he birdied every hole around Amen Corner enroute to a final round 64 to finish tied 9th behind eventual winner Gary Player.
Maurice has McIlroy down among the favourites to win the Green Jacket and complete a career Grand Slam this year, perhaps even imitating his score on the final day:
“He’s one of the best players in the world and he now knows what is required to win around there, having been in the lead going into the final day once before.
“If he takes his chances and puts the ball on the right side of the hole, then he can make a lot of birdies. He’s experienced enough around the course now to know which flags to attack and that is very important,” added Maurice.
In a career spanning nearly four decades, Maurice beat Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino during four GB&I Ryder Cup appearances and won 20 titles worldwide – including six on the European Tour (three in 1974). He held the course record at Augusta for 12 years before Nick Price shot a 63 in the third round in 1986 and Greg Norman matched that figure during his opening round a decade later.
On his return to Delamere Forest, Maurice was presented with a silver scorecard plaque honouring his long-standing course record and made a Honorary Life member of the club.
Delamere Forest GC www.delameregolf.co.uk.
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