Jul 8, 2016

Third in a series of articles covering prominent people and pertinent subjects associated with the centennial of the Illinois Section.

The world of golf a century ago was one steeped in formality. Men wore ties and often donned jackets while playing. Women wore long flowing skirts that surely impeded their swing.

Everyone was "Mr." or "Mrs."

Then there was Jock.

The full name was either John Waters Hutchison, John Fowler Hutchison or Jack Falls Hutchison, depending on the source. The last name was often incorrectly spelled Hutchinson.

Call the head professional at the Glen View Club from 1918 through 1953 "Jock", and you couldn't go wrong.

In 1921, Jock Hutchison became the first American to win the British Open — it was rarely called the Open Championship outside of Scotland in those days — but there's a catch. Hutchison was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1884. He emigrated to the United States in his teens and became a U.S. citizen in 1920.

That was a big year for Jock in several ways. He'd arrived at Glen View from the Allegheny Country Club in Pittsburgh with the playing resume of someone about to break through. He'd advanced to the final match of the first PGA Championship in 1916, only to fall to Jim Barnes.

The following year, with the U.S. at war, Hutchison had won the National Patriotic Tournament, the replacement for the canceled U.S. Open.

Three years later, citizenship papers in hand, within the space of three weeks, Jock won the Western Open and PGA Championship at clubs within a mile of each other. Hutchison won the Western at Olympia Fields, beating a trio including Barnes by a stroke, and then won the PGA at Flossmoor, knocking off J. Douglas Edgar, one of golf's great forgotten players, 1 up in the championship match.

"Surprise? It was a complete upset," The New York Times sniffed.

Hardly. Between the Western and the PGA, he nearly won the U.S. Open, breaking the course record at Inverness twice en route to finishing a stroke in arrears of Ted Ray.

In truth, it was one of the great runs in golf, and the final piece of it — the PGA — came about only because Hutchison was in the right place at the right time. He had missed qualifying for the PGA, coming in 11th in the Middle States Section championship at Westmoreland when only the top eight advanced.

"His only chance of appearing in the big show at Flossmoor next month is that several of the players who qualified in the eastern section may not come," Joe Davis wrote in the Chicago Tribune.

That's what happened. Both Hutchison and Joe Roseman replaced others, and Hutchison made the most of it, knocking off Eddie Loos of Ravisloe, Lawrence Ayton of Evanston, Louis Tellier of Boston and Harry Hampton of Richmond, Va., en route to the championship match.

The match with Edgar came down to one brilliant shot on the 34th hole, Flossmoor's famed 16th. Hutchison, his lead whittled from 4 up to 1 up, hooked his drive to the edge of a bunker and had a downhill lie to an uphill green with the sand a threat if the shot was topped.

Hutchison went from spoon to mashie to spoon as he pondered the shot. Finally, he would wield the spoon, and hit a brilliant shot that found the green 200 yards away, and stayed on it, so unnerving Edgar that he barely found the green with a comparatively easy approach shot, then missed a par putt for a halve. Hutchison, dormie 2, closed out the match with a halve at the last to capture the 3rd PGA Championship.

Curiously, his triumph at St. Andrews in 1921 was tinged with controversy. Hutchison used a set of irons that were grooved more deeply than the R&A thought proper. The year before, they ruled the irons would be illegal beginning July 1, 1921. But the Open was played in the last week of June, the irons were legal, and Hutchison, after 72 holes at 8-over 296, met and defeated amateur Roger Wethered in a 36-hole playoff, 150 to 159. Further controversy came when Wethered penalized himself for stepping on his ball in the third round, costing him a chance to win outright.

Then, Hutchison almost didn't have to tee it up. Wethered was planning to play for his cricket team on the day of the playoff and, it was said, it took a great deal of convincing to even get him to show up.

The numbers didn't show it, but The Glasgow Herald called the final 36 holes of regulation "the most remarkable day of golf that any of us can remember." So was the playoff, at least for Jock.

His win at St. Andrews was followed by a second Western Open in 1923 — his fourth major title in as many years, and a record that earned him World Golf Hall of Fame induction in 2001 to go with his induction into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 1990 — but all those championships didn't bring Hutchison riches as much as it brought him acclaim, and, at Glen View, security. Clubs then were thrilled to have a champion to teach their members. And Hutchison was a brilliant teacher whose game never left him. His 67 at Glen View in 1951, when he was 68, brought headlines. (He held the course record at 63.)

In the 1928, the man nicknamed the Gray Eagle wrote a series of articles entitled "Better Golf," and the introduction dispelled the idea that the lessons would be merely on paper.

As Jock wrote, "no real golfer ever has been developed except on the course. Their worth to the golfer will be just how much of them he puts into practice…If the reader will study and digest the suggestions and then use them when he's swinging a club at a ball to such purpose that he plays a better game, their purpose will have been served."

Hutchison retired from Glen View in 1953, but hardly left the game. He spent his winters at the Plantation club in Fort Lauderdale, but received greater attention from his annual visit to Augusta National Golf Club, where he and Fred McLeod became the first honorary starters of the Masters in 1963.

Jock did so for 11 years, until ill health forced him to the sideline before the 1974 Masters. He was 90. He died three years later in Evanston.

"I would rather do this than win a tournament," Hutchison once said. "Leading off the Masters is the greatest honor we can ever have."

Yet, for both Hutchison and McLeod, their winning was what got them to that honorary position. But for both, it wasn't winning their majors. It was because Jock, in 1937, and Fred, in 1938, had won the first two Senior PGA Championships.

They were played at Augusta National.