Profile of Golfer Alex Ross ('Alec Ross')

golfer Alex Ross playing a shot
Alex Ross was a U.S. Open champion in the first decade of the 1900s, and in two other early American pro tournaments still holds the tournament records for most wins. An immigrant from Scotland, he is the very rare major championship winner who, today, isn't nearly as famous as his brother.

Full name: Alexander Ross

Date of birth: September 15, 1879

Place of birth: Dornoch, Scotland

Date and place of death: June 25, 1952 in Miami, Florida

Also known as: It was common in his time for his first name to be abbreviated as "Alec" or "Aleck," in addition to "Alex." Today, while Alec and Aleck are still used by some sources, most prefer Alex. The USGA, PGA Tour and European Tour, for example, all use Alex in their record books.

Ross' Biggest Wins

Alex Ross won the North and South Open and the Massachusetts Open six times each:
  • North and South Open: 1902, 1904, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1915
  • Massachusetts Open: 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1910
Additionally, Ross had these wins:
  • 1907 U.S. Open
  • 1919 Ohio Open Championship
  • 1923 Swiss Open
  • 1925 Swiss Open
  • 1926 Swiss Open

In the Majors

Alex Ross played in only one of the majors, the U.S. Open, never taking part in his native Open, the British Open. His first U.S. Open appearance was in 1902 (he finished 10th) and last in the 1926 U.S. Open (he tied for 34th).

He had five Top 10 finishes. In addition to the one already mentioned, Ross tied for 9th in 1903, finished solo sixth in the 1906 U.S. Open, won in 1907 and tied ninth in the 1911 U.S. Open. He finished in the Top 15 every year from 1902-1907, but only once after that.

At the time of his victory in the 1907 U.S. Open, Ross was representing Brae Burn Golf Club near Boston. The tournament took place at Philadelphia (Pa.) Cricket Club. Ross was one off the lead following an opening 76, and his 74 in Round 2 moved him into first place. Following a third-round 76, Ross was two behind leader Jack Hobens and one behind second-place Gilbert Nicholls going into the final round.

But Hobens had an 85 in Round 4, and Nicholls a 79. Ross posted another 76 and won by two strokes over runner-up Nicholls.

Golfer Alec Ross making a swing

More About Alex Ross

Alex Ross grew up in Dornoch, Scotland, which is where he learned golf along with his older brother, Donald Ross. Donald never won a U.S. Open, but he did win tournaments before becoming a very famous golf course architect. It is arguable which of the brothers was more famous in their early years after emigrating to the United States around 1900, because of Alex's U.S. Open win. But as time went on, Donald definitely far eclipsed Alex in fame, especially after becoming pro at Pinehurst and designing the famous No. 2 course there. Today, Donald Ross is still very famous — golfers seek out "Donald Ross golf courses" — while Alex is known mostly as a name on the list of U.S. Open winners.

But Alex Ross was a formidable figure in golf in his own right. At the time the Ross brothers arrived in America, most golf courses in the very young golf scene here employed Scottish professionals. Alex, in 1903, took such a position at Brae Burn Country Club near Boston, which he held until 1916. In the winters, he went to North Carolina and assisted Donald at Pinehurst.

The North & South Open was a professional tournament established at Pinehurst in 1902 (it ran until 1951 and was a PGA Tour event for many years after 1916). Alex won the first one, Donald the second, Alex the third, Donald the next two, Alex the two after that. Then Alex won again in 1910 and 1915. Alex was runner-up in 1905 and 1906, to Donald both times; and Donald was runner-up to Alex in 1907.

In his last North & South win in 1915, Francis Ouimet was runner-up to Alex. His six wins in the N&S are the tournament record.

Alex Ross had a similar record in the Massachusetts Open. He won it five consecutive years (1906-10) plus 1912 (sharing the 1907 title with Gilbert Nicholls and David Brown). Aside from the two golfers who tied him in 1907, the only golfer other than Alex to win the Massachusets Open in the period from 1905 through 1912 was Donald Ross (1905, 1911). Alex's six overall wins and five consecutive wins are both tournament records for the event, which is still played today.

The PGA Tour does not count Ross' wins in either the North & South Open or the Massachusetts Open as official PGA Tour victories (the tour traces its origins to 1916, all of Ross' wins were prior to 1916). It does, however, count Ross' six N&S wins (but not his Mass Open wins) in the PGA Tour record category of most wins in a single event. Alex Ross was, therefore, according to the PGA Tour's recordkeeping, the second golfer to win the same tournament six times when he won the 1915 N&S. (Harry Vardon was the first when he won his sixth British Open in 1914.) No golfer bettered the mark shared by Vardon and Ross until Sam Snead won his seventh Greater Greensboro Open in 1960.

The PGA Tour does credit Ross with one official tour win, and that was in the 1919 Ohio Open Championship.

In the 1920s, Alex spent some time in Europe and played a little golf while he was there: He was the first golfer to win the Swiss Open twice and also the first to win it three times, and his three wins remain today tied for the tournament record. He also finished second in the 1926 Italian Open.

By that time, he had left Brae Burn for the club he came to call home, Detroit Country Club. While at Pinehurst in 1916, Alex gave a wealthy attorney named Horace Rackham his first golf lesson. Through Rackham, Alex was hired at Detroit CC (its golf courses were designed by Donald Ross), and he was the head pro there from 1916 through 1946. (When Alex left the club, he was replaced by Horton Smith.)

Alex continued wintering at Pinehurst, and set some course records there. Early in 1923 Alex carded a 67 around the No. 2 course (commonly referred to as "the championship course" at that time), setting a course record. A couple weeks later, he lowered the record to 65 in a round that included four birdies, one eagle and no bogeys. The eagle was on the par-5, 427-yard No. 5, where Ross played a 220-yard drive, hit the green on his second shot and holed the putt.

But Detroit Country Club was home for Alex, so much so that when Rackham (who was Henry Ford's first attorney) died, he bequeathed Alex a trust fund that paid him $100 a month for the rest of his life. That may not sound like much today, but at that time that amount of money mattered.

In 1948, Ross moved to Florida. He was 72 years old when he died in 1952. He was cremated and, as he had requested, his ashes were scattered over the golf courses at Detroit Country Club. Ross is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.

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