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Since 1950, Stowe CC has been at the hub of Vermont golf. The actual course began across the river at the Stowe Center Shop building on the Mountain Road and players crossed a trestle bridge to play the now #13, #14, and #15 holes. When the local ski lodge owners were looking for something to fill their rooms in the summer months, the plan was made to expand the course and stock was sold. The expanded 18 holes was finished in 1962. The once turn of the century Laliberte Dairy Farm provided a rolling layout that fit nicely to the par 72 layout.

Joe Kirkwood

Joseph Henry Kirkwood, Sr. (3 April 1897 – 29 October 1970) was a professional golfer who is acknowledged as having put Australian golf on the world map.

Kirkwood was born in Sydney, Australia. As a ten-year-old, he left home to work on a sheep ranch in the Australian Outback where his boss introduced him to the game of golf. He developed his skills to the point where he could compete in his country’s most important golf tournaments. In 1920 he won the Australian Open and in that year’s New Zealand Open he astounded the golfing world with a victory that surpassed the previous tournament record score by twelve strokes.

Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood met at Pinehurst in 1921 where they played together in the North and South Open. At the end of the event, Kirkwood put on a trick-shot demonstration for hotel guests, earning over $700 in tips. As a keen entrepreneur, Hagen was very impressed and suggested that they team up for exhibitions. The new partnership would contract to play a thirty-six hole match against local pros or amateurs and Kirkwood would put on a trick shot exhibition following the match. An ad in American Golfer in 1923 noted that between July 1, 1922 and April 10th, 1923 the team had played in 115 exhibition matches, winning 97, losing 14, and tying on 4.

Dr. William Lowell, a dentist and member of the Maplewood Country Club in New Jersey, played his first round of golf at age 59 and was unhappy with the messy teeing method of using sand and water, finding it soiled his clothing. At his dentistry office, he used his dental tools to create a tee from gutta-percha, a material used in making false teeth (as well as golf balls) but found it was not strong enough. He then whittled one out of a flagstick and brought the prototype to a woodworker to replicate the device. Initially a run of 5000 tees were made from white birch and colored green but he decided to paint the tees red to better see them against the grass, marketing them as the Reddy Tee. They were not very popular until Walter Hagen used them during his 1922 tour, receiving a $1500 endorsement fee to do so. Following the endorsement, they became wildly popular. Hagen described what happened after he and Kirkwood used the tee at an exhibition match in Groton, Connecticut. "Joe and I strutted around the course with the bright, red tees stuck behind our ears. At each tee we used them… and I left them. Kids scrambled on the course grabbing them as souvenirs.” Collecting the discarded tees became so popular that clubs found it necessary to rope off the tee boxes and fairways to control the gallery and the crowds seeking to collect the tees. This is considered the first time in U.S. golf history that gallery ropes were used. Lowell quit his job as a dentist and formed the Reddy Tee Company and obtained a patent on his design. By the mid1920s the company was grossing over $300,000 annually with the F.W. Woolworth Company alone ordering a billion tees.

In 1923 Kirkwood won 5 times, three events in succession and still holds widest winning stroke margin in PGA Tour history, set at the 1924 Corpus Christi Open in Texas. That year he also teamed up with Walter Hagen to begin travelling around the globe putting on golf and trick-shot exhibitions, newsreels of which were sent back home to be shown in movie theatres around the U.S.

Stowe had the good fortune to have radio personality, Lowell Thomas, as a frequent guest. Thomas was a golfer of some note and had friends throughout the golf world. Thomas had invited Kirkwood to Stowe to visit the popular Lake Mansfield Trout Club for some fishing and upon his arrival, Kirkwood learned about the newly expanded Stowe Country Club and set out to introduce himself to the Pro. Upon learning the Club was without a pro, he decided to take the position and thus began his adventures in Vermont. Joe lived upstairs in the clubhouse with one of his three sons, Ron.  One of his other sons, Joe Junior, would later become a professional golfer and tour winner and Kirkwood Sr. and JR. are still mentioned as one of the few father-son victors on the PGA Tour. Can you name the others? Joe Jr would also become hollywood royalty as Joe Palooka.

Cancer took Joe Kirkwood Sr. in 1970. His grave is in the West Branch Cemetery near the corner of Mountain Road and Cottage Club Road, a par-5 distance from the clubhouse.  The grave is marked with a large boulder with the following inscription carved below a crooked golf club:

Tell your story of hardluck shots, 
Of each shot straight and true,
But when you are done remember son – 
That nobody cares but you!

The Club hosts the annual Joe Kirkwood invitational every June to honor their first pro and raise money for our Junior Golf Programs. Visit the tournament website at