Dr Frank Deighton, leading amateur golfer who combined sport with his work as a GP

Dr Frank Deighton
Dr Frank Deighton
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Dr Frank William Gordon Deighton, golfer. Born: 21 May 1927 in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire. Died: 23 February 2018, aged 90.

Dr Frank Deighton, who has died aged 90, was a leading Scottish and British amateur golfer of the 1950s and early’60s and one of the Walker Cup’s oldest surviving players. Twice Scottish Amateur champion and twice a member of the Walker Cup team, he represented Scotland seven times in the Home International series, playing in a total of 19 fixtures and also against South Africa, New Zealand and Scandinavia.

Other representative distinctions included being a member of the Great Britain and Ireland team in the Commonwealth Tournaments of 1954 and ’59. As a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews since 1953 he was accorded the honour of Life Membership in 2013. Although he stopped playing in the late ‘80’s, he still managed to win 22 R. and A. Medals, a feat described as “a record unequalled in modern times”. Notable victories in open tournaments included three wins in the Tennant Cup – the last in 1964, the Edward Trophy, the Silver Tassie at Gleneagles and the Scottish Foursomes title with David Reid. In common with other leading contemporaries such as Joe Carr, Reid Jack, and Michael Bonallack, he was a “career amateur”, fitting golf in with the demands of medical practice. In contrast nowadays, successful young amateurs often play the game full time before becoming professionals at an early stage.

Born Frank William Gordon Deighton in Alexandria, a son of the manse, he was introduced to the game on family holidays at Aberdour before becoming a member at Hilton Park. Demonstrating considerable aptitude, by the age of 16 he was playing off scratch and was already noted for his smooth swing and length off the tee, which in part he attributed to the exercise regime of “pull-ups” his father devised for him after a back injury.

In 1944 he left Glasgow High School to begin medical studies at Glasgow University and the following year recorded his first success, winning the West of Scotland Alliance title. In 1946 he won the Scottish Universities’ Championship at Carnoustie and in 1947 tied for the Boyd Quaich. Graduating in 1949, he undertook a year’s practical training at Glasgow’s Western and Royal Infirmaries before qualifying as a fully fledged doctor, thereafter a familiar designation to followers of the game preceding the well-known initials FWG.

In 1950 he entered his first British Amateur Championship at St Andrews, where one of his early opponents was the American Francis Ouimet, by then a veteran but one of golf’s legendary figures who in 1913, as an amateur, had won the US Open and subsequently the US Amateur title. Still a doughty player, Dr Deighton won the tie at the 19th hole, later describing Ouimet as “a complete gent and a delightful opponent”. That summer he made his debut for Scotland in the Home Internationals at Royal St David’s in Wales, where he scored 4½ points out of a possible 6, which led to his selection for the ten-man Walker Cup team at Birkdale in 1951. Sadly, poor form during practice led to his not being picked to play, the match then being four foursome ties followed by eight singles, and although this was disappointing, he accepted it philosophically.

In common with his contemporaries, he had to undertake National Service which he did in the Army based at Aldershot. However, this did have its compensations, as when he was selected to play golf in South Africa for three months in 1952 by the R. and A., which counted towards his service.

Once demobbed he joined a practice in Dumbarton Road, combining duties with work as medical adviser to Terex Ltd at Motherwell and Rolls Royce at Hillington. In 1955 he married art teacher Marna Hillier, whom he had met socially, and they enjoyed a long marriage, during which they had two daughters Ruth and Nicky.

One of his best seasons was 1956, when he won his first Scottish Amateur title, defeating A McGregor 8 and 7 at Troon and reaching the last eight of the British Amateur, losing to eventual winner John Beharrel. In the Amateurs v Professional match he and Joe Carr combined to beat Max Faulkner and Dai Rees at foursomes, while he beat Faulkner, 1951 Open Champion, 6 and 5 at singles. That form led to his second selection for the Walker Cup in 1957 at the Minikahda club, Minneapolis where he played in both singles and foursomes. Both matches ended in defeat but it was no disgrace to lose against the calibre of players such as Billy Joe Patton and Bill Hyndman.

In 1959 he reckoned he played his best ever championship golf in securing his second Scottish title, this time over the Old Course at St Andrews, which he loved. Until the semi-final, his seventh tie, he had lost only two holes and in the 36 hole final he beat R Murray 6 and 5 for a win that gave him much satisfaction.

By now a member at Killermont and Western Gailes his top class competitive career began winding down, although he enjoyed golfing holidays at Elie, where he won several competitions in the ‘70s. Golf architecture also became an interest and in 1964 he designed the 9-hole Sconser’s course on Skye, later the “Isle of Skye” course. When a new clubhouse was built in 1988 he was delighted to be invited to open it.

He had an impressive stature – over 6ft and almost 14 stone in his prime – and a former Scottish team captain described him as “a majestic golfer.’ He is survived by daughter Nicky, his wife and Ruth having predeceased him.

JACK DAVIDSON