“DID YOU KNOW”
The world’s greatest trick shot artist was a great golfer!
Joe Kirkwood was born in Australia in 1897. He grew up working on a sheep ranch where he learned to play golf on its rudimentary three-hole golf course. While tending the sheep he passed the time by experimenting with trick shots. At age 19 he turned pro.
During World War I he entertained the wounded veterans with golf shots and found that they were more interested in his trick shots. In 1920 he won the Australian Open, New Zealand Open and New Zealand PGA, all in that one year! At the New Zealand Open he broke the tournament record by 12 strokes.
A year later he left Australia to test his golf game on the world stage. In April he was playing his first tournament in the states at the North and South Open in Pinehurst where he was paired with Walter Hagen the first day. He played well enough to tie for ninth but had putting problems having never played on sand greens before. In 1922 he was back playing in the North and South Open where he finished second.
In 1923 he made the United States his permanent residence, settling in Glenside a suburb of Philadelphia and joined Cedarbrook CC. From 1923 to 1949 he was a dues paying member of the Philadelphia PGA. He played in PGA Tour tournaments and gave trick shot exhibitions. He traveled the world with Hagen and Gene Sarazen. He might have become one of the great players of all time, but money came easier through golf exhibitions.
During Kirkwood’s playing career he won 13 times on the PGA Tour, without being a regular participant.. He was also a semifinalist in the 1930 PGA Championship. He won five times in 1923. In 1933 he won the Canadian Open and the North and South Open, but what he did in 1924 may have been his greatest feat. In the month of February, Kirkwood won three straight PGA Tour tournaments in Texas: Texas Open, Corpus Christie Open and Houston Open. He won the Texas Open by seven strokes and Houston by five, but his margin of victory at Corpus Christie of 16 strokes is still the PGA Tour record, tied but not bettered. With cold north winds sweeping across the course both days, Kirkwood put together a total of 285. Bobby Cruickshank finished second at 301 and Johnny Farrell was third, two strokes further back.
With the Great Depression of the 1930s money for golf exhibitions dried up. So Kirkwood, in need of regular income, signed on as the professional at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. He stayed there from 1938 through the 1940s, when money for golf exhibitions began to flow again.
In 1941 the Philadelphia PGA held its second annual Golf Week. To promote golf, Section president Ed Dudley, Leo Diegel and other Section members played exhibitions and staged golf clinics at numerous locations. One of those exhibitions was held at the Langhorne Country Club on Saturday May 10. The host professional Al MacDonald and Jimmy Thomson, the longest driver in professional golf, took on Kirkwood and Ben Hogan, who was in his first year as the professional at the Hershey Country Club. Hogan, who was not known for watching others hit golf shots, can be seen in the photograph watching Kirkwood warm up.
The annual winner of the Australian PGA Championship receives the Kirkwood Cup.