Des Moines | DOB: 1892 ; Died: July 16, 1970 (Age 78)

Inducted 2018 | Category: Amateur Golfer/ Historical Selection

William (Bill) Sheehan passed away on July 16, 1970, at 78 years of age. Many thought he took an unbreakable record with him.

According to the Des Moines Register, Sheehan “set a record in the Des Moines City tournament that may never be broken – winning four consecutive titles from 1909 to 1912.”

That record stood for nearly a century until Jon Brown won the fifth of seven straight city titles in 2009.

Sheehan, who went by Will in his younger days, started to play tournament golf when he was 16 years old. He shot a 79 and was qualifying medalist for the 1908 Des Moines City Tournament. It marked the first time anyone had broken 80 in a tournament that started in 1903.Sheehan lost in the second round or match play, but won the next four city crowns. And his winning wasn’t limited to Greater Des Moines.

Sheehan also won three straight Iowa Amateur titles in a four-year period starting in 1909, when he defeated Ralph Rider of Des Moines, 1 up, in the title match at the Ottumwa Country Club.

Sheehan and Rider also squared off for the 1911 title, played at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. Sheehan won, 3 and 1. His last title came in 1912 at the Sioux City Country Club. Sheehan defeated 1916 NCAA champion James Hubbell of Des Moines, 3 and 2. Sheehan was attending Iowa State at the time. Sheehan’s caddy in 1912 was Rudy Knepper, who would also reach Iowa Golf Hall of Fame status during his career.

“Sheehan’s success is largely due to his long sure drives, while at putting the lanky player is truly a wizard,” the Des Moines Register and Leader reported. “His games are won through cool, steady playing rather than by brilliant flashes of form. He is a plugger from the start until the finish is reached.”

Sheehan lost in the 1913 semifinals to R.G. Harrison, then moved to Winner, S.D., where he was a banker. Sheehan would win the South Dakota Amateur in 1922, and again in 1926. He moved back to Des Moines in 1932, but never became a major tournament player again.

Sheehan went to work for the Iowa Insurance Department in 1934, where he became an examiner, senior examiner and chief examiner. He became the first deputy commissioner in 1959 and special consultant in 1965.

His final appearance in a major championship in Iowa came in 1961 at the Sani Invitational, when Sheehan shot a first-round 87 at 70 years of age. Sheehan played with the same putter he’d been using for 48 years.

Career Highlights

  • 3-time Iowa Amateur Champion: 1909, 11, 12
  • 4-time Des Moines City Champion: 1909, 10, 11, 12
  • Trans-Mississippi Runner-up: 1910
  • 2-time South Dakota Amateur Champion: 1922, 26
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