Wednesday, May 25

Profile of Tommy Armour, The Silver Scot

Part one of two on golf legend Tommy Armour (1896-1968).

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

TOMMY ARMOUR, NICKNAMED THE SILVER SCOT, is today perhaps best known, if he is remembered at all, as a teaching pro, having written, with Herb Graffis, one of the great instruction books on the game, How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time (1953).

Armour offered little theory that was new or different for golfers, but for one piece of advice. He was among the first pros to advocate aggressive, all-out use of the right hand in generating power. This book when it was first published in '53 sold 400,000 copies in its first year, an impressive number of sales.

He wrote (or co-authored) several others books. One, A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour, is my favorite.

Born in Edinburgh, and educated at the university there, Armour left school to fight in World War I. A machine gunner, he transferred to the new Royal Scots Tank Corp and was caught in a mustard gas attack and lost his eyesight. Surgeons had to add metal plates to his head and left arm. During his convalescence, he regained the sight of his right eye, and also began playing golf again. Like U.S. Open winner Ed Furgol, Armour overcame a serious physical handicap to become a tour winner.

Coming to the United States, Armour turned professional in 1924. He would then go onto win three Canadian Opens as well as the U.S. Open (1927), PGA (1930) and the British Open in 1931.

His steady income, however, came from being a home pro. In 1929 he took over as the golf professional at the Boca Raton Club, in Florida, a job he held for more than 25 years building up the reputation as the best teaching pro in the United States. He also was pro at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago, and a member of Winged Foot in Westchester where he would spend his summers.

Armour said he would rather teach than play, and his approach, at times, was different from your usual home pro. They tell the story of when he was at Medinah he was famous for firing at chipmunks on the practice range with a .22 rifle while giving lessons.

One day a member grew impatient with him and demanded, "When are you going to quit that and take care of me?" Armour swung the rifle around toward the member and commented, "Don’t tempt me."

More typically, he gave his lessons (for as much as $100) sitting in a lawn chair nursing a drink, saying very little while he watched the students hit away. Then he would declare something like, "Hit the hell out of it with your right hand."

That said, Armour is known to have helped pros like Julius Boros, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Patty Berg, Lawson Little, and others.


John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Also by John Coyne:
A six-part series on Bobby Locke
A two-part profile on Harry Vardon

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