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The phantom of the Open and a Proud boxing champion

Steven Lynch January 23, 2012
He may have lost his hair, but Mark Edmondson still sports his trademark moustache © Getty Images

Which man-mountain was the African heavyweight champion for most of the 1980s? asked Andrew Ward

This one caused a bit of head-scratching before I remembered the Zimbabwean boxer Proud Kilimanjaro, who unsuccessfully challenged Horace Notice for the Commonwealth heavyweight title back in 1987. Kilimanjaro - whose real name was Chinembriri - was the African heavyweight champion from 1982 to 1988, and he once knocked out Walter Ringo Starr (no, not that one!) in 15 seconds. Kilimanjaro's pro career included five defeats of a local fighter known as Black Tiger, while I'd like to have seen his 1985 fight against "Jukebox Timebomb".

I noticed that home players have not had a good time of it recently in the Australian Open. Who were the last Aussie men and women to win the singles there? asked Mike Hemingway

The last Australian to win the men's singles in the Australian Open was the unheralded - and unseeded - Mark Edmondson, back in 1976. He beat his fellow Aussie John Newcombe, the defending champion, in an upset in the final at Kooyong in Melbourne. Since then the Australians John Marks (1978), Kim Warwick (1980), Pat Cash (1987 and 1988) and Lleyton Hewitt (2005) have all lost in the final. The last Australian woman to win the singles was almost as long ago - and also unseeded. That was Chris O'Neil in 1978, since when Wendy Turnbull in 1980 is the only Australian woman to reach the final. O'Neil's surprise triumph was the last in a run of seven successive home wins, by Margaret Court, Evonne Cawley (who won four times) and Kerry Reid.

What was memorable about Sean McCarthy's first game for Bradford City in 1990? asked Graham Clayton via Facebook

I think the answer is that the Welsh-born striker Sean McCarthy had a rather exciting second half during his debut, against Tranmere Rovers at Valley Parade on August 25, 1990 - the first day of the new season - after joining Bradford City from Plymouth Argyle. First McCarthy scored a goal, then he missed a penalty, and finally he was sent off! One report says he also hit the post. Bradford City eventually lost 2-1.

Who were the first black athletes - men and women - to win Olympic gold medals? asked Lawrence Butterworth

The first black athlete to win an individual gold medal in the Olympic Games was DeHart Hubbard, from Cincinnati in Ohio, who won the long jump in Paris in 1924. He held the world long-jump record from 1925 to 1928. However, John Taylor, from Washington, was part of the winning 4x400-metre relay team in London in 1908. The first African-American woman to win gold was Alice Coachman, from Albany in Georgia, with victory in the high jump in London in 1948.

I know that Best Mate won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times - more even than Kauto Star. Has any horse won it more often? asked Chris Suddaby

Best Mate did indeed win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times, from 2002 to 2004, equalling the feats of Cottage Rake (1948-50) and Arkle (1964-66). Kauto Star has won it twice (2007 and 2009). But they all have to tip their hats to Golden Miller, which won the race five years running, from 1932 to 1936. Golden Miller pulled off a unique double by winning the Grand National and the Gold Cup in the same year (1934).

What was the name of that chap who kept trying to enter the British Open even though he was not a proper golfer? asked Tim Hazell

I think you're referring to Maurice Flitcroft, a (very) amateur golfer who made several unsuccessful attempts to enter the British Open, starting in 1976 when - aged 46 - he shot 121 in the first round of the qualifying event, having never previously played a full 18-hole round of golf in his life (under the circumstances, 121 doesn't seem too bad!). After the entry rules were tightened up - largely because of him - Flitcroft made several further attempts to gain entry using assumed names such as Gerard Hoppy, Gene Pacecki (pronounced pay-cheque-y) and Arnold Palmtree. He was the subject of an affectionate biography by Scott Murray and Simon Farnaby in 2010, called The Phantom of the Open. It was subtitled "the world's worst golfer", something the authors admitted Flitcroft, who died in 2007, would have been outraged by.

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