Austin Golf by Michael Goldwater

What is history without people? If you want to know about Austin’s golf tradition, there are many options. Go to Morris Williams and see if you can find 7 time city Champion Lester Lundell hanging around the cart barn. Take a gamble and play in the Tuesday skins game at Jimmy Clay/ Roy Kizer and run into old “Pro”. Take lessons at the Harvey Penick Instruction Center at Austin Country Club or Golfsmith and get lucky enough to pick the brain of World Record holder Mike.Allen. Perhaps volunteer as a camp counselor at The Austin Junior Golf Academy and hit bunker shots with Austin golf legend Billy Claggett at Hancock. After going to any of these places and talking to any of these people, it becomes apparent that Austin has a uniquely rich golfing tradition that includes colorful personalities, world record holders, hall of famers, and people who would later be enshrined by the Austin community with courses and practice facilities in their names. These very places are the grounds where civil rights battles were waged, women’s liberties went against the status quo, and some of the game’s most unique personalities got their start.

The goal of this thesis is to prove that Austin is the scene where unusual events took place for their times. This will be proven by first, engaging in an anecdotal conversation with Austin golf legend Billy Claggett. Next, recount the history of Hancock then known as Austin Golf Club, named for its founder, and father of Austin golf Louis Hancock. The thesis will then move on to Harvey Penick. It will recount Harvey’s beginning with the Austin Golf club and describe the early conditions of Austin golf. Next, the thesis will tell some of the colorful personalities that graced Austin Golf Clubs fairways including Ben Hogan, Babe Zaharias, and Titanic Thompson. The last portion of the foundation will include the founding of Lions Golf Club, now known as “Old Muny” during the early portion of the 20th century. Once the foundation has been laid, the thesis will build the framework. The framework will consist of two portions. The first of which was Austin’s encouragement of women’s golf and the abnormal exposure it received compared to the rest of the golfing world. The second, in 1951 Lions Municipal Golf Course was the site of a “quiet integration”. When the framework is complete it will be time to fill out the house. That will be done by recounting the careers and attributes of two of Harvey’s hall of fame players: Ben Crenshaw, and Tom Kite. Then the thesis will round out its recount of unique golfers with world record holder and self-proclaimed hippie, yuppie, and redneck Michael Allen. Once all of this is discussed, it should lead to an absolute conclusion that Austin has a very rich, unique, and groundbreaking history.

Walking down the ninth fairway at Hancock with Billy Claggett as a tour guide, Billy will say, “it didn’t always used to be this way. Hancock used to have 18 holes and the other nine was located where that H-E-B is now. It has never had irrigation and the fairways have always been hard as a rock, and hey, did you know that they had sand greens?” Billy remembers playing at Hancock as a kid during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He will tell you where tee boxes and greens used to be, which holes have stayed the same and when they built Hancock’s only sand trap. Billy is one of Austin’s legendary golf figures. He is known by many as the “best putter around”, and has won The Firecracker (Austin’s oldest annual event) more than anyone, been City champion, has given his time and talents the youth of Austin, and now enjoys teaching his grandchildren and how to play the game of golf.

Hancock was the first golf course in Austin, but it was not always known by that name. In fact, Hancock itself is named for Lewis Hancock the man credited with the genesis of Austin golf and one who can trace his lineage to the famous John Hancock. Known as the “father” of golf in Austin, Hancock was a prominent individual in the community.[1] He was the second president of Austin’s oldest bank, State National. He founded the Hancock Opera House, was a public servant, owned his own building on 6th Street, and was elected mayor in 1896 and 1897. He enjoyed traveling and like many people of his ilk he did so regularly. He particularly enjoyed the Hamptons and spent so much time there that The New York Times ran his obituary.[2]

In the Northeastern United States golf was already (by this time) an Ivy League sport. Hancock while being publicly reserved but quietly progressive decided that his home town needed to know about golf. In 1898 Hancock was credited with giving the first demonstration of the “golfing arts” in Austin.[3] Although it is debated, at the time the public could not have cared less for his exhibition. Never-the-less the idea of golf in Austin was established

Nearly one year after his exhibition Hancock put an ad in the Austin Daily Statesman on November 12, 1899. The ad was titled “A Golf Club on Tap”.[4] He announced the immediate formation of a club of “golf enthusiasts” and that 75 signed invitation had gone out the day before. The meeting was to be on November 13, 1899 at 4:30 in the Driskill Hotel.[5]

On November 14, 1899, the day after the inaugural meeting was held; an article entitled “The Austin Golf Club” was printed. The 20 men that signed the roll were among the who’s who of Austin. Included were William Bell (director of Austin National Bank), Franklin Houston (UT President), Colonel C.L. Test (Rough Rider, expert marksman), Daniel Penick (professor of Latin and Greek), and certainly Lewis Hancock.[6] Among the topics discussed for the new club were location, initiation fees, and the possibility for female membership. Over the next two months the terms were hammered out and they included a plot of land just East of Hyde Park for the laying of the links and both men and women could join for an initiation fee of $5 and quarterly dues of $3. It was determined by the board that a minimum of 50 members would be needed to secure the $250 needed for the course to open. [7]This is important because it is proof for the establishment of golf in Austin. Furthermore, it is interesting because unlike many other sports or activities at that time, women were part of the discussion and encouraged to play.

Once the prospective organization generated enough memberships to justify the club, on Jan 10, 1900, their Articles of Incorporation were signed by Hancock and his board. The seven articles noted its name (The Austin Golf Club), the value of all of the goods, chattels, rights, credits, and assets of the corporation (about $150), the purpose was to maintain and promote innocent sports, and it shall have no capital stock.[8] Thus, the first golf club in Austin was born and construction began.

In the early 1900’s there was little to construct. Greens did not have to be built, fairways were neither seeded nor sodded and dirt was not moved. Generally what would happen is someone with experience would lay out a course over terrain. A teeing ground would be set and at the end would be a hole with a stick in it. This is exactly what would happen in the AGC case. By February 22, 1900, they were ready for their first “handicap”.[9] A handicap, in those days, was official terminology for an amateur golf tournament. Amateur golfers during this period enjoyed a handicap just as golfers do in the 21st century. It was and is a way to level the playing field and allow everyone to be competitive.

In a handicap event a gross score was kept, then adjusted according to the reported handicap by the officials at the tournament. Then the results would be printed in the paper the next day. In 1900 par for the 18-hole golf course was set at 80 strokes. The best golfer in Austin during that era could barely break 100 and his name was R.H. Connerly. He held a handicap of 19.[10] Walter Bremond was the winner of the first golf contest in Austin. He was a 37 handicap, and shot a gross score of 110, for an adjusted 73.[11] Compared to the scores today’s better golfers shoot, Walter’s scores don’t seem very good. However, in 1900 the golf balls had feathers in them (known as gutta-percha) and the clubs were known as nib-lick, brassie, driving putter, and the spoon. The clubs had hickory shafts and every now and then somebody would wrap leather around the end of their club so they could get a better grip.

By all accounts Austin’s first golf tournament was a success. The newspaper recounted thrilling moments followed by fits of bad luck. Hancock handed out his medals and from there golf was in Austin to stay. Judge Harlan a prominent individual in the Austin community and a spectator at the first contest stated, “Golf is a disease… and a rather incurable one.”[12]

In 20 years, and on the same grounds, a legend would influence dozens of PGA professionals (Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, and Kathy Whitworth), competitive youth golfers, the non-golfer, and ordinary people would grace the practice tee at ACC for more than 70 years. Without a doubt the most iconic golf figure Austin ever produced was Harvey Penick. Among other accomplishments, Harvey wrote several bestselling books, among these is “The Little Red Book”. But in order to gain the credibility necessary he would have to gain the experience.

Harvey became the head golf pro at Austin Golf Club in 1923.[13] He had caddied there since he was eight years old. Although it is difficult to verify, it is rumored that Harvey was offered the job while he was a junior in high school. According to legend he said that he needed to graduate from high school first. Apparently they held the position open.

When Harvey first took the job he recounted that the course had sanded greens and tees. In his book, he describes that in the old days players used to raise a small mound of sand on the tee box to give a little height to the ball so they could tee off. As well as being the head professional he was also the superintendent for 40 years. He was careful to use the term superintendent instead of greens keeper, because in the early days of AGC there was hardly any grass and definitely no grass on the greens. In fact the greens were made of sand and oil was placed on them to make them slick. Penick was responsible for the transition to Bermuda grass greens.[14]

Harvey’s brother Tom Penick was to later become the head pro at Lions Municipal Golf Course, known in 1924 simply as Muny. Lions Municipal Golf Course had Bermuda grass greens and Harvey persuaded Austin Golf Club to make the transition. Harvey also notes that Dallas Country Club was the first golf course to fertilize their fairways. He humorously accounts that Al Badger of Dallas went to the stock yards and got all the manure he could and spread it across all the fairways of Dallas Country Club. And it made up the entire place stink. He goes on to say that Dallas Country Club is a very wealthy neighborhood and Al took a lot of abuse for that.[15] He relates this story to the time when the club moved and while tearing down the old club house they found a layer of bat guano three feet thick in the attic. Harvey harvested this resource and trucked it over to the new club. According to him, he drove by his daughter and she pretended like she didn’t know her own father.[16] This is important because it recounts the close knit nature of the Austin golf community and portrays Penick as something other than a legend. He was a real man with a family and was astute enough to make changes or take advantage of something someone else would throw away.

It is true that there was no PGA Tour to speak of in the 1920’s and 1930’s. If a golfer was going to make money, he or she was going to have to do it by gambling or putting on an exhibition. Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen were famous for this. Harvey recounts several of these Austin matches in his “Little Red Book. Some of these stories are filled with world famous athletes like Babe Zaharias and Ben Hogan. And some are tales of humor with characters like the Duke of Paducha, the Masked Marvel and Titanic Thompson.

Indeed Harvey played golf with Babe Zaharias in her first exhibition. Harvey recalled that Babe was the longest driver of the golf ball he had ever seen. He also was quick to say she didn’t always know where it was going. Apparently a Supreme Court justice was in the crowd at the time and she would turn to him and say, “How’d you like that one, Judge.” Babe always drew a big crowd. Harvey specifically recalled a shot where Babe skulled a 7 iron across the green. “These greens don’t hold very well, do they Harvey?” she asked, and the gallery laughed.[17]

Ben Hogan is the architect of the modern golf swing. He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine for his “secret”. Hogan was noted for practicing for literally thousands of hours to perfect one move, “pronation”. During a charity match in Austin, Harvey heard Ben ask his caddie repeatedly, “which way is West”. This shocked Harvey, for he was under the impression that Hogan knew his game better than anyone. Hogan selected his own clubs and got his own yardages. Harvey later, after the match asked Hogan why he kept asking which way was West. Hogan replied, “All puts break to the West.” [18]Hogan would later give Harvey a valuable piece of advice than would pertain to a certain Titanic Thompson.

One of the more famous gambling matches at Austin Golf Club was Alvin C. Thomas from Fort Worth and Herman Kaiser from Ardmore, Oklahoma versus Harvey and an unknown member at Austin Golf Club.

Ben Hogan had given Harvey a tip that a Mr. Thomas was cleaning up in Fort Worth and he would be sure to make a trip down to Austin to play golf. Harvey recalls,

Ben Hogan Told me about a man named Alvin C;. Thomas, later the famous Titanic Thompson, who was hustling out of Fort Worth…. Ben said, “He can play left handed or right handed, and you can’t beat him.” Sure enough one Sunday afternoon things had slowed down and I was sitting in the golf shop when a stranger walked in and introduced himself. I am Herman Kaiser from Ardmore, Oklahoma.” He showed me his PGA card and asked if he could play our course. I said that was fine. Kaiser pointed to a big, handsome fellow and said, “This is my amateur friend, Mr. Thomas, a member of my club.” As Kaiser and his friend started out the door, Thomas said, “Would you like to play with us?” I said no, I guess not… One of our members who liked playing for a lot of money came in. I told him about Thomas. The member said, “Harvey, let’s catch them on the back side and play them. We’ll beat them out of a few hundred. I’ll pay if we lose.”… Thomas and his friend came through. Thomas sat down on a bench… I said we’d like to play. Thomas said, “We’ll play you all for a dollar a hole, or ten, a hundred, a thousand, you name it.” He let us see there was a hole in the sole of his shoe. I said I’d start off playing the back nine for fifty dollars each, which was a lot of money to me… On about the sixth hole… Thomas pulled out a little brown candy bag. “You want to give your wife something nice for Christmas?” he said. “Give her a few of these.” The bag was full of diamonds. I said no thanks, I guess not. [19]


By the end of the match Harvey and his partner lost, one down. Herman Kaiser was known for winning the 1946 Masters, which happens to be the same year of the gambling match. Harvey recalled seeing a photo of Kaiser later that year after he won the Masters. At that time, Harvey had no clue that he had a gambling match with the infamous Titanic Thompson and soon to be 1946 Masters Champion Kaiser.

One of the strangest hustles Harvey recalled was when The Duke of Paducha and the Masked Marvel came to town. The Duke was selling tickets for the Masked Marvel against the strongest challenger in town. Everyone was wondering why the man wore a mask. The event was supposed to be for charity. Harvey and a few others found out why the Marvel wore a mask. Apparently the two hustlers were going to make off with the ticket money before the match. Harvey called it off before it even began.[20]

The final portion of the foundation is Lions Municipal Golf Course. Built in 1924 by the Lions Club, “Muny” was built to be a public golf facility and the first of its kind in the Austin Area.

The Lions club formed an organization named the Austin Municipal Golf and Amusement Organization. Grounds for the course were selected and the Brackenridge tract of land near Clarkesville was chosen for the construction of the new golf course. The land was and is currently owned by the University of Texas. On May 31, 1924 an agreement was reached for use of the land as a public golf course. The alleged annual fee was one dollar. By the fall of 1924 the Lions club had built a nine-hole golf facility. And in 1930 the facility was expanded to include an additional nine holes. It is important to note that Muny was built by mostly African-American labor, due to its location near Clarksville, a then largely negro area of town.[21] As stated above Muny was the first course in Austin to incorporate Bermuda grass greens and once Harvey saw them they served as the impetus for the transformation from sand to grass greens at Austin Golf Club.

In 1937, the lease of Muny would transfer to the city of Austin and become its responsibility and gain its nickname Old Muny. The city would continue to pay an annual letting fee of one dollar until they renegotiated in the 1970’s. But most of this was usual business as far as golf in those days was concerned. And much like Austin Golf Club, some of the games greats cut their teeth at Old Muny including 4-A State Champions, brothers Randy and Carri Petri, U.S. Open champion Tom Kite, and multiple NCAA, Masters Champion, and hall of famer Ben Crenshaw. But what gave Old Muny its place in Austin golf history was its “quiet integration” during the Jim Crow era.

Although it was not publicized at the time, the integration of Muny would prove to be a big deal some fifty years after the fact. It was not publicized because there was no law suit specifically dealing with it. Candidly, it just sort of happened, although the integration of Muny did occur in the wake of the Sweatt vs. Painter, 339 US 629 (1950).[22]

The Sweatt case was widely publicized in local press because it arose from the UT Law School. It did not overrule Plessy vs. Ferguson, but it did mean that Heman Sweatt a postal worker from Houston, had to be admitted into UT Law School because a separate facility did not provide him with an equal opportunity. This case was worked on by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP. Historically, what the case did was not integrate the University of Texas, but it made the construction of separately equal facilities economically unattractive and this played a large role in the integration of Muny. At least that was the way it was pitched to whites at the time.

Importantly, there is little more than an oral history of the integration of Muny, besides a few city council minutes and some old contracts for the construction of a separate clubhouse. Effectively, all that exists are stories from several key figures, the first Councilwoman in Austin, Emma Long, Mayor Taylor Glass, and General Marshall. Interviews by all of these people point to the integration of Muny in 1951. Councilwoman Long said in an interview in 1982,

Dr. E.H. Givens was, quote, leader of the blacks. And he worked hand in glove with Mayor Miller and when they’d have a bond issue, well he was supposed to carry the bond issue for over on the black area. And they’d one time they promised Dr. Givens that if they carried the bond issue that they would build a golf course for the blacks. And the whole bond issue passed. And Dr. Givens came in one day and said, “Well, Mayor Miller, we want that golf course you promised us.”

And I said, “Oh that’s ridiculous.” I said, “I don’t see any why y’all can’t play on the golf course- municipal golf course over here.”[23]

Long said in an interview in 1974, “That’s ridiculous to have a golf course with half a dozen blacks playing on it. We need that money for children and parks. There’s no reason in the world why you shouldn’t use our golf course.” These statements clearly show an economic reason for the integration of Muny, but Mayor Glass gave a very interesting account of the integration in an interview by Joe O’ Neal in 1974,

I got a call from city hall wanting to know-there two colored boys playing on the golf course. This was before there was any mixing of races in restaurants, schools, or anywhere going on. So I said, “I’ll be right up there.”

So I called Bill Drake before I left my office, didn’t tell him what it was till I got up there. He said, “Well, what is it?” I said, “Well, we’ve got two colored boys playing golf on the golf course; went up there on their noon lunch hour, got their equipment and they are half way around the course and they want to know what to do about it.” He said, “Well, what do you want to do about it?” I said, “Well, I personally was raised on a farm with them, we played ball together, worked in the cotton patch together, just about anything you can think of together, rode horseback together, anything you can think of. They never did bother me and that old golf course is a pretty big open space out there and I don’t see why it ought to bother anybody out there and I’m for leaving them alone and not even calling the newspaper and see what happens.” He said, “I’m with you.”

I had to call one other member of the council to see that we had a majority and I called Mr. Johnson. I knew Mr. Johnson was just like us and we told him how we felt. He said, “It’s the wisest thing you’ve ever done. Don’t call that press either.” So we went on and let them play and never heard a word.

About six to eight weeks later I was walking down the street and a friend stopped me. He said, “Hey, did you know there’s niggers’ playing on the golf course?” I said, “Sure… they got my ok.” I said, “Well, they don’t have a golf course”… They are going to play out there as far as I am concerned. Now if they are truly bothering you, I want to know it. I said, “It will cost half-million dollars to build them a golf course and it will come out of your pocket. You’re part of the taxes and you’ll pay the upkeep. Now up to this time they haven’t played a lot of golf, maybe because they didn’t have a place to play. But they are going to play out there if I have anything to do with it. He said, “You know, I believe you’re right.” They don’t like to get hit in the pocket.[24]


The last Austin figure during the integration of Lions is General Marshall. He is also one of the amateur researchers that brought the integration of Lions to light. Today the eighth hole at Lions Municipal golf course is named The General Marshall Hole. Marshall was born in Austin and as an adolescent was a caddy at Lions from 1946-1952. He would tote a bag for 85 cents. He personally saw the integration of Lions, and said, “There were several groups of African Americans who came to play Muny. I remember specifically that some had big bags and took caddies. I felt especially proud. They came from San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.” [25]

Marshall recalled that he did not play golf until sometime after 1954 as he did not own clubs. Subsequent to his caddie days, he won the Men’s Senior Amateur Championship three times, was the President of the Capital City Golf Association, and was the golf coach at Austin’s oldest college, Houston-Tillotson, from 1971-1981, where he was also a mathematics professor. He still plays Lions to this day. [26]

This is a significant historical find that was not unearthed until the end of the twentieth century and not substantially proven until early in the twenty-first century. The first integration was thought to have happened in Atlanta during 1955 after a U.S. Supreme court decision. Professor Dawkins at the University of Miami was unaware of this research.[27] Dawkins field of research is integration of golf in America. And he is quick to point out that in the North many golf courses were built for African Americans and golf courses in Chicago and other Northern cities integrated earlier. But to the scholarly expert on American golf integration, “It is not one sole piece of evidence but a culmination of several sources.” That makes clear and certain that Lions Municipal golf course was the first course not only in Texas, but in all states south of the Mason Dixon line to integrate. General Marshall is quoted saying, “The city (Austin) was forward. It was far ahead of other cities.” Tiemann, a longtime resident of Tarrytown who used to walk the Lions with his grandfather looking for arrowheads, saw the exhibit at the Austin History Center and saw a story stitched together that he had never heard before and said, “Lions was the birth-place of equal access golf in the South.”[28]

Austin was and is known for being a progressive city. This in many respects holds true. It held true for the civil rights of African American golfers in 1951 and it also holds true for female golfers in Austin.

Women have always, since the beginning of the sport in America, been encouraged to play golf. An ad in 1902 newspaper featured an anti-chaffing powder, marketed directly to women who played golf.[29] This proves that having women on the golf course was not an unusual occurrence. Going further, in fact it was seen as a sort of visual spectacle. In other words men would show up and watch women in tight clothes play golf. An article in the Austin American Statesman in the 1930’s has a picture of an attractive woman in a bikini like outfit. The writing under the photo said, “Shorts banned”. In other words Austin was compliant with the norms and standards for women’s golf. There was nothing extraordinary about Austin in that regard. What makes Austin a special place for women’s golf was the exposure it received.

A letter sent from Baytown Texas to Mildred Neal in 1947 reads,

I have never been to a tournament before where the paper covered all of the high-lights, Mr. Williams did a bang up job. Tell him how much I appreciate it.[30]

Throughout the 1930’s, 1940’s, and midway through the 1950’s, Morris Williams was the beat writer for the Austin American Statesman, prior to taking the job as the golf writer for the paper in 1930’s.[31] He was an Austin native and lived on 40th Street right next to present day Hancock golf course. Once he got the assignment he joined the club and set out to learn all he could about golf. In Williams’ day there was no radio broadcast of live golf nor was there television. There were only two ways a person could know the outcome of an event or that the event was taking place. They would either have to attend or they would read about it in the paper the next day. Admittedly other cities had golf writers but they did not cover women’s golf to the degree that Williams did.

The vast majority of women’s golf during this period was amateur. There was no women’s professional tour, so to speak. The scrapbook in the Lions golf shop is evidence of this. The scrapbook was made by Mildred Neal and donated. The piece dates back to 1933. All of the articles were written by Williams. Neal was a prominent lady golfer herself competing in tournaments across Texas and President of the Texas Women’s Public Links Golf Association (TWPLGA). Thanks to her scrapbook and Williams’ coverage of the sport we know much about women’s golf in the pre-mass media days. Via Neal’s scrapbook we know that the TWPLGA voted against shorts in tournament play. An article written by Williams reads,

May the day never come finds himself uninterested in and unconcerned with the type of garment that is draped about the feminine form. Or, for that matter, the feminine form exclamation point.

That my concern this time tends to be more academic then practical is relatively unimportant. The point is, I still care. Only a churl or a lout would profess to a complete indifference over a woman’s choice of chassis covering, whether it be designed for decoration or disguise. He either likes what he sees or he doesn’t like it, and any decoration to the contrary is null and void and of no consequence.

And this leads to the matter that has been disturbing the tranquility of the women’s golf association over the state for several years, to wit; shorts, specifically the wearing of them during tournament competition.

To wear or not to wear that is the question. Right now and for the last three years the answer for the TWPLGA is and has been “No.”

They are verboten. So are the “pedal-pushers” and slacks by the TWPLGA by-laws. Last year, you agent learns, there was quite a controversy over the subject at the annual meeting…

In their casual play… some wear them and some don’t. The ratio holds in Austin….

“It was alright,” said a member of the TWPLGA yesterday, “but some of the costumes became briefer and briefer, so the association voted them out. We felt it was for the best interest. You can imagine the uproar if somebody appeared in one of those bikini things, or one of those latest French creations.”[32]


The purpose of this article was not to show that women had a controversy over their attire. Instead, it is to highlight the fact that not only were golf tournament outcomes reported but women’s issues pertaining to golf were highlighted as well. While attire was a big issue among women statewide it was brought to the forefront via the Statesman and Williams in Austin.

After Williams’ death in 1959 Austin’s coverage of women’s golf did not recede. Another interesting account of controversy among the lady rank is documented in 1960. In 1960 the TWPLGA voted to ban from competition any lady who was under the age of 21. Mildred Neal led the opposition to this legislation. The stated reason for the ban of all competitors under 21 was because the tournament was held while students were still in school. Neal proposed official legislation to the committee to lift the ban. It read,

WHEREAS, the recently adopted Standing Rule 26 of TWPLGA prohibits girls under 21 years of age from participatin in our annual state tournaments, and

WHEREAS, six former public links champions won their titles while under 21 years of age and four went on to the professional ranks to bring credits and honor to the state organization which gave them their start, and

WHEREAS, we believe the policy of barring these fine young competitors from our tournament is unsportsmanlike and not keeping with the traditions of the organization, which has heretofore welcomed all ages, and

WHEREAS, this rule would thwart the tournaments primary purpose of determining the finest female public links golfer in the state of Texas, and would make a mockery of the title “State Public Links Champion” and now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Austin’s Public Links Golf Association protests the adoption of Standing Rule 26 and instructs its state board member, Mrs. Bill Covington to lend her support to any action coming before the executive board which will result in the rescinding of this rule.[33]


The banishment of lady golfers under 21 was a statewide issue and repealed shortly after it was passed thanks to the efforts of Neal and others. But it was a small issue in the grand scheme of things during the 1960’s. The fact that scrutiny was given to the issue by The Statesman proves that they covered even, the perceivably small stories of the day.

Morris Williams was known as one of the best golf journalists in the state. By deciding to take up golf at Austin Golf Club when he became the golf beat writer for Statesman, he also introduced his son to the game of golf.

While women’s golf was exposed by Williams, his son Morris Williams Jr. practiced the art of playing. His story is likened to that of a shooting star. He shot across the sky quickly and with awe inspiring splendor and as quick as he came he left.

Harvey recalled that Williams Jr. was one of his top three students and the other two included Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. William’s Jr. was and remains the only golfer in history to win the fabled Texas Grand Slam. To win the “Slam” a player must win the State Amateur, State Junior, and the Texas State Open (Professional Event). In a 12 month stretch from 1949-1950 Williams held each title.[34] He was definitely considered one of the state’s premier junior golfers and when it came time to choose a college he made the most logical choice.

Williams Jr. grew up only five minutes from campus and the golf coach for the University of Texas from 1931-1963 was Harvey Penick. With such an amazing college and junior career his Professional Golfers Association Tour (PGA) prospects looked promising. However, the tour in the 1950’s was not a place of extravagance. Only the top golfers lived comfortably. So Williams Jr. went into the Air Force in 1953 during the Korean War. While he was in the Air Force he won the Air Force Championship at Elgin Air Force Base later in 1953. His parents came to watch him win. On September 13, 1953 Williams Jr. F-86 jet crashed during a gunnery exercise in Elgin. After learning of his son’s death, Williams collapsed in his front doorway into Harvey’s arms.[35] Williams Sr. died only a few short years later. This story serves two purposes. The first is to show that the Austin golf community was a close knit group and the second is that a tournament and a municipal golf course would be named in their honor; a tournament where two World Golf Hall of Famers and Penick Pupil’s would compete while at the University of Texas.

Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw can hardly be mentioned separately. Both are in the Hall of Fame, won major golf tournaments, were Harvey’s pupils, captained Ryder Cup teams, grew up in Austin, competed against and with each other, and are well known as the most successful professional golfers to come out of Austin.

While their names can hardly be mentioned separately, their personalities and styles of play could not have been any more different. By all accounts, Kite, was not the most physically talented young man. He was known to outwork anybody and had to in order to compete, in contrast to Crenshaw who was known as a natural. According to Harvey, “Tom was a very long practice and a perfectionist… He asked me to watch him hit iron shots to the green. They looked perfect to me. What’s wrong with that I asked? Tommy said, they are flying about a foot to high.”[36] In the same account Kite hit another shot four feet short of the cup and told Harvey he misjudged either the wind or the moisture on the green.[37] Kite was a perfectionist and this attribute contrasted sharply with his younger nemesis Crenshaw.

Crenshaw according to Harvey is a superb athlete. So athletic in fact, that he could play left handed nearly as well as he could play right handed.[38] Harvey recounted a story of Crenshaw as a boy, “Ben came to me when he was about eight years old… I asked him to hit a ball on to a green about 75 yards away and he did it. Then I said lets go putt it in the hole. Ben said, “If you wanted it in the hole, why didn’t you say that the first time.”[39] The point is that Crenshaw didn’t have to think about things the way Kite did. Kite would account for all of the variables, while Crenshaw intuitively knew how to accomplish his goal. Harvey made the point that he would never let either of them watch him teach the other. Harvey was astute enough to know that what applied to Kite did not apply to Crenshaw.

Both boys grew up in Austin and were members at Austin Country Club. Kite went to MacCallum High school where he was teammates with the older Mike Allen. Crenshaw was the star of the Austin High golf team. Kite was a few years ahead of Crenshaw. At the scholastic level they didn’t compete against one another. More accurately, it wasn’t until Kite entered his freshman year at UT when the competition began.

While Kite was at UT he was a star golfer. But when he would play in local city competition he was not always the main attraction. In fact, the phenom was young Ben Crenshaw. When Crenshaw was still in high school he beat Kite and won the City Championship on more than one occasion. Newspaper articles at the time depicted Kite with his head between his knees.[40] But this was only the beginning of the rivalry between the two.

Long time UT golf coach Goerge Hannon had the two best amateur golfers in the country on his team for the 1971-72 seasons. As a result, they would win the NCAA championships those two years. And in 1972 the individual trophy would be shared. Kite and Crenshaw tied for the individual NCAA champions. This would be the only NCAA individual championship Kite won, whereas, Crenshaw won the title three years in a row 1971-1973.

As amateurs they were among the best in the country. Both qualified for the U.S. open in 1970 where Kite would outperform Crenshaw and earn his first trip to the masters. Both qualified for the prestigious walker cup that same year. The walker cup is a tournament between the best amateurs of Europe and the U.S. As amateurs both golfers had illustrious careers but that ended for Kite after his NCAA co-championship with Crenshaw in 1972 when he decided to turn pro.[41]

As a professional Kite has won 19 PGA events including the 1992 U.S. open and he was the leading money winner in 1981 and 1989. Kite also was named PGA player of the year in 1989. Kite was also the first player to reach $6 million, $7million, $8 million, and $9 million in career earnings. He has competed in seven Ryder Cup performances and Captained one. The Ryder Cup is a bi-annual tournament held between the top professionals of Europe and the United States where there is no money at stake, only national pride. Among Kites dubious honors, he is known as having competed in the most Master’s without a win and has never won a professional event in Texas.

Crenshaw started his professional career quickly by winning The San Antonio Open, his first event in 1973. He also won 19 PGA events including two Master’s in 1984 and 1995. Crenshaw spent 80 weeks in top 10 in the official world golf rankings. He captained the victorious 1999 Ryder cup team and one of the leading advocates for the Save Muny foundation.

Both men have and have had exceptional careers as both amateurs and professionals. Both men credit their success in large part to their mentor Harvey Penick. It is no coincidence that the foundation from which they came, allowed them to accomplish everything they did.

One of the most unique figures in Austin golf is Michael Allen and he owns a piece of golf history. Allen went to McCallum High School where he was a couple of years ahead of Kite. He was always realistic about his chances of playing professionally and decided to devote his time and energy to higher education rather than golf. He did so for 40 years and retired as the associate registrar at the University of Texas in early June of 2011. [42]

Allen is known for the “pith” helmet that he wears. In an interview by Kevin Robbins Allen described why he decided to wear his famous helmet. “I wanted something that would keep me out of the sun but would be light and airy. These little straw pith helmets have an inside ring that touches your head, but the rest of your head has got room for air to circulate. I thought it was a little bit goofy, but I prefer function over style. And it turns out, it wasn’t that unstylish.” [43]When Allen is asked about how he feels about his hometown, Austin, he believes the “Keep Austin Weird” movement has led the city to be tolerant of many different lifestyles. “You can the mix the rednecks and hippies and yuppies and they all seem to get along.” Allen said. Of these Allen believes he is a bit of all three, he hunts and fishes, reads extensively, is aware of financial markets, attends the Kerrville Folk Festival, and writes and plays music.[44]

Among his other accomplishments, Allen is known in the golfing world for holding the record for making the most birdies in a row. To any golfer this is an incredible feat and the fact that it was done by an amateur makes it even more astounding. Allen recounts,

Well, on August the 24th of 1989, I made 11 consecutive birdies (at Jimmy Clay) and set the world record for most consecutive birdies. It was verified by Golf Digest. On Jimmy Clay, what’s now the back nine, the par-5 (10th), was hole No. 1. I bogeyed number one, parred two and three, bogeyed four. And so, the fifth hole, I started making birdies. And I made 11 in a row. I was playing in the Thursday afternoon pickup game. There were about 30 players. They all had a bunch of dollar matches and that sort of thing. I think I won $26 in one-dollar bets.[45]


Allen is definitely a homegrown talent and is one of Kite’s dear friends. Most recently, Allen qualified for the 2011 U.S. Senior Open and practiced at Austin Country Club regularly with Kite in preparation for the event. Allen has won the City Championship (1987) and the Firecracker (1974), two of Austin’s premier championships.[46] Currently, Allen and Billy Claggett have started a website called The website is dedicated to golf content and its goal is to promote golf in the area. The website recounts and follows junior golfers who have gone to college; it also keeps live scoring for major city events including the City Championship and the Firecracker. Although Allen was never a professional golfer his legendary status among Austin golfers is cemented.

From Michael Allen, to Billy Claggett, to Ben Crenshaw, to Tom Kite, to the Williams’, to Harvey Penick, to Sweatt vs. Painter, to Lions, to Austin Golf Club, and to Louis Hancock, Austin has its golf history. Other cities have spawned great players with great stories, but it is doubtful that they have seen the record breaking, unique, colorful, successful history that the Austin golf family has been privy to. Austin has been a forward town in many aspects including golf. Without the foundation Loius Hancock, Lions, and Harvey Penick laid, Austin would not have been the site for the first integration in Dixie, its coverage of women’s golf by Mr. Williams Sr., world class golfers Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, and hippie, yuppie, red-neck golfer Michael Allen. Austin is strange city where weird things happen and positive things result.











Penick, Harvey. Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992

Penick, Harvey. And If You Play Golf, You're My Friend Furthur Reflections of a Grown Caddie; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993

Penick, Harvey. For All Who Love the Game: Lessons and Teachings for Women; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Penick, Harvey. The Game for a Lifetime: More Lessons and Teachings; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996

Penick, Harvey. The Wisdom of Harvey Penick: Lessons and Thoughts from the Collected Writings of Golf’s Best-Loved Teacher; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997

Robbins, Kevin. ”The Saturday Cup of Coffee with Mike Allen.” Backspin, July, 2, 2011. Accessed December 5, 2011

Texas Golf Hall of Fame. “Morris Williams Jr.” Last modified June 2011.

Trimble, Frances G. One Hundred Years of Champions and Change; Austin, the Whitley Company, 1999

Save Muny. “Legends of Lions.” Last modified September 16, 2010.

Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.

Scrapbook, Mildred Niel. 1933-1960

Scrapbook, Tom Kite. 1970-1972










[1]Frances G. Trimble. One Hundred Years of Champions and Change; (Austin, the Whitley Company, 1999) 1


[2]Trimble, 2


[3]Trimble, 3


[4]Trimble, 9


[5]Trimble, 10


[6]Trimble, 11


[7]Trimble, 11


[8]Trimble, 15


[9]Trimble, 17


[10]Trimble, 18


[11]Trimble, 18


[12]Trimble, 19


[13]Trimble, 25


[14]Harvey Penick. Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992) 173


[15]Penick, 174


[16]Penick, 175


[17]Penick, 125


[18]Penick, 129


[19]Penick, 164


[20]Penick, 166


[21]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[22]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[23]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[24]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[25]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[26]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[27]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[28]Save Muny. “History.” Last modified September 16, 2010.


[29]Trimble, 5


[30]Scrapbook, Mildred Niel. 1933-1960


[31]Texas Golf Hall of Fame. “Morris Williams Jr.” Last modified June 2011.


[32]Scrapbook, Mildred Niel. 1933-1960


[33]Scrapbook, Mildred Niel. 1933-1960


[34]Texas Golf Hall of Fame. “Morris Williams Jr.” Last modified June 2011


[35]Texas Golf Hall of Fame. “Morris Williams Jr.” Last modified June 2011


[36]Penick, 137


[37]Penick, 137


[38]Penick, 138


[39]Penick, 138


[40]Scrapbook, Tom Kite. 1970-1972


[41]Scrapbook, Tom Kite. 1970-1972


[42]Robbins, Kevin. ”The Saturday Cup of Coffee with Mike Allen.” Backspin, July, 2, 2011.


[43]Robbins, Kevin. ”The Saturday Cup of Coffee with Mike Allen.” Backspin, July, 2, 2011.


[44]Robbins, Kevin. ”The Saturday Cup of Coffee with Mike Allen.” Backspin, July, 2, 2011.


[45]Robbins, Kevin. ”The Saturday Cup of Coffee with Mike Allen.” Backspin, July, 2, 2011.


[46]Robbins, Kevin. ”The Saturday Cup of Coffee with Mike Allen.” Backspin, July, 2, 2011.










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