Willie Hunter (golfer)

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Willie Hunter
Personal information
Full name William Irvine Hunter
Nickname Wee Willie
Born (1892-01-29)January 29, 1892
Forest Row, England
Died October 18, 1968(1968-10-18) (aged 76)
Palm Springs, California
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight 150 lb (68 kg; 11 st)
Nationality  Scotland
 United States
Turned professional 1923
Former tour(s) PGA Tour
Professional wins 8
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 6
Other 2
Best results in major championships
(wins: 1)
Masters Tournament DNP
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)[1][2] 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.

Early life[edit]

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.[3][4] Willie Hunter was born in Forest Row, East Sussex, England, but was "as Scotch as the heather at Troon".[1]

Early career[edit]

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.[5]

Emigration to the United States[edit]

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.[5] 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.[6][7] 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.[8][9][10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[13] 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.[11] By entering this event, he declared as a professional, and would retain this status for the rest of his career.

Later career[edit]

Hunter won six times on the PGA Tour.[14] 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.[15]

U.S. Open[edit]

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.[16] He was awarded an honorary membership by the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club.[7]


Hunter died on October 18, 1968 in Palm Springs, California.

Amateur wins (2)[edit]

Note: This list may be incomplete.

Professional wins[edit]

PGA Tour wins (6)[edit]

Other wins (2)[edit]

Note: This list may be incomplete.

Major championships[edit]

Wins (1)[edit]

Year Championship Winning score Runner-up
1921 The Amateur Championship 12 & 11 England Allan Graham

Results timeline[edit]

Tournament 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
U.S. Open DNP DNP T24 DNP DNP T13 8 T44 T28 T23
The Open Championship T26 LA DNP T23 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
U.S. Amateur DNP SF R16 R16 R32
The Amateur Championship QF 1 SF DNP
Tournament 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
U.S. Open T17 CUT DNP DNP T14 T28 T50 CUT 15 DNP
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT DNP DNP DNP CUT
Tournament 1950 1951 1952
The Open Championship DNP DNP CUT
PGA Championship DNP DNP DNP

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,[18] British Open,[19] PGA Championship,[20] 1920 British Amateur,[21] 1921 British Amateur,[22] 1922 British Amateur[23]


  1. ^ a b Elliott, Len; Kelly, Barbara (1976). Who's Who in Golf. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House. p. 96. ISBN 0-87000-225-2. 
  2. ^ "Willie Hunter, Former Golf Great, Dies". The Fresno Bee. Fresno, California. AP. October 20, 1968. p. 11-S. 
  3. ^ Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club - Club History
  4. ^ Peper, George; Campbell, Malcolm (2010). True Links. Artisan Books. ISBN 978-1-57965-395-8. 
  5. ^ a b "Willie Hunter Here In Quest Of Title". The New York Times. August 29, 1921. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ a b Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club - Club History - Lighthearted
  8. ^ a b Jones, John. "The George Von Elm Story". Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Golf on the Pacific Coast" (PDF). Golf Illustrated. May 1923. p. 46. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  10. ^ "National Amateur Golf Body Declares Willie Hunter Technically Ineligible". The New York Times. August 14, 1922. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b 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. 
  12. ^ "Golf on the Pacific Coast" (PDF). Golf Illustrated. January 1922. p. 32. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Lakeside Golf Club - History". Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b 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. 
  15. ^ "The Riviera Country Club - Club History - 1963-76". Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Willie Hunter Jr". Golf Major Championships. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Willie Hunter Wins Catalina Golf Open". Reading Eagle. Reading, Pennsylvania. AP. February 2, 1936. p. 11. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  18. ^ USGA Championship Database
  19. ^ www.theopen.com
  20. ^ PGA Championship Media Guide – Willie Hunter
  21. ^ The Glasgow Herald, June 11, 1920, pg. 6.
  22. ^ The American Golfer, June 4, 1921, pg. 24.
  23. ^ The American Golfer, July 1, 1922, pg. 31.

See also[edit]