George Duncan called his autobiography Golf at the Gallop and said: “If you are going to miss ‘em, miss ‘em quick.” He was an exceptionally fast player.
The son of an Aberdeenshire village policeman, Duncan apprenticed a carpenter before turning professional at 17. He contended in The Open prior to WWI and won the first Open when it resumed in 1920 at Deal.
There was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes from one day to the next at Cinque Ports. Abe Mitchell led by six after 36 holes, with Duncan, who had two shocking rounds of 80, trailing by 13. Duncan was out early on the final day and told his friend not to arrive too early at the course.
Mitchell ignored the advice and was fully aware that Duncan had scored a 71 in the third round before he teed off. Mitchell started nervously, leading an 18-inch tap-in on the first six inches short and took an 8 at the fifth on the way to an 84.
He was thought to be one of the best players never to win The Open. Duncan was in full sail and closed with a 72 to win by two from Sandy Herd and three from Ted Ray. Duncan put his astonishing recovery down to purchasing a new driver from the Exhibition Tent.
Two years later at neighbouring Sandwich, Duncan made a great charge on the inward half to try and tie the great American Walter Hagen. His approach at the last ran down into the dip on the left of the green and his chip returned to his feet. A 5 meant Hagen had won by one. In 1985 Sandy Lyle did exactly the same, finding what is now called Duncan’s Hollow and taking 5, but still claimed victory.