The 50th annual Joe Kirkwood Memorial TournamentThe event scheduled for June 22 -25 is our marquee event of the summer and honors Stowe icon Joe Kirkwood. The tournament is open to golfers of all ability levels and there’s still space available if you’re looking to play but have yet to register. For the schedule of events and tournament details click here to visit the Kirkwood tournament event page.
As just about every Stowe Country Club golfer knows, Joe Kirkwood was Stowe's first Head Golf Professional. But what you may not know is that he came to Stowe to go fly fishing fish with NBC broadcasting legend, Lowell Thomas. When he saw the golf club he did what any true gentleman golfer would do, he went to meet the pro and say hello. However, he quickly learned there was no pro, and as the story goes, Kirkwood filled the void and made Stowe his home.
In addition to being Stowe’s beloved and sought after pro, Kirkwood was an extremely accomplished golfer. Having won 13 PGA Tour events, he also landed 29 hole-in-ones throughout his career. Kirkwood circumnavigated the globe by steamer ship four times with Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen where he put in over 1000 exhibitions. To this day, the winner of the Australian PGA Championship hoists the Joe Kirkwood Trophy. While he was a gifted on the course he was also poet, rock collector, and a selfless individual who loved nothing more than sparking a love for the game in Stowe’s children.
Here are some touching memories from Stephen Dresser, an award winning PGA Professional who grew up in Stowe and now resides in South Carolina.
"As a young child, I had no idea I was learning the game from such a legendary player as Mr. Kirkwood. He was well - known for his trick shot exhibitions, but few know that he won 13 times on tour. Over the years I’ve enjoyed searching for information about him on the internet. There is some incredible footage of him on Youtube.
I played my first nine holes at age 6 in 1966. In those days, you played the men’s tees because that’s how things were back then. I shot 113 on the front 9! Afterward, I was showing off my scorecard to the members, who were all politely trying not to snicker, when Mr. Kirkwood came along, signed my card and gave me a sleeve of golf balls. Even 51 years later, I remember that moment vividly.
I was 7 when he installed spikes in my dress shoes claiming they were probably the smallest pair of golf shoes in the world. They hurt like hell but I wore them every day until they didn’t. I used to love to turn around and see the spike marks in the dirt!
Mr. Kirkwood always wanted us to have fun. One day I was practicing my putting when he came by and whacked my golf ball while it was still rolling. It started down the path toward the 18th green, turned the corner and ended up in the parking lot. “Let’s see what you can do from there kid!” he exclaimed. I’ll never forget the smile on his face as I gleefully chased after it, eager to smack it back up the hill.
One evening my dad came home with a signed scorecard verifying that he had tied Mr. Kirkwood on the back 9 with a 37. Dad was mighty proud of himself even though Joe was twice his age and used only 1 club!
I was fortunate enough to see several of Mr. Kirkwood’s exhibitions. Most were from the area above the 18th green at Stowe Country Club I always tried to get a seat high up on the stone wall. Every shot he hit was amazing, but I especially recall when he’d call upon my dad as a volunteer. He’d have Dad rest his toes on a golf ball, then balance another ball on a piece of clay on top of his foot. He’d line up to hit the ball on top but would hit the one out from under his foot!"