Cedar Falls | Inducted 1991 | Category: Amateur Golfer

Bob Leahy was a picture of remarkable consistency for three decades. A late starter to the game – Bob didn’t own his first set of golf clubs until he was discharged from the Navy in 1946 – he tried to model his game after Ben Hogan.

“Hogan was the best back then and I liked to try and play like he did, with consistency and not much flair,” Leahy once said.

He made up for his late arrival to the game in a hurry. A native of Denison, Leahy won six major championships between 1953 and 1958. He won three Iowa Amateur titles, in 1954, 1955 and 1957. He also reached the semifinals in 1958 and 1959. In that six-year run of excellence, Leahy won 31 of 34 matches.

Known for his excellent iron play and methodical brand of golf, Leahy was dominant in winning those three Iowa Amateur titles. He beat Don Knetter of Des Moines in the 1954 title match, 9-8, and was a collective 7 under par in his last two matches. A graduate of Valparaiso and a teacher and coach by trade, Leahy had Bud McCardell of Newton 9 down after 15 holes in 1956 and won, 8 and 7. Then in 1957 he took care of John Campbell of Oskaloosa, 6 and 5.

Leahy’s first major championship came in 1953 at the Iowa Masters. He fired a 64 at Veenker in the second round and went on to win by nine shots at 6-under-par 207. He won a second Iowa Masters crown in 1957. In a tie for eighth heading into the final round, Leahy closed with a 65 for a four-shot victory. It looked all but certain that Leahy would add a third Iowa Masters title in 1964. But he triple-bogeyed Veenker’s 16th hole at the time, a 590-yard par-5 called “Big Boy,” and tied for third, two shots back of Boone’s Max Hall.

A reporter asked Leahy, not in the best of moods, how he had managed to make an eight.

“Because I had to hit the ball eight times,” he said.

Leahy was also part of the longest playoff in Sani Invitational history. He finished regulation play tied with Grinnell pro Larry Crawford. Both bogeyed the first playoff hole with bogeys, then both ran off five consecutive pars. Play was halted by darkness. Because of conflicting schedules, they weren’t able to return to Hyperion to continue the playoff for eight days. And it was decided that the playoff would be contested over 18 holes. Crawford shot 70 and won by six shots.

Leahy also won three times at the Tournament of Champions, in 1959, 1961 and 1971. And his two Northwest Amateur titles came 20 years apart, in 1958 and then 1977, when he beat Terry Miller of Fort Dodge by a shot on a day when the temperature in Spencer reached 99 degrees. Leahy was 50 years old at the time. Miller was 23. “I had a lot of people pulling for an old man out there,” Leahy said.

Bob Leahy passed away on April 18, 2016, at the age of 88. In 2014, the Board of Directors of the Iowa Golf Association approved the implementation of the “Leahy Medal,” which is presented annually to any IGA member who records multiple victories within the state of Iowa in a single season, or, at least one victory and three or more Top 5 finishes. Medals are also awarded for other extraordinary accomplishments at the committee’s discretion. The award honors Mr. Leahy, and promotes more participation in Iowa-based events and is another way to recognize outstanding accomplishments of men and women golfers.

Career Highlights

  • 1954, ’56, ‘57 Iowa Amateur Champion
  • 1953, ‘57 Iowa Masters Champion
  • 1958, ‘77 Northwest Amateur Champion
  • 1959, ’61, ‘71 Tournament of Champions winner
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