Henry Cotton (golfer)

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Sir Henry Cotton
Cotton in 1931
Personal information
Full nameThomas Henry Cotton
Born(1907-01-28)28 January 1907
Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, England
Died22 December 1987(1987-12-22) (aged 80)
London, England
Sporting nationality England
Turned professional1924
Professional wins37
Best results in major championships
(wins: 3)
Masters TournamentT13: 1957
PGA ChampionshipDNP
U.S. OpenT17: 1956
The Open ChampionshipWon: 1934, 1937, 1948
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame1980 (member page)
Harry Vardon Trophy1938
Member of the Order
of the British Empire
Knight Bachelor1988

Sir Thomas Henry Cotton, MBE (28 January 1907 – 22 December 1987) was an English professional golfer. He won the Open Championship in 1934, 1937 and 1948, becoming the leading British player of his generation.[1] The Rookie of the Year award in European Tour is named after him.

Early life[edit]

Cotton was born in Holmes Chapel, then known as Church Hulme, near Congleton, Cheshire on 28 January 1907.[2] He had an older brother, Leslie (born 1905), who also became a professional golfer. Cotton was brought up in Crystal Palace Road, East Dulwich, London. He later went to Reigate Grammar School, and then won a scholarship to Alleyn's School in Dulwich, South London.[2] He was a useful cricketer, good enough to bat at number 3 for the school against Surrey Club and Ground, a team containing 5 professionals, at the age of 15.[3] Cotton and his brother had already taken up a second sport, golf, at the Aquarius Golf Club in Honor Oak from 1920.[4] In September 1921 the Cotton brothers played in the first Boys Amateur Championship, then limited to boys under 16. Henry played the eventual winner, Donald Mathieson, on the first day, losing by 2 holes,[5] Cotton was all square after 16 holes but lost the 17th after being incorrectly penalised for placing his bag in a bunker.[6] Cotton also played in the 1922 Boys Championship, again losing in the first round.[7] In June 1923 Cotton won the Hutchings Trophy, the Championship of the Aquarius Club.[4]


Cotton left school in the summer of 1923 and soon started his career as a professional golfer, joining his older brother Leslie as assistant teaching professional at Fulwell Golf Club under Fulwell's professional, George Oke, who had been at Honor Oak since 1921.[4][8][9] Within a year Cotton had left and become an assistant at Rye Golf Club near Rye, East Sussex.[2] During his time at Rye, Cotton travelled to Scotland to try to qualify for the 1925 Open Championship. However scores of 85 and 82 left him well outside the qualifying mark of 158.[10] In March 1926, aged 19, he became the professional at Langley Park Golf Club near Beckenham in Kent, replacing Frank Ball who emigrated to America later the same year.[11]

Cotton remained at Langley Park until the end of 1932 when he moved to the Waterloo Golf Club near Brussels, Belgium. While there, Cotton improved his game and by the time he left he was one of Britain's leading golfers. In 1926, Cotton again failed to qualifying for the Open Championship but later in the year qualified for the knock-out stages of the Yorkshire Evening News Tournament and the News of the World Match Play and ended the season by winning the Kent Professional Championship.[12]

Cotton training as a pilot at Croydon Airport in 1930

He achieved fame during the 1930s and 1940s, with three victories in The Open Championship (1934, 1937, and 1948). His record round of 65, made during the 1934 Open Championship, led to the Dunlop golf company issuing the famous 'Dunlop 65' ball. Cotton placed 17 times in the top-10 at the Open. Cotton also succeeded in winning many titles on the European circuit during the 1930s. During this period he was a professional at the Ashridge Golf Club.[citation needed]

Cotton was trained as a pilot since at least 1930.[13] During World War II he served with the Royal Air Force, and raised money for the Red Cross by playing exhibition matches and shows. This earned him an MBE. At this time he was stationed at RAF Halton and was closely involved with what is now the Chiltern Forest Golf club. He added three holes to the course (taking it from six to nine) and made other improvements.[citation needed]

Cotton was a playing member of three British Ryder Cup teams, in 1929, 1937 and 1947, serving as captain of the team in 1947, and was a non-playing captain in 1953. He competed only occasionally in the United States, without notable success.[14]

Personal life and retirement[edit]

Cotton and Toots were married on 11 December 1939

On 11 December 1939[15] Cotton married Isabel-Maria Estanguet de Moss, the daughter of a Buenos Aires beef merchant, who was taking golf lessons from Cotton and was known by her nickname 'Toots'. She supported Cotton during his golf competitions and affected the way he would dress for them.[16]

Following his retirement from competitive golf in the early 1950s, Cotton became a successful architect of golf courses, including designing the Penina Golf and Resort and Pestana Alto Golf on the Algarve, Portugal.[17] He was hired by Baron Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild to design the golf course in Megève, Haute-Savoie, France.[18] Cotton wrote 10 books, and established the Golf Foundation, which helped thousands of young boys and girls get started in golf.[citation needed]

Cotton loved the high life, including champagne and bespoke tailored clothes. He lived for a while in a suite in a 5-star hotel, and later bought an estate complete with butler and full staff, traveling everywhere in a Rolls-Royce.[citation needed] Cotton stated in his book "This Game Of Golf" that his hero was Walter Hagen who was a flashy dresser and a high-roller. Cotton marveled at how Hagen would stay up all night playing cards for money on the eve of a tournament and how Hagen would go straight to the first tee without even warming up beforehand..

Cotton was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1980. He was knighted in the New Year's Day Honours of 1988, named a Knight Bachelor.[19] This was reported in some media as a "posthumous knighthood" because he had died by the time it was publicly announced. However, the Queen had approved the award and he had accepted it, before his death.[20]

Tournament wins (37)[edit]

Important wins (30)[edit]

Date Tournament Venue Winning score Margin of
29 Jun 1930 Belgian Open Royal Golf Club of Belgium 73-68-74-66=281 11 strokes England Archie Compston
15 May 1931 Dunlop-Southport Tournament Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club 70-77-68-72=287 2 strokes England Archie Compston
14 May 1932 Dunlop-Southport Tournament Hesketh Golf Club 68-69-72-72=281 Playoff England Bill Twine
23 Sep 1932 News of the World Match Play Moor Park Golf Club 10 & 8 in final England Alf Perry
29 Jun 1934 The Open Championship Royal St George's Golf Club 67-65-72-79=283 5 strokes South Africa Sid Brews
14 Aug 1934 Belgian Open Royal Waterloo Golf Club 67-71-73-68=279 3 strokes England Percy Alliss
8 Jun 1935 Yorkshire Evening News Tournament Sand Moor Golf Club 3 & 2 in final England Percy Alliss
3 Aug 1936 Italian Open Sestrieres Golf Club 68-67-67-66=268 6 strokes United States Joe Ezar
24 Sep 1936 Dunlop-Metropolitan Tournament Wentworth Club 72-68-70-71=281 3 strokes England Arthur Lacey, England Reg Whitcombe
23 Apr 1937 Silver King Tournament Moor Park Golf Club 73-68-70-68=279 1 stroke Republic of Ireland Paddy Mahon
9 Jul 1937 The Open Championship Carnoustie Golf Links 74-72-73-71=290 2 strokes England Reg Whitcombe
15 Aug 1937 German Open Bad Ems Golf Club 63-70-69-72=274 17 strokes France Auguste Boyer
21 Aug 1937 Czechoslovak Open Marienbad Golf Club 70-72-69-68=279 5 strokes England Arthur Lees
13 Jul 1938 Belgian Open Royal Waterloo Golf Club 66-70-69-72=277 13 strokes England Arthur Lacey
21 Aug 1938 German Open Frankfurter Golf Club 71-68-70-76=285 15 strokes England Arthur Lees
26 Aug 1938 Czechoslovak Open Carlsbad Golf Club 71-67-72-72=282 11 strokes Scotland Bill Laidlaw
1 Apr 1939 Daily Mail Tournament Queens Park Golf Club 69-75-77-71=292 Playoff England Archie Compston
17 Jun 1939 Penfold Professional Golf League Little Aston Golf Club 18 points Tie England Charles Whitcombe
20 Aug 1939 German Open Bad Ems Golf Club 67-71-72-70=280 11 strokes Germany Georg Bessner
3 May 1940 News of the World Match Play Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club 37th hole in final England Alf Padgham
24 Aug 1945 News Chronicle Tournament Hollingbury Park Golf Club 74-77-76-74=301 4 strokes England Percy Alliss, England Arthur Havers
27 Apr 1946 The Star Tournament Wentworth Club 4 & 3 in final England Arthur Lees
11 Jul 1946 French Open Saint-Cloud Golf Club 70-66-67-66=269 15 strokes Belgium Flory Van Donck
28 Sep 1946 News of the World Match Play Royal Liverpool Golf Club 8 & 7 in final Scotland Jimmy Adams
6 Jun 1947 Spalding Tournament Old Course at St Andrews 74-69-71-74=288 5 strokes Wales Dai Rees
13 Jun 1947 Yorkshire Evening News Tournament Moortown Golf Club 66-72-70-69=277 Tie Australia Norman Von Nida
16 Jul 1947 French Open Chantilly Golf Club 68-71-73-73=285 3 strokes England John Knipe
2 Jul 1948 The Open Championship Muirfield 71-66-75-72=284 5 strokes Northern Ireland Fred Daly
13 Jun 1953 Dunlop Tournament Wentworth Club 72-65-70-72-74=353 5 strokes Wales Dai Rees
22 May 1954 Penfold Tournament Maesdu Golf Club 5 & 4 in final England John Jacobs

Other wins (7)[edit]

Note: This list may be incomplete.

  • 1926 Kent Professional Championship
  • 1927 Kent Professional Championship
  • 1928 Kent Professional Championship
  • 1929 Kent Professional Championship
  • 1930 South Open (Argentina), Kent Professional Championship
  • 1948 White Sulphur Springs Tournament (USA)

Major championships[edit]

Wins (3)[edit]

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1934 The Open Championship 10 shot lead 67-65-72-79=283 5 strokes South Africa Sid Brews
1937 The Open Championship (2) 3 shot deficit 74-72-73-71=290 2 strokes England Reg Whitcombe
1948 The Open Championship (3) 2 shot lead 71-66-75-72=284 5 strokes Northern Ireland Fred Daly

Results timeline[edit]

Tournament 1927 1928 1929
Masters Tournament NYF NYF NYF
U.S. Open
The Open Championship 9 T18 T32
Tournament 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
Masters Tournament NYF NYF NYF NYF
U.S. Open CUT
The Open Championship 8 T10 T10 T7 1 T7 T3 1 3 T13
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
Masters Tournament NT NT NT T25
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT T4 T6 1
Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Masters Tournament T68 T13
U.S. Open T17
The Open Championship 4 CUT T32 T6 T9 T8 T41
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Masters Tournament
U.S. Open
The Open Championship T32
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977
Masters Tournament
U.S. Open
The Open Championship CUT

Note: Cotton never played in the PGA Championship.

  Top 10
  Did not play

NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Team appearances[edit]

  • Ryder Cup (representing Great Britain): 1929 (winners), 1937, 1947 (captain), 1953 (non-playing captain)
  • Seniors vs Juniors (representing the Juniors): 1928
  • France–Great Britain Professional Match (representing Great Britain): 1929 (winners)
  • Coronation Match (representing the Ladies and Professionals): 1937
  • Joy Cup (representing the British Isles): 1954 (winners, captain), 1955 (winners, non-playing captain), 1956 (winners, captain)



  1. ^ "Cotton, Sir Henry". The Open. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Cotton, (Thomas) Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40144. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "Alleyn's School V. Surrey C. And G.". The Times. 11 July 1922. p. 6.
  4. ^ a b c "Henry Cotton". Aquarius Golf Club. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  5. ^ "The Boys Championship". The Glasgow Herald. 6 September 1921. p. 3.
  6. ^ "Boy golfers at Ascot". The Sphere. 17 September 1921. Retrieved 10 December 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  7. ^ "Boys Championship". The Glasgow Herald. 7 September 1922. p. 10.
  8. ^ "Professionals". Fulwell Golf Club. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  9. ^ Cotton, Henry (1948). "This Game of Golf" (PDF). Country Life.
  10. ^ "The Open Golf Championship". The Glasgow Herald. 24 June 1925. p. 5.
  11. ^ "H Cotton". The Times. 25 March 1926. p. 7.
  12. ^ "Kent Professional Championship". The Times. 1 October 1926. p. 7.
  13. ^ The picture shows Great Britain's Henry Cotton dressed in early aviators outfit at Croydon Airport where he was learning to fly. gettyimages.co.uk
  14. ^ "Henry Cotton – 3 times Open Champion". www.raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  15. ^ The picture shows Henry Cotton on his wedding day, with his wife 'Toots', at the Savoy Hotel. gettyimages.co.uk
  16. ^ Glover, Tim (15 December 1992) Golf / Books for Christmas: Cotton the flamboyant obsessive: Tim Glover on the drive of a great Briton and other memorable golfing tales. The Independent
  17. ^ Alto Golf. pestanagolf.com
  18. ^ Viguie-Desplaces, Philippe (22 December 2015). "Chalet du Mont d'Arbois : et Rothschild créa Megève…". Le Figaro. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  19. ^ "No. 51171". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1987. p. 1.
  20. ^ "Cotton awarded posthumous knighthood". The Times. 31 December 1987. p. 32.

External links[edit]