Golfer Joe Lloyd: The Most-Obscure U.S. Open Champ

Golfer Joe Lloyd was an early US Open winner

One of the most obscure U.S. Open champs, Joe Lloyd was an English golfer who came to America part-time and became what we now call a major champion in 1897. He also has the distinction of being the first golf professional in France.

Full name: Joseph Lloyd

Date of birth: 1864 (specific date unknown)

Place of birth: Hoylake, England

Date and place of death: Unknown

Nickname: The General

His U.S. Open Victory and other Majors

Joe Lloyd was representing Essex County Club in Manchester, Massachusetts, at the time of his victory in the 1897 U.S. Open. It was just the third U.S. Open played, and it took place over two rounds (36 holes) at Chicago Golf Club, one of the five founding clubs of the USGA.

Lloyd was tied for fourth place after the morning 18 (the tournament was played on a single day), scoring 83. The leader was Willie Anderson — who eventually became the tournament's first four-time champion, but was making his tournament debut here — at 79.

In the afternoon 18, it was Lloyd who carded a 79, and that was the low score of the second round by two strokes. It was five lower than Anderson's 84, and Lloyd wound up winning by one stroke over Anderson.

And Lloyd pulled off that one-stroke victory in spectacular fashion, especially for the time. The 18th hole was 461 yards. The USGA did not begin using par ratings until 1911, but had par been in use at the 1897 Open a 461-yard hole certainly would have been a par-5.

Lloyd, a long driver for his time, belted his tee shot 250 yards, and followed it with a brassie shot that stopped eight feet from the hole. He then sank the putt for what qualifies, in spirit if not by letter of the law (since par wasn't in use), as a final-hole eagle to win the tournament.

Anderson, finishing after Lloyd, needed a four on the final hole to tie, but missed the six-foot putt. Lloyd earned a $150 first-place check, plus a $50 gold medal (which sold at auction in the early 1990s from one private collector to another). It was the last U.S. Open played at 36 holes.

Lloyd first played the U.S. Open a year earlier in 1896, finishing tied for seventh, and he was fourth in the next year's tournament, 1898. He played the U.S. Open three other times, last in 1905, without any other Top 10 finishes. (He also entered in 1908 but withdrew.) Lloyd also had three career starts in the British Open, first in 1893 and last in 1897, with Top 20 finishes in all.

More About Joe Lloyd

Joe Lloyd is certainly the least-known winner of the U.S. Open. We don't know his exact date of birth, only the year (1864), and we have no idea when he died — except that it was later than 1925, the year he retired as professional at a golf club in France.

But we can tell you that when Lloyd was professional at Hayling Golf Club in Hampshire, England, in the 1880s, he had a dog named Demon that was locally famous for its ability to track golf balls in flight. Demon would sit by the first tee and intently follow the balls as they flew down the hole. Hit it into the thick gorse? Joe Lloyd's dog Demon was always able to find it for you.

Lloyd grew up near Royal Liverpool and got into golf by caddying there. It was during his years as a Hoylake caddie that Lloyd acquired the nickname "The General." Why isn't conclusively known, but based on some comments of golfers who recollected when he caddied for them, it might have to do with Lloyd's authoritative manner in selecting clubs and guiding his golfers around the links.

Still in his mid-teens, he moved up from caddie to assistant to Jack Morris at Royal Liverpool. Morris was the nephew of Old Tom Morris and cousin of Young Tom Morris.

In 1880, a group of English golfers who were wintering in France at Pau Golf Club in Billere decided to bring over a golf professional. They hired the 16-year-old Lloyd, making him the first golf club professional in France. While there, he opened a shop making, selling and repairing golf clubs, the first pro shop in France. Lloyd remained a pro at Pau for decades to come, but also split his time at other clubs.

From 1883-85, he also served as pro at Hayling Golf Club in England (and helped lay out its first golf course). In 1890, a J. Morris Post, secretary of Pau Golf Club, wrote in a letter to a golf publication that Lloyd was "an excellent professional ... He is a first-class player, takes great interest in and gives excellent lessons ... and repairs club to everybody's satisfaction."

Lloyd often played exhibition matches against visiting British pros at Pau, and he played challenge matches of many kinds. In 1897, it is recorded that Lloyd, using only his putter, easily defeated another golfer using a full set of clubs.

In the mid-1890s, Lloyd set sail for America and became the pro and greenskeeper at Essex County Club in Manchester, Massachusetts. For about a decade to come, he spent summers at Essex CC and winters at Pau GC.

It was during that period that Lloyd won the 1897 U.S. Open. It is also recorded that on September 11, 1900, Lloyd played two, 18-hole matches against Harry Vardon at Essex County Club during Vardon's exhibition tour of the United States. Vardon won both matches, 2 and 1 in the morning, 7 and 6 in the afternoon.

Little is know of Lloyd's later life, except that he continued to serve as the professional at Pau until his retirement in 1925.

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