Des Moines | Inducted 1990 | Category: Professional Golfer

Joe Brown was one of the most successful playing club professionals of his time. He was a walking encyclopedia of course knowledge.

“I was a self-taught player,” said Brown, who grew up in Fort Dodge. “I started out as a caddy and picked up the game that way, I also read a lot about golf and analyzed swings.”

He won 13 of the state’s major titles, and his smooth swing was the envy of many. His playing career included winning five Iowa Open titles between 1938 and 1966. He played in 43 Iowa Opens between 1930 and 1982.

“There was a soft-swinging guy,” said J.D. Turner, another five-time Iowa Open champion and former pro at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

Besides his success at the Iowa Open, Joe continued his winning ways at the Iowa Masters, the Herman Sani Invitational and the Waterloo Open. Brown won both the Iowa Masters and Sani four times each, and was the Waterloo Open champion three times.

Joe’s career also led him to a short stint on the PGA Tour including three U.S. Open appearances and four PGA Championship appearances. His best finish on tour was a fifth-place tie at the 1942 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, earning him a whopping $350. He finished ahead of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead.

Legend has it that Merv Bump, a former president at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club and the Iowa Golf Association, crossed paths with Crosby later in 1942. Bump told Crosby he was from Des Moines.

“Des Moines?” Crosby responded. “Say, you have a fine young professional there in Joe Brown. He played in my tournament. He’s a comer.”

World War II kept Brown from playing the tour full-time, but he had a hall-of-fame career back home.

Besides his successful playing career, he was a widely respected teacher throughout the state while working at Des Moines Golf and Country Club for 37 years before retiring in 1974. He continued to teach after that, helping a new generation of players enjoy the game he loved.

After playing in his final Iowa Open, at 71 years old in 1982, Brown spoke of his long and prosperous career.

“Once you become familiar with the game, and active in it, it just stays with you,” he said in 1990. “It’s easier to do that in golf than a more vigorous sport. Golf is more of a longevity game than baseball or football.”

Mr. Brown was 83 when he passed away on November 20, 1993.

Career Highlights

  • 13 Iowa Major Titles
  • 1938, ’48, ’54, ’65, ’66 Iowa Open Champion
  • 1942, ’49, ’55, ‘56 Iowa Masters Champion
  • 1953, ’54, ’56, ’63 Sani Open Champion
  • 1941,’42, ‘60 Waterloo Open Champion
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