Waterloo | Inducted 2019 | Category: Professional Golfer

Nobody won more golf tournaments than Pat Willcox between 1940 and 1947.

He won three consecutive Iowa Opens starting in 1940. When the Iowa Open returned in 1946 after a three-year break because of World War II, Willcox tied for second.

He won the Iowa Masters four times. Between 1940 and 1945, he won twice and had three runner-up finishes. His final Iowa Masters triumph, in 1951 was a 10-shot victory after a final-round 64.

He also made the cut in back-to-back U.S. Opens. Playing in 1940 at Canterbury in Cleveland, Ohio, he recorded an ace on the third hole in the third round and tied for 23rd. He tied for 49th the following year at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.

Willcox claimed late in his life that he won 77 tournaments. One of them came at the Waterloo Open in 1938, the year he left Norfolk, Neb., to take the job at Sunnyside Country Club in Waterloo. Willcox had shot 143, and looked like he was a lock to be low pro. He campaigned tournament officials to give him the $60 first-place check because he needed to drive back to Nebraska. They did. And then, 30 minutes after Willcox had left, Cedar Rapids pro Bob Hartenberger birdied the final three holes in the dusk to also finish at 143. The embarrassed tournament committee gave Hartenberger a $60 check as well.

Willcox won the 1946 Nebraska Open and five Nebraska Open titles. He won the Sioux Falls Open. He also tied for 10th at the 1948 St. Paul Open on the PGA Tour. He was paired with Jimmy Demaret in the final round.

His first Iowa Open title came at Sunnyside in Waterloo, where he shot 65-69 the final day and won by six shots. His second Iowa Open took place at the Sioux City Boat Club, which was actually on the South Dakota side of the Sioux River. He retried the trophy in 1942, back at Sunnyside. The trophy had been donated by L.B. Maytag of Newton 13 years earlier.

Willcox had joined the Navy in September of 1943, but was discharged 16 months later following a mastoid operation. In March of 1945, Willcox started working two jobs. He was a war worker and the pro at Hyperion. He’d work at the club on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, arriving late in the afternoon weekdays. He also worked 45 hours a week at Globe Hoist Co.

Willcox later operated the Airport Driving Range on Fleur Drive in Des Moines for nine years. He didn’t like the automatic teeing machines that were at the range, so he invented a better model in 1954 and got a patent on it. The Will-Tee Co. made more than 2,000 machines. Willcox traveled the country, and lived in Scotland for two years, to promote and sell his machine.

George and Jack Kinley took over Airport Driving Range, but Willcox gave lessons there as late as 1980. Mr. Willcox was 79 when he passed away on Oct. 19, 1987.

Career Highlights

  • Won the Iowa Open three consecutive times (1940, ‘41, and ‘42).
  • Won the Iowa Masters four times (1940, ‘45, ‘47 and ‘51).
  • Competed in four US Opens, including a Top 25 finish in the 1940 US Open at Canterbury Golf Club in Ohio.
  • He also captured the Waterloo Open in 1938 and won the Cedar Rapids Open in 1944.
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