Walter Godfrey (golfer)

Walter John Ihaka Godfrey (born October 1941)[1] is a professional golfer from New Zealand.

Walter Godfrey
Personal information
Full nameWalter John Ihaka Godfrey
BornOctober 1941
Nationality New Zealand
Professional wins10
Best results in major championships
Masters TournamentDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNP
U.S. OpenDNP
The Open ChampionshipT22: 1970

Amateur careerEdit

Godfrey is from Matamata, New Zealand.[2] Godfrey was a star amateur golfer. He won a number of school championships in his youth before reaching the finals of the Auckland Schoolboys' Championship at the age of 13, losing to a student named JB Williams (caddie Steve Williams' father).[3] He won the New Zealand Amateur in 1958 while only 16 years old.[4] He remains the youngest winner of this tournament with current PGA Tour professional Danny Lee.[1] Two years later, Godfrey represented New Zealand in the Eisenhower Trophy, playing with Bob Charles. Their team finished 5th out of 32 teams. Godfrey also participated at the 1962 Eisenhower Trophy, leading his team to a 4th-place finish.[3] During this era he was also invited to play in amateur tournaments in South Africa but, because he is Maori, he decided not to travel, circumspect of how he would be treated in the apartheid country.[3] As an amateur, he also finished runner-up in the 1962 New Zealand Open behind Kel Nagle.

Professional careerEdit

The following year, Godfrey turned professional. He sporadically played in Europe in his first year, participating in the 1963 Open Championship won by Bob Charles, but the weather did not appeal to him and he returned to New Zealand.[5][1] The following year, he won his first important professional tournament, tying Frank Phillips at the West End Tournament in Victor Harbor, Australia. Godfrey missed a ​3 12-foot putt on the 18th hole to win outright.[6] The following year, he tied for second at the Metalcraft Tournament in his home country of New Zealand, three behind Australian legend Peter Thomson. During this era, he moved permanently to Australia.[3]

In 1967, Godfrey scored his greatest successes. At the beginning of the 1967–68 season Godfrey nearly won again at the West End Tournament. Godfrey shot a course record 65 during on Friday to get into contention and could have won if it were not for Kel Nagle's 64 – usurping Godfrey's own course record – on Sunday. Godfrey finished in a tie for second, three back of Nagle.[7] Two months later, on 10 December, he entered the final round of the BP Tournament, held near his hometown in Auckland, New Zealand, tied with Peter Thomson. The two players alternated the lead several times down the stretch. On the 15th hole, Thomson missed a six-foot putt and Godfrey took the lead. However Thomson regained the solo lead two holes later. On the final hole, however, Thomson drove into the trees and made bogey while Godfrey birdied, exchanging the lead once more, giving the New Zealander the win.[8] The following week he won the Metalcraft Tournament, held in Wellington. It was another dramatic win as Godfrey was tied for the lead entering the final hole. He hit a "magnificent" two-iron on the 516 yard, par-5 18th to five feet assuring his victory.[9] He describes these victories as his greatest successes because he defeated legendary golfers Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson at both of them.[1]

Godfrey's excellent play continued into 1968. In January, he nearly won again. He held the clubhouse lead at the New Zealand PGA Championship before Bob Shaw birdied the 72nd hole to win outright.[10] The following month he recorded another runner-up finish, this time at the Tasmanian Open, albeit 17 strokes behind Randall Vines.[11] In May 1968 he recorded another runner-up finish. Godfrey was tied for the lead with Peter Thomson after two rounds at the South Australian Open. They remained tied after the third round's front nine. Amidst poor weather, however, Godfrey lost "four valuable strokes" on the back nine and, against Thomson's even par performance, was four back entering the final round. Godfrey made a slight comeback at beginning of the third round. Against "wind and cold rain" it took him three wood shots to reach the par-5 second hole but he was able to birdie it. The lead was down to three and, Thomson wrote in The Age, "it looked like he might catch me." However, Godfrey made a number mistakes on the back nine again, ultimately shooting a 42 for a 79 (+6). He lost to Thomson by nine though still finished in solo second.[12]

Godfrey had much success in 1971. In October, he won the West End Tournament again. His final total of 276 was only two off the course record and even more impressive given the "atrocious weather." He won by five shots.[13] The following month, he won the Cumberland Classic in Sydney by one stroke over American Marty Bohen.[14] Two weeks after that, on 28 November 1971,[15] he finished third in the New Zealand Open. It was Godfrey's best finish in his national open since his amateur days.[1]

Godfrey good play continued in 1972. In February he won the Victorian Open. Possessing a 3-shot lead over Kel Nagle on the 11th hole, Godfrey hit his drive into the trees. Rather than pitching out to the fairway he decided to gamble, hitting a 5-iron approach over a "menacingly low overhanging bough" towards the green. It worked out perfectly, as the ball stopped a foot from the cup for an easy birdie. Coupled with a bogey from Nagle, Godfrey built a 5-shot lead and cruised to a 7-shot win.[2] He also had some success on the Asian circuit that fall. Early in 1972, he finished one behind Japan's Takashi Murakami at the Malaysian Open. In April, he finally won on the Asian circuit, winning the Hong Kong Open. Godfrey shot a final round 67 (−3) at the Fanling Golf Course to avenge his loss to Murakami, defeating Japanese star by two shots. It was his first win on the Asian circuit after eight years of effort.[16] In October 1972 he nearly defended his West End title. Like the previous year, he shot a course record in the second round, this time being a seven-under par 63, tying Kel Nagle for the lead. Both players were neck and neck through the weekend but Nagle ultimately outshot Godfrey by three on Sunday to win.

In late 1973 he seriously contented at a number of tournaments. In September 1973 he had another chance to win the South Australian Open. Godfrey started the round six shots behind Ted Ball. However in the "high winds and biting cold" Ball came back to the field. Godfrey shot a final round 71 (–1) to give himself a chance. However, Ball made a "magnificent" birdie on the 15th and got up and down from a bunker on the 16th. He defeated Godfrey by two. Godfrey finished in solo third, a shot behind runner-up Terry Kendall and five shots ahead of the remainder of the field.[17] In October he was the 54-hole leader going into the final round of the North Coast Open. However, Stewart Ginn caught him with a birdie on the first hole. From thereafter, it was a struggle for Godfrey, especially on the greens, as he had 38 putts, including four three-putts.[18] He shot several over par and finished eight strokes behind Ginn in solo sixth place at 287.[18][19] In November he seriously competed once more, finishing only one behind Bob Charles at the 1973 City of Auckland Classic.[20]

In January 1974, he had one more duel with Nagle, this time at the New Zealand PGA Championship. Godfrey came from behind to tie Nagle in the final round however he bogeyed the 18th hole while Nagle birdied it providing the deciding two shot differential.[21] During this era, a young Steve Williams was briefly his caddie.[22]

In 1977, Godfrey retired from working as a touring professional.[23] Although he did not state it at the time, the major reason was because his eyesight was severely diminishing. He later stated, "I was just playing on memory, but by the end I couldn't judge hills or breaks on the greens. I got to the stage where I couldn't see [anything]."[3] He took a job as a club professional at Subang National Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he worked for five years.[23] During this time he won an event held at Subang National, the 1979 Malaysian Dunlop Masters.[24] In 1982 he returned to Australia and got a job at Fox Hills Golf Club in Sydney. He worked there for 10 years.[1] In 1992 he left the golf industry permanently and bought a news agency that he owned until 2002.[1]

In 2007 he had laser surgery performed on his eyes. The operations, however, have not been completely successful.[1]

Godfrey estimates he has won well over 20 global tournaments.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

As of 1971, he was married with a daughter[25] and a son.[1] He got remarried while living in Malaysia.[1]

Amateur winsEdit

Professional wins (10)Edit

Australian/New Zealand circuit wins (8)Edit

Asia Golf Circuit win (1)Edit

Other winsEdit

Results in major championshipsEdit

Tournament 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972
The Open Championship T36 T22 T40 CUT

Note: Godfrey only played in The Open Championship.

  Did not play

CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Team appearancesEdit




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Cannan, Dave (8 March 2010). "Golf: Back at the old swinging grounds". Otago Daily Times Online News. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Godfrey wins golf tussle". The Canberra Times. 7 February 1972. p. 12. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Sweet memory for one of NZ's finest". Waikato Times. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Kel Nagle Repeats Double". The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 October 1958. p. 12.
  5. ^ "Godfrey Fails By One Stroke". The Canberra Times. 25 April 1963. p. 16. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Thrilling Finish in West End £1,000". Victor Harbour Times. 18 September 1964. p. 1. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  7. ^ "West End Golf to Kel Nagle". Victor Harbour Times. 20 October 1967. p. 7. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Thomson Loses By One Stroke". The Age. 11 December 1967. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Maori wins NZ circuit golf tournament". The Canberra Times. 18 December 1967. p. 16. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  10. ^ "NZ golf title to Shaw". The Canberra Times. 8 January 1968. p. 11. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Vines 17 ahead". The Canberra Times. 5 February 1968. p. 12. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  12. ^ Thomson, Peter (27 May 1968). "'Quiet' End to SA Open". The Age. p. 21 – via
  13. ^ a b "West End To Godfrey". Victor Harbour Times. 1 October 1971. p. 8. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Godfrey triumphs by one stroke". The Canberra Times. 15 November 1971. p. 12. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  15. ^ "New Zealand Open, Golf Tournament. Men Aus/NZ Tour Championship". Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  16. ^ a b "Godfrey Takes Hong Kong Open Under Pressure". The Canberra Times. 3 March 1972. p. 10. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  17. ^ "SA Open to Ball by One Stroke". The Age. 1 October 1973. p. 22.
  18. ^ a b "Ginn charges past a 'shaky' Godfrey". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 October 1973. p. 14.
  19. ^ "Sporting Details". Sydney Morning Herald. 8 October 1973. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  20. ^ "NZ golf". The Canberra Times. 20 November 1973. p. 20. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Sport Briefs". The Canberra Times. 9 January 1974. p. 29. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  22. ^ Yocom, Guy (31 May 2015). "My Shot: Steve Williams". Golf Digest. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  23. ^ a b "Godfrey Retires From Golf Circuit". The Canberra Times. 28 March 1977. p. 18. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Godfrey by two strokes". The Canberra Times. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 28 March 1979. p. 38. Retrieved 26 January 2020 – via Trove.
  25. ^ "Godfrey scores a good 'double'". The Canberra Times. 16 October 1971. p. 38. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  26. ^ "Walter Godfrey". New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  27. ^ "New Zealand golfer's 'fantastic' round wins". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 September 1967. p. 14.
  28. ^ "Putting mistakes did not worry Godfrey". The Sydney Morning Herald. 30 January 1968. p. 16.