Since 1950, Stowe CC has been at the hub of Vermont golf. The actual course began across the river at the Stowe Center Shop building on the Mountain Road and players crossed a trestle bridge to play the now #13, #14, and #15 holes. When the local ski lodge owners were looking for something to fill their rooms in the summer months the plan to expand the course was made and stock was sold. The expanded 18 holes was finished in 1962. The once turn of the century Laliberte Dairy Farm provided a rolling layout that fit nicely to the par 72 layout.
Joseph Henry Kirkwood, Sr. (3 April 1897 – 29 October 1970) was a professional golfer who is acknowledged as having put Australian golf on the world map.
Kirkwood was born in Sydney, Australia. As a ten-year-old, he left home to work on a sheep ranch in the Australian Outback where his boss introduced him to the game of golf. He developed his skills to the point where he could compete in his country’s most important golf tournaments. In 1920 he won the Australian Open and in that year’s New Zealand Open he astounded the golfing world with a victory that surpassed the previous tournament record score by twelve strokes.
In 1923 Kirkwood won 5 times, three events in succession and still holds widest winning stroke margin in PGA Tour history, set at the 1924 Corpus Christi Open in Texas. That year he also teamed up with Walter Hagen to begin travelling around the globe putting on golf and trick-shot exhibitions, newsreels of which were sent back home to be shown in movie theatres around the U.S.
Stowe had the good fortune to have radio personality, Lowell Thomas, as a frequent guest. Thomas was a golfer of some note and had friends throughout the golf world. Thomas had invited Kirkwood to Stowe to visit the popular Lake Mansfield Trout Club for some fishing and upon his arrival, Kirkwood learned about the newly expanded Stowe Country Club and set out to introduce himself to the Pro. Upon learning the Club was without a pro, he decided to take the position and thus began his adventures in Vermont. Joe lived upstairs in the clubhouse with one of his three sons, Ron, One of his other sons, Joe Junior, would later become a professional golfer and tour winner and Kirkwood Sr. and JR. are still mentioned as one of the few father-son victors on the PGA Tour. Can you name the others? Joe Jr would also become Hollywood royalty as Joe Palooka.
Cancer took Joe Kirkwood Sr. in 1970. His grave is in the West Branch Cemetery near the corner of Mountain Road and Cottage Club Road, a par-5 distance from the clubhouse. The grave is marked with a large boulder with the following inscription carved below a crooked golf club:
Tell your story of hardluck shots,
Of each shot straight and true,
But when you are done remember son –
That nobody cares but you!
The Club hosts the annual Joe Kirkwood invitational every June to honor their first pro and raise money for our Junior Golf Programs. Visit the tournament website at www.kirkwoodgolftournament.com
The course has always been anchored by a combination of local members and summer vacationers. Seasonal memberships are available for those looking to fill the time between trips up the quad and the members enjoys an active tournament schedule with all the traditional events.