Philip Perkins: Profile of the British Golf Champ

Golfer Philip Perkins cigarette card from the 1930s
Philip Perkins was a British Amateur champion who also had runner-up finishes in the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open. Oh, and he was also once shot after being taken hostage by a band of gangsters.

Full name: Thomas Philip Perkins

Date of birth: September 3, 1904

Place of birth: West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England

Date and place of death: December 26, 1978, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Nickname: Phil was his nickname. He was sometimes referred to in print as T. Philip Perkins or T.P. Perkins.

Perkins' British Amateur Victory

The 1928 Amateur Championship was played at Prestwick and Perkins won it. Perkins, age 24, beat Roger Wethered in the championship match by a 6-and-4 score. "By this time," Peter Alliss wrote in a 1980 entry in one of his books, "few would have disputed that (Perkins) was the best amateur in Britain."

This highlight reel of the championship match is silent and the video of poor quality (it was 1928), making it difficult to distinguish the players, but there's a good look at Perkins during the trophy presentation at the end:

His Abduction and Shooting

Perkins was in a Miami nightclub one night in 1932 when a group of six gunmen arrived, planning to rob the club's casino. Things went haywire for the gunmen when two plainclothes policemen, who had been dining in the kitchen, opened fire.

One of the gunmen grabbed Perkins, using him as a human shield as he tried to make his way back out. With bullets flying both ways, Perkins was shot in the thigh. Perkins had been scheduled to play in the championship match of the Dixie Amateur the following day, but instead was in the hospital having the bullet removed.

Perkins had won the Dixie Amateur the preceding year. Read more about Perkins' abduction and shooting.

Facing Bobby Jones and More About Phil Perkins

Philip Perkins and Bobby Jones had great respect for one another. Jones once wrote a letter to Perkins' mother, praising Perkins as "England's finest golfer." That was after Perkins won his British Amateur title. But it was before Jones and Perkins had ever met in a golf match.

That finally happened later in 1928 when Perkins was part of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team that traveled to the United States. Team USA won, 11-1. And in a 36-hole singles match, Jones shellacked Perkins by a 13-and-12 score.

Later in the year, Perkins played his way into the championship match of the 1928 U.S. Amateur, becoming just the second British golfer to reach the U.S. Amateur final. Who was waiting for him? Jones. And it was the first time the reigning British and U.S. amateur champions met in the championship match.

Perkins did a little better against Jones this time, losing "only" 10-and-9. Afterward, Perkins said of Jones, "When one plays against Mr. Jones, he has only the pleasure of being defeated by the greatest of all golfers and the finest of all sportsmen."

The year 1928 was definitely Perkins' golden year, and he also finished tied 14th at the 1928 British Open, low amateur. The year before, in the 1927 British Open, he tied for 10th (but was not low amateur). In the 1929 Open, Perkins was low amateur tied for 23rd.

In 1930, Perkins moved to America and remained there for the rest of his life. He was low amateur, tied for seventh place, in the 1931 U.S. Open.

In 1932, four months following the shooting, Perkins turn pro. And at the 1932 U.S. Open, Perkins was the second-round co-leader, and held the lead outright by one stroke following the third round. In the fourth round he carded a very respectable 70, but Gene Sarazen's 66 propelled Sarazen to victory. Perkins tied for second, three strokes behind.

Perkins' only notable tournament victory as a professional happened while he was the club pro at Kirtland Club in Cleveland: He won the 1937 Ohio Open (which, earlier in its history, had been a PGA Tour event but was not at the time Perkins won it).

In addition to his amateur exploits already mentioned, Perkins also won the 1927 English Amateur, and, in 1931, the Long Island Amateur and New York State Amateur.

Ironically, although he was briefly abducted and shot in Miami, Perkins settled in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, and still lived there are the time of his death in 1978.

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