Arthur "Buck" Luce
by Rebecca Chadwell and Mike Allen
Golfing Accomplishments of Arthur “Buck” Luce:
- Texas State Junior Champion
- Texas State Junior Runner- Up
- Austin Men’s City Champion
- Texas State Junior Champion
- Texas State High School Tournament Qualifying Medalist
- Austin Men’s City Champion
- Harvey Penick Invitational Champion
- Texas State Junior Champion
- Beaumont Country Club Invitational Champion
- Texas State Junior Runner-Up
- Lettered on The University of Texas Golf Team
- Lettered on the University of Texas Golf Team
- Member of UT Southwest Conference Championship Team
- Individual Medalist in the Southwest Conference Championship.
Arthur “Buck” Luce knew how to compete on a golf course. From his first victory in 1935 at the age of fifteen to his participation in tournaments as late as 1955, Luce carved out a place in the history of Texas amateur golf. He was known to be a tremendous competitor and demonstrated his will to win by successfully competing in the Texas State Junior Championship barely one month after having an appendectomy.
Luce was born in 1920 and moved to Austin from his native San Antonio in the mid 1930’s. He was a slender lad, often described as “trim and handsome” with a deliberate style of play that proved useful to his success. He attended Austin High School and graduated in 1937.
Walter Benson, one of Austin's best amateur golfers from the 1930's – 1950's and still vigorous at 94 years of age, provides his memories of Buck Luce. Walter Benson's memories of Buck Luce
Tom Miller Jr., Buck Luce, Denny Shute, Harvey Penick
Photo – Tinsley & Betty Ann Penick
His first significant victory came in 1935 at the age of 15 when he captured the Texas State Junior Championship. At the time, the state junior championship was open to all amateur players under the age of 21, so winning this title at the age of 15 was a notable accomplishment. Even more impressive was the fact that this victory marked the beginning of a five year period in which Luce won the Texas State Junior Championship three times and finished as runner-up twice. He was clearly the dominant junior player in Texas during this time and was referred to as “King Buck” by some sports writers covering the state junior tournaments.
In 1936 Luce began making his mark on Austin golf by capturing the Men’s City Championship at the age of 16. Only Ben Crenshaw, who won the first of his three consecutive Men’s City Championships at age 15, has captured this title at an earlier age. Coincidentally, both graduated from Austin High School.
In winning the city title, Luce first had to qualify for the championship flight and then face the prominent men golfers of Austin in a series of matches that stretched over the month of August. His final opponent was Tinsley Penick, the brother of Harvey Penick, after whom Harvey's son Tinsley was named. Harvey's son Tinsley was Harvey's successor as the head professional at Austin Country Club before Dale Morgan assumed that position.
In 1937, at age of 17, Luce had a remarkable year in terms of golfing accomplishments. He captured the Texas State Junior Championship, successfully defended his Austin Men’s City Championship and then won The Austin Country Club Labor Day Invitational which eventually was renamed to the Harvey Penick Invitational. During this torrid year of golf, Luce defeated not only the best junior and high school players in the state but arguably the best men amateur golfers in the state. The following brief descriptions of tournament play that year include some of the players involved.
In the state junior championship Luce tied with both Joe Moore, Jr. and Lee Brandt, Jr. at the end of regulation play. He triumphed in the ensuing nine-hole playoff by shooting two under par. It was the second of his three state junior titles.
In winning the Austin Men’s City Championship, Luce defeated W.R. “Shorty” Long in the semifinal match. Long had won the title in three of the previous four years. In the final 36 hole match, Luce defeated Walter Benson 3 and 2. The Austin Statesmen sportswriter Wilbur Evans described the match in the August 30thedition of the paper as follows:
“Luce started the afternoon round Sunday with a one up edge over the determined Benson, gained through an excellent pitch shot to the 17thgreen. He took the first hole of the afternoon round, added another on No. 4 and held the lead the remainder of the way despite threats by Benson. An unwieldy putter kept Benson from evening the count on several greens during the afternoon play.”
In securing a victory in the 1937 Austin Country Club Labor Day Invitational, he faced men amateur golfers from Austin and across the state who qualified to compete in the tournament. The Austin contingent that year included the defending champion Harvey “Boo” Roberts. Players from around the state included Lee Brandt Jr. from San Antonio.
In 1938, the 18-year-old Luce won the first annual Beaumont Country Club Invitational in Beaumont, Texas, taking down veteran Houstonian golfer T.J. Ahern. He also won his third Texas State Junior Title and his second in a row.
Luce is the only person to have won the state junior title in consecutive years. He came close to winning four or possibly five consecutive years. In addition to his titles in 1935, 1937 and 1938, he was runner-up to Bill Skeeters in 1936 and Joe Moore Jr. in 1939.
Skeeters was a former member of the Southern Methodist University football team, who had “mighty arms and hands” befitting a collegiate football athlete. Moore was a prominent junior player from San Antonio.
The 1939 state junior tournament provided a thrilling chapter in the history of that storied title. Luce battled Joe Moore, Jr. in the final match while trying to secure his third consecutive state junior title and his fourth in five years. Here is an excerpt from the San Antonio Light that chronicles part of the event:
“Never has there been a more outrageous rally than that made by the San Antonio youth in his victory over the tourney veteran, who had won the junior title in 1935, 1937 and 1938 — and was an odds-on favorite to make it No. 4 this year. Luce was such a hot favorite that a majority of the spectators thought they were throwing Moore to the lions when he went up against the more experienced tournament player. If that was the case, then it was the lion that was bitten.
“Here's the whole story in a nutshell: Moore, after a wobbly 39 on the front nine of the afternoon round, in which he made a gift of two holes to his opponent, was three holes to the bad as they struck their tees into the ground at No. 28.
"’It's all over now,’ said the gallery, who knew that King Buck wasn't in the habit of tossing away three-hole leads when he practically had a championship in the bag.
“But they didn't know of Moore's fighting heart or the shots that he still had in his clubs after hours of stroking in a blistering sun.
Through the twenty-seventh hole it appeared as if Moore's hopes of taking the championship were almost gone, due to some sloppy play on the front nine of the afternoon round, after leading Buck through 18. Luce squared the match on No. 3 with a well-played birdie 4; Joe lost control of his shots on Nos. 7 and 8 and took bogeys, Buck going two up, and the Austin boy won his third in a row with another birdie on No. 9.
“Then came the start of that brilliant back nine and the dashing of Luce's championship hopes.”
Moore staged an impressive rally on the closing nine with four birdies and five pars. At the end of the day, Luce had only praise for the new champion. He congratulated Moore and acknowledged that he deserved to win, embodying the definition of class.
(Click on the photo to enlarge it, then use the back button to return to this page)
After graduating from high school, Luce played golf for the University of Texas at Austin in 1939 and 1940. Expectations for his performance were high based on his junior record and he successfully filled the void left by Bill Welch, a recent graduate who had won two Southwest Conference individual medalist titles during his tenure at Texas.
1940 Luce captured the Southwest Conference Individual Medalist Title and the team won the Southwest Conference Championship. Playing along with Luce were Andrew Chilton, Wayne Middleton, Leonard Spitzer, and Tommy Taylor.
That same year Luce married Marjorie Donegan of Seguin, Texas. He then decided to go to work with his father at the Austin telephone company instead of attending school, which “befit” him as a married man. The Luce’s had three children, two girls and a boy. The eldest, Edith Noel, married Ron McPherson in 1960.
Luce eventually became a club professional and moved to New York as the head professional at White Plains in 1948 and Pelham in 1951, providing instruction to golfers in search of a helping hand.
In 1959, the Luce family relocated to Coral Gables, Florida, where Buck worked at Riviera Country Club. Gib Kizer, another prominent Austin golfer, worked for Luce at Riviera as an assistant professional in 1961.
Austin High School State Championship Golf Team:Left to right, Robert Dorsett, Gib Kizer, Tom Wilson, Randy Petri
(Click on the photo to enlarge it, then use the back button to return to this page) Photo from Randy Petri's Scrapbook
One unusual event occurred during Luce’s tenure at Riviera when Luce and his playing partner Frank Kerr both made double eagles on the same par 5 hole. As reported in the Progress-Index, Luce hit a 200-yard four wood over trees for his second shot, and Kerr followed with a 185-yard three iron. When the men reached the green, they were stunned to see both balls sitting complacently in the cup. In their disbelief, Luce and Kerr spent five minutes searching for witnesses to the shots, finding none and ultimately settling for simply congratulating one another.
In 1957 and 1958, Luce wrote a pair of pieces for Sports Illustrated, in which he detailed techniques for hitting out of bunkers and putting on the green, as he was reported to be a “deliberate putting master.”
Buck Luce is a respected name in the history of Austin and Texas amateur golf. If you have other information about Buck Luce or his golfing accomplishments, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by adding your comments at the end of this article. We’d love to add to Buck Luce’s story.
AP. (1937, May 5). Buck Luce of Austin wins state high golf tourney medal with 74. The Dallas Morning News, p. 4. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com
AP. (1937, August 31). Teen-age stars of Texas golfdom are staging tourney. Corsicana Daily Sun, p. 8. Retrieved from http://www.corsicanadailysun.com
AP. (1937, August 31). 3 tie for medal in Texas junior golf tournament. The Dallas Morning News, p. 9. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com
AP. (1938, June 5). Finals reached in Beaumont tourney. The Paris News, p. 10. Retrieved from http://www.theparisnews.com
AP. (1938, June 6). Austin boy takes Beaumont tourney. The Brownsville Herald, p. 5. Retrieved from http://www.brownsvilleherald.com
AP. (1938, June 12). Buck Luce defeats champion Bill Skeeters in Rivercrest golf final, 4-3. The Dallas Morning News, p. 4. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com
AP. (1938, August 25). Luce battles Alexander in semi-finals. The San Antonio Light, p. 9. Retrieved from http://www.newspaperarchive.com/san-antonio-light/1938-08-25/page-9/
AP. (1938, August 26). Buck Luce and Simon Alexander at the state semi-finals [Photograph]. The San Antonio Express, p. 14. Retrieved from http://www.mysanantionio.com
AP. (1939, January 8). SMU regarded as team to beat in golf meet. The Dallas Morning News, p. 2. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com
AP. (1939, June 17). Defending champ Luce stages hot rally to cust Skeeters at Beaumont; Watts his next foe. The Dallas Morning News, p. 4. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com
AP. (1939, August 26). Grand finale of a grand golf tournament [Photograph]. The San Antonio Light, pp. 6-A. Retrieved from http://newspaperarchive.com/san-antonio-light/1939-08-26/page-6/
AP. (1940, August 4). One more golf tourney and champ Joe’s ready. The San Antonio Light, p. 39. Retrieved from http://www.newspaperarchive.com/san-antonio-light/1940-08-04/page-39/
AP. (1948, June 29). Great golfers develop in Light’s meet. The San Antonio Light, p. 18. Retrieved from http://newspaperarchive.com/san-antonio-light/1948-06-29/page-18/
AP. (1966, February 2). Golf here–who needs archery? The Progress-Index, p. 17. Retrieved from http://www.progress-index.com
Buck Luce [Photograph]. (1953, July 5). The San Antonio Light, p. 49. Retrieved from http://newspaperarchive.com/san-antonio-light/1953-07-05/page-49/
Engagements announced. (1960, May 18). Seguin Gazette, p. 5. Retrieved from http://www.seguingazette.com
Luce, B. (1957, October 7). For the average golfer. Sports Illustrated, 82. Retrieved from http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1133073/index.htm
Luce, B. (1958, December 1). Playing the intentional fade. Sports Illustrated, 72. Retrieved from http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1003187/index.htm
Rives, B. (1951, June 10). The sports scene. The Dallas Morning News, p. 1. Retrieved from http://www.dallasnews.com
Scherwitz, H. (1960, July 9). Sportlights. The San Antonio Light, p. 4. Retrieved from http://www.newspaperarchive.com/san-antonio-light/1960-07-09/page-4/
Texas’ conference championship teams. (2009). 2009-2010 Men’s Golf Media Guide, 66. Retrieved from http://www.texassports.com/sports/m-golf/archive/10-m-golf-media-guide.html