Excerpts from the History of Tennessee Golf: 1894-2001

(Notes in parenthesis are personal notes from Bobby Greenwood, October 2003)

“Bobby Greenwood played the PGA Tour for seven years. His record as a tour player is pale in comparison to other Tennesseans, but he ranks as one of the Volunteer State’s great amateur players.

In the1960s, there was NO BETTER AMATEUR PLAYER in Tennessee and HE WAS ONE OF THE BEST AMATEURS IN AMERICA!  During the 1960s, he earned All-America honors at North Texas State University and was ranked among the national’s Top 10 amateurs by Golf Magazine twice.  He won the 1966 State Amateur and the 1968 State Open before turning pro.  He was the third of eight to complete this double.  (Bobby also won the Rhode Island Open while he was on the PGA Tour.)

Greenwood started playing golf at Cookeville Country Club at the age of twelve.  “I was hanging around the club and Mason Rudolph came to Cookeville to play in a junior tournament,” Greenwood remembered.  “I listened to the members brag on Mason Rudolph.  I was probably the worst junior player there’s ever been.  That may be why I became a good teacher.  When I was seventeen I finally became a pretty good player and started playing what we called the ‘fried chicken circuit,’ in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky.  After Lou Graham was gone, I won thirteen tournaments in one season.” ( *Note: fried chicken circuit means one day medal tournament, per Bobby Greenwood, October 27, 2003.)

Greenwood graduated from Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia, in 1957 and played golf at Tennessee Tech (University in Cookeville, Tennessee) his freshman year.  He had aspirations of playing golf at a major college, but got no scholarship offers.  After his freshman year, he called coach Herb Farrell at North Texas State (University in Denton, Texas). “I told him how many tournaments I had won, that my scoring average was 70.3 and he seemed fairly impressed,’ Greenwood said.  “I knew I could make their team.  I went on the train (to Texas) with the understanding that if I made the team he would help me with a scholarship.  I got a room in a boarding house and dug the basement for the music building to make ends meet that first year.”

Greenwood quickly found out playing golf in Texas was not the same as playing golf in Middle Tennessee.  “It was the first time I ever played in the wind,” he said.  “I could win tournaments in Tennessee hitting a high soft fade. (But in the Texas wind) I couldn’t break eighty.  All those guys on the team wanted me to play, but I (instead), hit golf balls until finally figured out how to hit the ball low enough to play in the wind.  My left ear about filled up with sand.  The answer was take two clubs more and hit it easy.  When they held the first team tournament, I won it.  Then they had a match play tournament and I beat Rives McBee, who was the captain of the team (in the finals).  No one ever had beat Rives on the North Texas State course.”

Greenwood may have worked to make ends meet while at North Texas State, but admits he was fortunate to get the opportunity to play big-time amateur golf.  Today it is very expensive to play a full schedule of amateur tournaments.  In the 1960s it was easier financially, but still beyond most family budgets.  Greenwood’s father and grandfather were successful Cookeville businessmen and enabled Bobby to travel and play in the biggest and best amateur tournaments in the country.  “Jerry Maxwell was my caddie and we used to hitchhike to these tournaments (fried chicken circuits),” Greenwood said.  “I never needed a lot of money.  All I did was play ball or golf, but I was very blessed.  They gave me the opportunity to travel to the big tournaments.  At tournaments like the Sunnehanna I would be usually be put up in people’s homes.”  Staying in the home of a club member was a custom of the day during Greenwood’s amateur days.

GREENWOOD PLAYED IN ALL THE BIG TOURNAMENTS – U.S. Amateur, Western, Southern, Eastern, Trans-Miss, (North-South), Sunnehanna, and the Colonial at Memphis, one of the biggest amateur events in the country.  His schedule included the college tournaments and the in-state events, too.

At the 1964 Southern Amateur at Lost Tree in North Palm Beach, Florida, he shot an eight-under par 64 to set a course record.  The Sunnehanna Amateur is a Tournament of Champions.  Only the world’s finest amateurs are invited to play in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Don’t plan on getting invited unless you are a nationally ranked player, an All-America selection, a winner of a major amateur tournament, a Walker Cup member, or a defending state amateur or open champion.  Greenwood won the prestigious Sunnehanna in 1965 and 1968.  He is one of the only seven multiple winners.  Tiger Woods played in two Sunnehannas, but he never won one.  In 1965, Greenwood won the event by five strokes.  His eleven-under par 269 wiped out the 273 mark set by Gene Dahlbender of Atlanta in 1960.  He did it the hard way.  For two days he sat on the sidelines during practice rounds, waiting for his clubs to arrive.  Just before round one he borrowed woods, irons, and a putter and shot 70.  (*Per Bobby Greenwood’s account to Elma Greenwood: “I borrowed the clubs from the Green Superintendent, and I had to borrow golf shoes from a gracious member, and I purchased a cap from the Pro Shop. My clubs arrived from the airport for the second round but I kept the borrowed putter and shot 63.” – October 27, 2003).  (He followed the 63 up with rounds of 70 and 66).  He had described his game as “not good.”  He had just come off active duty with the National Guard and had lost twelve pounds and was down to 140.  Ardent Sunnehanna followers were convinced Greenwood’s 269 would stand forever.  It took twenty-seven years before Allen Doyle of LaGrange, Georgia, shot 266.  Greenwood’s 63 (still stands as the 18 hole course record!).  In 1964, Greenwood and Vinny Giles of Richmond, Virginia, were co-medalists in the 1964 U.S. Amateur at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Greenwood beat Dave Eichelberger 7-5 in the second round. And, after a heated match, Bobby beat Billy Joe Patton 3-2 in the 3rd round). In 1963, Bill Campbell bested him in the fourth round.  In 1965, the Amateur was contested at stroke play and Greenwood finished in a tie for nineteenth.

In the summer of 1961, Jack Nicklaus was in Memphis defending his Colonial Invitational title.  He lost to Greenwood, who eagled the eighteenth hole and birdied the first extra hole for the victory.  Greenwood lost in the finals to Dick Crawford, 4 and 3.  It was the last match Nicklaus lost as an amateur.  (That same year), In September at Pebble Beach, Nicklaus won his second U.S. Amateur and then in June of 1962 at Oakmont he won his first U.S. Open.  In Nicklaus’s book, My 55 Ways To Lower Your Golf Score,  the Golden Bear used the loss to Greenwood to illustrate how a golfer must not disregard percentages when determining how to play a shot during a match.

Greenwood broke his wrist playing church league basketball before winning the State Open in 1968.  The injury delayed his turning professional.  In the fall of 1969, he tied Johnny Miller for third in the PGA Tour’s qualifying school.  This was in the days when qualifying gave a player the opportunity to join Monday’s rabbits seeking berth in the tournament proper.  From 1969 through 1975, Bobby played the PGA Tour.  He made seventy-two cuts, six Top 10s, fifteen Top 25s, and $50,929 in official money.  At the 1971 Los Angeles Open, he led after fifty-four holes with rounds of 69-69-66.  He held a three-shot lead, but shot 73 the last round.  (His two-way tie for fourth with Lee Trevino) was his best finish on the tour.

Greenwood has been involved in the golf business his entire life.  His career has spanned almost every facet of the industry.  His credits includes being the director of golf at Sawgrass Country Club, the home of the Tournament players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; a design coordinator for Golden Bear International, Jack Nicklaus’s golf course design firm; president of his own golf course architectural firm and designer with (Greenwood-Tucker) of Fairfield Glade’s Dorchester course; editor-in-chief of one of Tennessee’s first golf publication, Nifty Knicker; and a partner in a golf school operation and a discount golf shop.

In 1964, Greenwood played in the Texas Cup matches.  The Tennessee Cup Matches were started in 1968 by Tennessee PGA Section president Hubert Smith and Nashville businessman John Deal, a great amateur player who was a member at Old Hickory and Richland and a director of the Tennessee Golf Association.  Bobby planted the seed for the event with Hubie, but it took four years for it to bloom.  Greenwood said:

  “I was to play Byron Nelson, who was the captain of the pro team, which was made up of all tour players, I thought he was old and couldn’t play much, but his scores were posted in the locker room and there wasn’t anything except 68s and 69s.  We were playing at Brook Hollow in Dallas, a great golf course.  I’ve played against a lot of great players, including Bill (Billy Joe Patton) Patton, Bill Hyndman, and Jack Nicklaus, but Byron Nelson, even at his older age, was the most intense player I ever played against.  I beat him by making a birdie on the eighteenth hole for a 67 and he shot 68.  When I played the tour later I had an occasion to meet him several times.  He would never remember who I was, I think it was his way of completely putting the defeat out of his mind.”

Greenwood discussed his friend and teacher Hubie Smith, golf pro at Cookeville Country Club where Bobby played as a youngster.

  “Hubie was my mentor, but we were also competitors and Hubie hates to lose.  I tell him about playing in the Texas Cup matches against guys like Don January, Billy Maxwell, and Byron Nelson and give him all of the details of how it was done.  We worked on the format and he asked me to pick the East Tennessee amateurs.  He said we were going to have twenty on a team.  I thought that would cheapen the event.  Texas has ten and we have twenty!  A few nights later he called me back and asked me to pick the entire team.  Whoever was supposed to pick the rest of the team got cold feet.  Because of politics they didn’t want to make the other picks.  I’m only twenty-six years old, but Hubie asks me to pick the entire team.  I played Mason Rudolph and Mason beat me, but our Amateur team won.”

** Source:  The History of Tennessee Golf: 1894 – 2001, Copyright 2002 by Gene Pearce, Hillsboro Press, Franklin, Tennessee,  pages 270-273.  Copied by Bobby and Elma Greenwood, Cookeville, Tennessee, October 27, 2003.

Former PGA Tour Player
Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame
PGA of America Life Member

Official Website: http://www.greenwoodpga.net/
Official Blog: https://greenwoodpga.wordpress.com/
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Published in: on August 23, 2006 at 2:10 am  Comments (1)  

Bobby Greenwood in Books

Greenwood’s Legacy Chronicled ~ Herald-Citizen

_______ * * * _______ 

I.  “MY 55 WAYS TO LOWER YOUR GOLF SCORE” by Jack Nicklaus, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY,1964, page 104. 

*The great Jack Nicklaus writes about his last defeat as an amateur. Match played in Memphis nine months before he won his first U.S. Open.

II.  “MY STORY”, by Jack Nicklaus, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1997, page 53. 

*The famous match in the Colonial Amateur; Greenwood made eagle on 18 to get even and made birdie on the first hole of sudden death hole to win.   

III. “THE HISTORY OF TENNESSEE GOLF: 1894-2001” by Gene Pearce, Hillsboro Press, Franklin, TN, 2002, pages 10, 21-22, 28, 77, 174, 199, 257-58, 270-73, 284-85, 308-9, 330, 347-48, 352, 375, 381, 399-401, 21, 271.   

*Greenwood wins over 100 tournaments in Tennessee before he turns pro and plays seven years on the PGA Tour. 

IV. “SOUTHERN GOLF ASSOCIATION, THE FIRST ONE HUNDRED YEARS” by Gene Pearce. Printed in Canada by Friesens, Altona, Manitoba, 2004, pages 140, 142. 

*Bobby Greenwood shoots course record ~ 8 under par ~ ’64’ at Lost Tree Golf Club… home course of Jack Nicklaus. The record still stands… tied by Calvin Peete. 

V.  “THE HISTORY OF SUNNEHANNA COUNTRY CLUB AND THE SUNNEHANNA AMATEUR” by John Yerger III, Smith Lithographic Corporation, Rockville, MA, 2004, pages 95-96, 99

*Bobby Greenwood won the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament of Champions twice in 1965 and 1968. In 1965, he shot the second round 18-hole Course Record of 63 and the 72 holes Tournament Record of 269. And 39 years later, still a course record holder.

Published in: on August 13, 2006 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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