He may have lost out in a play-off for the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open, but Roger Chapman’s final round performance was a remarkable and fitting tribute to his lifelong friend, mentor and coach, George Will, who passed away last week.
Having started the final round some four shots behind the man who eventually took the title, South African David Frost, Chapman produced an inspired performance at the Constance Belle Mare Plage resort in Mauritius, carding a brilliant final round of seven under par 65 with his mentor firmly in mind.
Only a stunning eagle from Frost on the final hole, that forced the tournament into extra holes, denied Chapman paying Will the perfect tribute, but surely only the harshest of judges would say that Chapman had failed in his quest to honour a man who gave so much to the game and to the people who were lucky enough to be a part of his rich existence.
A big Scotsman with an imposing physical presence that was only outweighed by his huge character and warm personality, Will would have been immensely proud of Chapman’s heroic final round effort in Mauritius, just as he would have been immensely proud of all his most cherished pupil has achieved in the game.
Will, born in Ladybank, Fife, on April 16, 1937, won the Scottish Boys’ Championship in 1955 and the 1957 British Youths Championship during an outstanding amateur career. He turned professional after winning the British Youths and embarked on a career that took him round the world playing the game he loved.
He played in The Ryder Cup three times in 1963, 1965 and 1967 and won the 1958 Northern Open as well as the Smart Weston tournament in 1964. His biggest success came in the Esso Golden Round Robin in 1965 when at Moor Park, Hertfordshire, he accumulated 24 points – a total that was only once surpassed in the six year history of that highly acclaimed tournament. From 1964 to 1971 he finished in the top 20 of the Order of Merit no fewer than six times and of those three were top ten finishes.
He was a truly global player, finishing in a tie for first place at the 1966 Singapore Open, only to lose out in a play-off.
Following his tournament career, Will became the club professional at Sundridge Park in Bromley, Kent, where he first met a young Chapman.
The Scot quickly became a fundamental part of Chapman’s life. He not only shaped the Englishman’s silky smooth swing but became a father figure and inspiration. Moreover, he played a huge role in making Chapman follow his lead not only as a great golfer, but, more importantly, as one of life’s good guys.
“George was such an instrumental part of my life and the man who really shaped my career,” said Chapman. “I said it the other day and I will say it again – he was like a second father to me so I was naturally devastated to hear that he had passed away. I have lost a great friend and the game has lost a great man.
“He never changed throughout his life and his counsel and advice were invaluable to me. All through my life he played a huge role. I remember I was itching to turn pro but he was the first one to say that I should wait. ‘Wait till you win a Major,’ he would say, talking about the big Amateur tournaments.
“I went on to win the English Amateur and the Lytham Trophy and made the 1981 Walker Cup Team. I’ll always remember him coming up to me after the Walker Cup and saying: ‘Now you can turn pro’. Of course, he was right. I shall miss him terribly.”