Bobby Cruickshank: Pro Golfer's Amazing Life, Career

golfer Bobby Cruickshank
Bobby Cruickshank was a Scottish golfer who immigrated to America in the early 1920s and then enjoyed a very successful career as both a tournament player and club pro. He won enough PGA Tour tournaments to rank in the Top 50 on that tour's career wins list. Although he never won a major championship, he came close, including a playoff loss to Bobby Jones.

Full name: Robert Allan Cruickshank

Date of birth: November 16, 1894

Place of birth: Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland

Date and place of death: August 27, 1975, in Delray Beach, Florida

Nickname: "Wee Rob" (from his given first name, Robert), "Wee Scot," or "Wee Bobby," all references to his 5-foot-4 frame.

Cruickshank's Biggest Wins

Bobby Cruickshank is credited with 17 PGA Tour wins:
  • 1921 St. Joseph Open*
  • 1921, New York State Open
  • 1924 Colorado Open
  • 1926 North and South Open
  • 1926 Mid-South Pro-Am Bestball
  • 1927 Los Angeles Open
  • 1927 Texas Open
  • 1927 South Central Open
  • 1927 North and South Open
  • 1927 Westchester Open
  • 1928 Maryland Open
  • 1929 Westchester Open
  • 1934 National Capital Open
  • 1934 British Colonial Open
  • 1934 Pinehurst Fall Pro-Pro (partnered by Tommy Armour)
  • 1935 Orlando Open
  • 1936 Virginia Open
    (*playing as an amateur)
Cruickshank won numerous other, non-tour events, including some that were counted as official PGA Tour wins in other years but not the years of Cruickshank's victory.

For example, Cruickshank won the Virginia Open in 1936, an official PGA Tour win. But he also won the Virginia Open in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1937 and 1939, all of those years in which it was not a tour event.

He won the Miami International Four-Ball in 1925 (partnered by Johnny Farrell) and 1927 (with Tommy Armour), non-tour years, although that tournament was a PGA Tour event in later years. And he won the 1943 North and South Open, a non-tour year for that event.

Among Cruickshank's other non-tour wins: the 1938 Mid South Pro/Pro (partnered by Armour); the 1945 Middle Atlantic PGA Championship; and the Tri-State PGA Championship in 1949 and 1950.

In the Majors

Bobby Cruickshank never won a major, but he did once pull off one of the biggest comebacks in a major — or in any high-level, match-play match. In the first round of the 1932 PGA Championship, Cruickshank was 9-down with 12 holes to play against Al Watrous. As they approached the green of the 24th hole of the match, another hole that it appeared Watrous would win, Cruickshank commented that he'd never been 10-down in a match before.

Watrous, apparently taking pity on his opponent, conceded a mid-length putt to Cruickshank, halving the hole. That was a mistake. Cruickshank started making putts from everywhere, and, well, you can probably guess the rest of the story. After being 9-down with 12 holes to play, Cruickshank wound up winning that match on the 41st hole. Cruickshank advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Frank Walsh.

Cruickshank twice finished second in the U.S. Open, including a playoff loss to Bobby Jones. And he twice reached the semifinals of the PGA Championship. Overall, he had 16 Top 10 finishes in majors, including nine Top 6 finishes.

In the 1923 U.S. Open, Cruickshank needed a birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff against Bobby Jones. Cruickshank hit his approach to six feet and sank the putt.

In the 18-hole playoff the next day, the two foes were even after 17 holes. Both drives on the 18th hole found the rough. Cruickshank, not a power player, laid up. Jones went for the green and knocked a 2-iron to within eight feet of the hole. Cruickshank's third found a bunker and he wound up with a double bogey. Jones won the playoff, 76 to 78, for his first major championship victory.

Cruickshank tied for fourth place in the 1924 U.S. Open. His next shot was in the 1932 U.S. Open, where Cruickshank was two off the lead after the third round. He shot 68 in the final round, but Gene Sarazen shot 66 to beat runners-up Cruickshank and Philip Perkins by three.

Sarazen also stymied Cruickshank at two earlier majors. In both the 1922 PGA Championship and 1923 PGA Championship, Cruickshank lost in the semifinals to Sarazen, who went on to win those titles. Say this for Cruickshank: When he got into contention in a major, it took a high class of golfer to beat him.

Cruickshank played his native British Open only once, but finished sixth in 1929. He was in the field at the inaugural Masters Tournament in 1934 (tied 28th), and had Top 10 finishes in the 1935 Masters (tied ninth) and 1936 Masters (tied fourth).

And he had a couple third-place finishes in the U.S. Open: tied third in 1934 (two strokes behind winner Olin Dutra after leading Rounds 1 and 2); and solo third in the 1937 U.S. Open (four behind winner Ralph Guldahl).

His experience in the 1934 U.S. Open included an odd, and, in retrospect, comical incident. Cruickshank had the lead with seven holes to play. He hit a wayward shot, but his ball struck a rock in a pond and bounced onto the green. Celebrating his incredible luck, Cruickshank joyously threw his club into the air. Alas, it came right down on his head, opening a gash. Play was delayed while Cruickshank received stitches, but he did continue to a third-place finish.

He made the cut in the 1950 U.S. Open, tying for 25th at age 55. Cruickshank last played in a major at the 1957 U.S. Open, at age 62.

More About Bobby Cruickshank

What is the largest 54-hole lead lost in PGA Tour history? Six strokes. Who was the first golfer in tour history to lead by six after 54 holes but fail to win the tournament? Bobby Cruickshank at the 1928 Florida Open. It's a PGA Tour record that Cruickshank still shares today, almost 100 years later.

But don't feel too bad for Bobby that the record he still shares is one you'd rather not have. Cruickshank was one of the better golfers of his day, and still has a place on another all-time PGA Tour list, too: His 17 official tour wins is inside the Top 50 all-time. Cruickshank is still tied for 50th place on the list of golfers with the most career PGA Tour wins. His 17 victories is the same number that Jim Furyk and Curtis Strange, among others, have.

Cruickshank was born in rural Scotland in the last decade of the 19th century, and first picked up a club at age four. When he was nine years old, a wealthy benefactor offered to take Bobby and his brother John to Edinburgh to attend school.

After that move, Cruickshank began playing on Edinburgh's public Braids Hills golf course. It was there that Cruickshank and Tommy Armour, two years younger than Bobby, first met. They became lifelong friends. They also got to watch the three members of "the Great Triumvirate" — Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor and James Braid — play an exhibition at Braids Hill.

Cruickshank's life — the life of most Britons and most Europeans — took a terrible turn with the outbreak of World War I. Cruickshank was a student at Edinburgh College, but enlisted and soon was on the battlefront. His first combat experience was in the horrific Battle of the Somme.

In 1917, during the Battle of Passchendaele (also known as the Third Battle of Ypres), 78 members of the 110-man company to which Cruickshank belonged were killed. One of those killed was Bobby's brother John, who was literally blown to bits right in front of Bobby.

Bobby suffered a leg injury in that same battle and returned to Britain to recuperate. In 1918, he returned to the battlefield in France. Only days after getting back into action, Cruickshank was captured by the Germans and transferred to a POW camp.

In the POW camp, he encounted Tommy Armour's brother Sandy, who was in terrible shape with various maladies. Cruickshank helped nurse him back to health, saving parts of his own meager food and water rations to give to Sandy. (Tommy Armour lost his sight during the war after a mustard gas attack, but regained sight in one eye.)

Cruickshank later escaped from the prison camp, and within a month the Armistice of 1918 ending World War I was signed.

After the war, Cruickshank threw himself back into golf. Playing as an amateur, he won the Edinburgh Coronation Trophy in 1919 and 1920, the biggest local tournament.

Tommy Armour was planning a move to the United States in 1920, where golf was booming and Scottish golfers were in demand as pros. Armour encouraged Cruickshank to do the same. Cruickshank was 26 years old when he and his wife left for America in 1921.

And his first PGA Tour win came quickly. Cruickshank, still an amateur, won the 1921 St. Joseph Open. After that he turned pro and then won another tour event, the New York State Open. An auspicious start to life in his new country.

After a three-year victory gap (during which he lost the playoff to Jones at the 1923 U.S. Open), he won again on tour in 1925. In 1926 he took the North and South Open for the first of three times (the last, in 1943, is not counted as a tour win) and won another tournament.

His biggest year was 1927. Cruickshank had five wins that year, including the Los Angeles Open, Texas Open and North and South Open. He also finished second three times and led the tour in money.

In 1929 Cruickshank won the Westchester Open for the second time, but then there was a four-year gap before his next tour wins. They came in 1934, three of them, including one team tournament in which he was partnered to victory by Armour. It was one of three big team tournaments Cruickshank and Armour won together as teammates: the 1927 Miami International Four-Ball, 1934 Pinehurst Fall Pro-Pro and 1938 Mid South Pro/Pro (only the Pinehurst tournament is counted today as a PGA Tour win).

In 1930, Cruickshank made the Sports pages for a different reason: winning a bet, rather than winning a tournament. After seeing Bobby Jones early in the year, Cruickshank placed a $50 bet with a bookmaking firm in London that Jones would win all three of the British Amateur, British Open and U.S. Open. When Jones did win all three, Cruickshank's bet paid off $10,800 — the equivalent of almost $200,000 in 2022. (Cruickshank gave half the money to his father-in-law.)

Cruickshank's last win in what today is recognized as an official PGA Tour tournament was the 1936 Virginia Open. Cruickshank won that tournament five consecutive years, 1933-37, and once more in 1939, but only the 1936 win is counted as a PGA Tour victory.

For his PGA Tour career, in addition to his 17 wins, Cruickshank had (according to Al Barkow's The History of the PGA Tour) 22 second-place finishes, 20 third-place finishes, and 135 total Top 10 finishes.

Cruickshank worked club jobs throughout his successful years playing the tour. His first job as club pro was at Shackamaxon Club in New Jersey. From 1932-48 he was pro at the Country Club of Virginia. From 1948-69, Cruickshank was pro at Chartiers Country Club in Pittsburgh. He also kept a house in Florida and for many years was the winter pro at Gulfstream Golf Club in Delray Beach. When he retired, it was to his house in Florida.

Cruickshank remained an excellent golfer into his 70s, routinely bettering his age. He was 80 years old when he died in 1975.

Today, Cruickshank is a member of the PGA of America Hall of Fame, Virginia Golf Hall of Fame and Metropolitan PGA Hall of Fame. Cruickshank's granddaughter, Diana Hoke, was medalist in the 1959 U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur Championship. A book about Cruickshank, titled Wee Bobby Cruickshank (affiliate links), by Diana Smith, was published in 2020.

Photo credit: Bobby Cruickshank photographed circa 1921. Public domain. Source: University of Southern California, Libraries/California Historical Society.

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