The Golf Champ Who Was Taken Hostage, Used As a Human Shield and Shot

Newspaper detail of coverage of Philip Perkins shooting
Philip Perkins had a big match to play the next day: He was playing for the championship of the Dixie Amateur. And yet, there he was, after 2 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 27, 1932, still out at a Miami nightclub.

Soon enough he was wishing he'd gone to bed at a decent hour. Because just before 3 a.m., a group of gun-wielding bandits burst into the Embassy Club.

Within minutes, Perkins — a Briton and the 1928 British Amateur champion, a Walker Cup player, a golfer who had faced Bobby Jones multiple times — was shot after being grabbed by one of the robbers and used as a human shield.

Not only did Perkins survive to tell the tale, it wasn't even his first run-in with gangsters in America. "This wasn't my first stick-up," he told an Associated Press reporter the next day.

Gunmen Take Over the Club

The Embassy Club was a fashionable hotspot in Miami that included a gambling casino. The gun-toting gang's plan was to rob that casino.

In addition to Perkins, several others were shot that night including the ringleader, a man named A.Y. Yarborough. Yarborough, like the bad guy in the The Fugitive, was a one-armed man: he had a wooden prosthetic.

The masked gunmen entered the club through its kitchen, brandishing pistols, rifles and sawed-off shotguns. They ordered kitchen employees and two club guests who were eating in the kitchen up against the wall, then ordered them to march into the club dining room.

They disturbed the dinner and dancing of some of Miami's finest, including Perkins, who just a month earlier had won the New York State Amateur Championship.

But while the six robbers were occupied ordering the club guests around and attempting to bar the door between the kitchen and dining room, the first gun shots rang out.

Cops Surprise the Bad Guys, Chaos Ensues

Because, it turned out, the two Embassy Club guests dining in the kitchen that night were plainclothes police officers, Mack Oakford and G.J. Davis.

Both drew their pistols. Oakford emptied his gun firing at the wooden-armed ringleader, Yarborough. Yarborough fell dead, but not before his sawed-off shotgun fired.

In the pandemonium, two of the robbers decided to flee. Trying to get out of the dining room, they grabbed Perkins on the way to the door.

When the cops began shooting in their direction, one of the robbers moved Perkins in front, using him a human shield, while the two bad guys returned fire.

Perkins was hit in the thigh by what was called at the time a stray bullet, and one could assume that it was a bullet fired by the cops. But Perkins later said, "As we approached the door, the fellow (the bandit leading him) must have become nervous for he shot me from behind. As I fell I saw him making a break for the door."

In fact, three of the six robbers got away, although not with any money, and after several club employees had also suffered gunshot wounds. Three of the gunmen were shot, including the one-armed leader who was killed.

Perkins: They Were 'Flustered Palookas'

Perkins said the robbers looked "like a bunch of flustered Palookas."

"The first thing I knew anything was going on was when I glanced up and saw a large group of men, with bandage masks on their faces and guns of various sorts in their hands, coming in," he reported from his hospital bed the next day. "After an experience with gangsters in New York I knew the best thing would be to do just what they said."

Perkins said that when one of the robbers grabbed him and started moving him toward the exit, "I was being used as a shield, I realized, but went ahead calmly to do as I was bidden."

Perkins was taken to the hospital, the bullet removed from this thigh. "I guess I won't be able to play" in the Dixie Amateur final, he lamented.

That must have doubly hurt, because Perkins was the defending champion. Instead, Tommy Goodwin won the 1932 Dixie Amateur in a walkover — the only walkover in golf history caused by one of the golfers being shot after being used as a human shield.

Biography: Read more about Philip Perkins' championship golf career, including his matches with Bobby Jones and other big wins.

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