Looking Back at Pro Golfer Mortie Dutra

Golfer Mortie Dutra swings a club circa 1931
Mortie Dutra was a notable pro golfer who played tournament golf from the 1920s into the 1950s, and was a club pro and golf instructor into the 1980s. His younger brother was a major championship winner, but although Mortie came close several times, he never won a PGA Tour title himself.

Full name: Mortimer Francis Dutra

Date of birth: October 3, 1899

Place of birth: Monterey, California

Date and place of death: August 10, 1988, in Burbank, California

His Biggest Wins

Dutra never won a PGA Tour title. But he did win these regional and state tournaments:
  • 1922 Northern California PGA Championship
  • 1933 Michigan Open
  • 1934 Michigan PGA Championship
After turning 50, he won several senior titles, including one that today is one of the senior majors:
  • 1953 Southern California PGA Senior Championship
  • 1954 Southern California PGA Senior Championship
  • 1955 Senior PGA Championship
  • 1955 World Senior Championship

In the Majors

Mortie Dutra's best performance in a major championship was reaching the semifinals of the 1925 PGA Championship, a third-place finish. He beat Willie Ogg in the first round and Ed Dudley in the second, then eliminated Tommy Armour, 2-up, in the quarterfinals. But in the semis, Dutra fell to Wild Bill Mehlhorn, 8 and 6.

Dutra's first appearance in a major was the 1922 U.S. Open, and his last the 1940 U.S. Open. He reached the Round of 16 in the PGA in 1924, and in the 1927 PGA Championship went out in the quarterfinals to Al Espinosa.

He had two Top 10 finishes in the U.S. Open: tied seventh in 1931 and solo sixth in 1933. He also had Top 20 finishes in the U.S. Opens of 1930 and 1935. When his younger brother Olin Dutra won the 1934 U.S. Open, Mortie tied for 28th.

Mortie also played in The Masters twice, its first two years, tying for 11th place in the inaugural 1934 Masters.

More About Mortie Dutra

Mortie Dutra was a talented golfer who became better known as a teacher later on, but he had the misfortune of sometimes being referred to as "the less talented brother of Olin Dutra." Olin Dutra, a couple years younger than Mortie, was a two-time major championship winner.

The Dutra brothers were big for their era of golf. Olin was nicknamed "King Kong," Mortie was described in a 1933 Time Magazine article as the "hulking brother of the hulking Olin Dutra." But how much perception of body sizes has changed over the years is evident in the fact that Olin was 6-foot-3, around 230 pounds, while Mortie was 6-foot-2 and, during his tour days, around 190 pounds.

Mortie grew up in California and his earliest tournament successes were in the Western U.S. He won the 1922 Northern California PGA Championship, and finished runner-up two PGA Tour tournaments: the 1924 Pacific Northwest PGA, and 1927 Pacific Northwest Open.

Dutra never won a PGA Tour tournament, but did have a couple more runner-up finishes in the 1930s. He was second at he 1930 Pasadena Open to Tony Manero, who one week earlier had won the Catalina Open with Olin Dutra as the runner-up. And Mortie tied for second in the 1935 Michigan Open, a tournament he won in 1933 when it was not part of the PGA Tour. He also won the 1934 Michigan PGA Championship, not a tour event.

After turning 50, Mortie had several more successes. He won the Southern California PGA Senior Championship in 1954 and 1954.

His biggest victory was in a tournament that is now one of the senior majors: At age 55, he won the 1955 Senior PGA Championship. Dutra finished four strokes ahead of the defending champ, Gene Sarazen, and Denny Shute was also among the runners-up.

That win got Dutra into the year-end senior showdown called the World Senior Championship, which pitted the Senior PGA Championship winner against the British PGA Seniors champion in a 36-hole match. There, Dutra defeated John Burton, 2-up.

Dutra had two other Top 10 finishes in the Senior PGA Championship, in 1956 and 1958. He was the third-round leader in 1958, but shot 82 in the final round.

As early as a 1932 edition of Golfdom magazine, Dutra was being cited alongside such luminaries as Tommy Armour, Harry Cooper, Horton Smith and Johnny Farrell as among the country's best instructors. In 1934 that magazine called Dutra a "progressive, successful younger pro" and cited his endorsement of "motion picture instruction" (filming his pupils' swings).

Dutra was also known for his work encouraging women and junior golfers at his clubs, something not every "name" golf pro of his era was good at or interested in.

According to the authors of the 1976 Who's Who In Golf (affiliate link), Dutra, who had "been teaching for 51 years" by that point, might have "given more golf lessons than anyone in the profession. ... (He) estimates he has given 150,000 lessons."

Mortie Dutra worked at many different golf clubs over his career as a club pro. He was head pro at Red Run Golf Club in Detroit, Michigan, from 1933 to 1942, one of his longest stints. He also worked at numerous clubs in California, along with clubs in Virginia, Washington and Arizona, sometimes as the head pro, sometimes as an assistant to his brother, Olin. Among other clubs where Mortie served as pro were Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles; Recreation Park Golf Club in Long Beach, Calif.; Yuma Golf & Country Club in Arizona; and Anaheim Municipal Golf Course in California.

Photo credit: © UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections/licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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