Willie Hunter (golfer)
|Full name||William Irvine Hunter|
January 29, 1892|
Forest Row, England
|Died||October 18, 1968
Palm Springs, California
|Height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
|Weight||150 lb (68 kg; 11 st)|
|Former tour(s)||PGA Tour|
|Number of wins by tour|
|Best results in major championships
|U.S. Open||8th: 1926|
|The Open Championship||T17: 1931|
|PGA Championship||T17: 1923|
|U.S. Amateur||T3: 1921|
|British Amateur||Won: 1921|
William Irvine Hunter (January 29, 1892 – October 18, 1968) was a Scottish-American professional golfer. He won the British Amateur title in 1921, and immigrated to the United States later that year. Hunter became a prominent figure in California golf, winning several important titles, including six PGA Tour events, but played the Tour, such as it was at that time, only on an irregular basis, while holding down club jobs. He served as the head professional at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles, California from 1936 to 1964.
Willie Hunter was the son of Harry (Henry) Hunter, golf professional and course superintendent at the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, located on the Strait of Dover in the town of Deal, Kent, England. Harry Hunter had been hired by that Club when it was founded in 1892, and in addition to his golf professional duties, assisted in laying out and maintaining the golf course, starting a 50-year association with the Club. Willie Hunter was born in Forest Row, East Sussex, England, but was "as Scotch as the heather at Troon".
He worked as a telegraph operator in Deal. In 1920, the year his home club hosted The Open Championship, Willie Hunter ended as the leading amateur in that event, and made it to the final eight (quarterfinal round) of the British Amateur, held at Muirfield. The next year, Hunter won that title, the oldest in amateur golf, at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club; this was considered a major championship at the time.
Emigration to the United States
Hunter traveled to the United States later that same year, to contest the U.S. Amateur, being played at the St. Louis Country Club, near St. Louis, Missouri. An article heralding his America arrival in The New York Times noted his three-quarter swing, great skill with the mashie and putter, and composure during competition, all making up for his small physical stature. This was his second trip to the U.S.; he had played in the U.S. Open in 1920. Hunter defeated Bobby Jones during the 1921 U.S. Amateur, in the quarterfinal round, by 2 and 1 over the scheduled 36-hole match. Jones, just 19 years old at the time, would later become one of the all-time great players in golf history. Hunter lost the next day in the semifinals to former champion Robert A. Gardner. Hunter decided to stay in the U.S. this time, and settled in southern California. He was suspended by the United States Golf Association from playing in amateur tournaments, because of his association with a golf goods importing company; this was against the rules at the time, but would likely be legal today. He qualified, through regional qualifying, into the match play portion (top 64) of the 1922 PGA Championship, but lost in the first round to Frank Sprogell 3 and 1.
In early 1922, Hunter announced his intention of becoming an American citizen. He traveled extensively through the western U.S. and Canada, making connections and looking for the best job he could find. He took a job as club secretary at the Rancho Country Club, then just beginning as a private club, in Los Angeles, and during his early period in the area, frequently partnered with top-class amateur George Von Elm in interclub competition, representing Rancho. He may have assisted Max Behr in designing and building Rancho. Soon after being reinstated as an amateur by the USGA, Hunter won the 1923 Southern California Amateur title, and took a job as secretary of the newly formed Lakeside Golf Club, then being built on Toluca Lake in Hollywood, California. Hunter, playing his golf at the Brentwood Club at the time, played in the match which formally opened Lakeside in 1924, and likely assisted Max Behr with the design of the course, which is regarded by many as Behr's best design work. In the 1923 PGA Championship, he won his first-round match against Al Watrous 2 and 1, but lost in the second round to Johnny Farrell 4 and 3. By entering this event, he declared as a professional, and would retain this status for the rest of his career.
Hunter won six times on the PGA Tour. These included the California State Open in 1926 and 1927. In 1936 he won the Catalina Open, as well as the San Francisco Match Play, held at the golf club at the Presidio of San Francisco. He became the head professional at the elite Riviera Country Club, one of the world's top courses, in 1936, and held that position until 1964, when he retired. His son, Mac Hunter, then took over that job until 1973. Willie Hunter saved the Riviera course from severe flooding in 1939, and helped rescue the club from bankruptcy during World War II.
Hunter competed in 12 U.S. Opens between 1920 and 1938, making the 36-hole cut each time. He played in 1920, 1922, 1925–30, 1934–36, and 1938. His best finish, and only top-10 result, came in 1926 at Scioto Country Club, when he shot 75-77-69-79 for a 300 total, good for eighth place. He was awarded an honorary membership by the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club.
Hunter died on October 18, 1968 in Palm Springs, California.
Amateur wins (2)
- Note: This list may be incomplete.
- 1921 (1) British Amateur
- 1923 (1) Southern California Amateur
PGA Tour wins (6)
- 1926 (1) California State Open
- 1927 (1) California State Open
- 1934 (1) one win
- 1936 (2) San Francisco Match Play, Catalina Open
- missing one other win (before 1930)
Other wins (2)
- Note: This list may be incomplete.
|1921||The Amateur Championship||12 & 11||Allan Graham|
|The Open Championship||T26 LA||DNP||T23||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Amateur Championship||QF||1||SF||DNP||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|The Open Championship||DNP||T17||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||NT||NT||NT||NT||NT||NT||DNP||DNP||DNP||CUT|
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||CUT|
Note: Hunter never played in the Masters Tournament.
LA = Low amateur
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
"T" indicates a tie for a place
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in match play
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10
- Sources: U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur, British Open, PGA Championship, 1920 British Amateur, 1921 British Amateur, 1922 British Amateur
- Elliott, Len; Kelly, Barbara (1976). Who's Who in Golf. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House. p. 96. ISBN 0-87000-225-2.
- "Willie Hunter, Former Golf Great, Dies". The Fresno Bee. Fresno, California. AP. October 20, 1968. p. 11-S.
- Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club - Club History
- Peper, George; Campbell, Malcolm (2010). True Links. Artisan Books. ISBN 978-1-57965-395-8.
- "Willie Hunter Here In Quest Of Title". The New York Times. August 29, 1921. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- Lowe, Stephen R. (September 2000). Sir Walter and Mr. Jones: Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, and the Rise of American Golf. Chelsea, Michigan: Sleeping Bear Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-58536-009-3.
- Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club - Club History - Lighthearted
- Jones, John. "The George Von Elm Story". Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- "Golf on the Pacific Coast" (PDF). Golf Illustrated. May 1923. p. 46. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- "National Amateur Golf Body Declares Willie Hunter Technically Ineligible". The New York Times. August 14, 1922. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- Brenner, Morgan G. (2009). The Majors of Golf: Complete Results of the Open, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the Masters, 1860-2008. 1. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3360-5.
- "Golf on the Pacific Coast" (PDF). Golf Illustrated. January 1922. p. 32. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- "Lakeside Golf Club - History". Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- Barkow, Al (November 1989). The History of the PGA TOUR. Copyright PGA Tour. Doubleday. pp. 237–8, 249–50, 254. ISBN 0-385-26145-4.
- "The Riviera Country Club - Club History - 1963-76". Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- "Willie Hunter Jr". Golf Major Championships. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- "Willie Hunter Wins Catalina Golf Open". Reading Eagle. Reading, Pennsylvania. AP. February 2, 1936. p. 11. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
- USGA Championship Database
- PGA Championship Media Guide – Willie Hunter
- The Glasgow Herald, June 11, 1920, pg. 6.
- The American Golfer, June 4, 1921, pg. 24.
- The American Golfer, July 1, 1922, pg. 31.