Golfer Earl Stewart: Tour Winner, Hall of Fame Coach

Golfer Earl Stewart Jr swings club in press photo by Wilson Golf

Earl Stewart Jr. won on the PGA Tour in the 1950s and then became a club pro. But he had one more victory in him, a win that made him the only host professional to win a PGA Tour tournament at his own club. He became renown as an instructor and a college golf coach, his pupils including Mickey Wright and Payne Stewart. And he also played a role in creating what came to be known as Q-School.

Full name: Earl Richard Stewart Jr.

Date of birth: October 15, 1921

Place of birth: Dallas, Texas

Date and place of death: July 11, 1990, in Quitman, Texas

His Biggest Wins

As an amateur:
  • 1941 NCAA Men's Championship
  • 1947 Texas State Amateur
On the PGA Tour:
  • 1953 Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1953 Ardmore Open
  • 1961 Dallas Open Invitational
Stewart also teamed with LPGA legend Patty Berg to win a mixed team tournament, the 1950 Orlando Two-Ball.

In the Majors

Stewart played in 14 major championships, first in the 1951 U.S. Open, last in the 1970 PGA Championship. His best finish was a tie for 10th place in the 1952 U.S. Open. Stewart carded the third-lowest score of the third round that year, and tied for second-lowest score over the final 36 holes behind only the winner, Ben Hogan. Although that was Stewart's only Top 10 finish, he was pretty consistent in recording solid finishes: In eight of those 14 majors, he finished 27th or better. In the 1954 Masters, Stewart eagled the par-4 No. 9 hole at Augusta National, the first golfer ever to do so during the tournament.

More About Earl Stewart

Born in Dallas, Earl Stewart Jr. won the Texas High School Boys Championships in 1937 and 1938. He headed to Louisiana for college, playing for LSU and winning the individual NCAA championship in 1941. The next year, Stewart led the team to the NCAA national team championship. He also reached the championship match of the Texas State Amateur in 1942 before losing.

Stewart served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, doing his training at a field in Dallas where Ben Hogan was also training. After the war, he returned to amateur golf. In 1947, Stewart reached the championship match of the Mexican Amateur before falling, 3-and-2, to Frank Stranahan, but he won the Texas State Amateur title that year.

Stewart turned pro in 1950, and his first pro win was the Orlando Two-Ball that year, in which he was partnered by LPGA legend Patty Berg.

Stewart joined the PGA Tour in 1951, and he really only played the tour full-time for a handful of years in the early and mid-1950s. But he was a consistent performer, although not a big winner. He had multiple Top 20 finishes on the money list, including a career-best 10th in 1954.

His first brush with victory was finishing runner-up to Ted Kroll in the 1952 Insurance City Open. But in 1953, Stewart earned his first victory at the Greater Greensboro Open. Stewart won a four-man, 18-hole playoff against Sam Snead, Doug Ford and Art Wall. Stewart and Snead were still tied after 18 with 68s, so continued the playoff. Stewart won it on the first sudden-death hole. It was an impressive win for the competition he beat, especially given that Snead won that tournament a record eight times in his career.

Stewart won a second time at the 1953 Ardmore Open. He also lost another playoff that year at the Houston Open, scoring 72 to Cary Middlecoff's 69 (Jim Ferrier, Shelley Mayfield and Bill Nary were also in the playoff).

Stewart had no wins in 1954, but did record a couple more second-place finishes. He was runner-up to Bob Toski in the high-dollar World Championship of Golf. And Stewart lost an 18-hole playoff in the Insurance City Open to Tommy Bolt. He had another runner-up finish in the 1956 All American Open.

In 1953, it was announced the Stewart would be the first head professional at the under-construction Oak Cliff Country Club in Dallas. When that course opened in 1955, Stewart left the full-time tour to assume his professional duties at the club.

He remained the pro at Oak Cliff until 1969 and developed a reputation while there as a top golf instructor. His most-famous pupil then was Mickey Wright, one of the all-time greats on the LPGA Tour. Stewart was known for his belief in encouragement and play (as opposed to driving range practice) as the basis of instruction.

In Harvey Penick's book For All Who Love the Game: Lessons and Teachings for Women (affiliate link), Wright talked about working with Stewart. After four years in Austin with Penick, Wright said, "I moved to Dallas and fell under the wonderful influence of Earl Stewart at Oak Cliff Country Club. Earl wouldn't watch me practice very much. I would ask him to watch me hit balls, and he would say, 'No, but I'll meet you on the tee in five minutes and we'll play golf instead'."

From 1958-67, Oak Cliff was the site of the PGA Tour's Dallas Open Invitational (later better-known as the Byron Nelson Championship). In 1959, as the host professional, Stewart came very close to winning it — he finished second by one stroke to Julius Boros.

But two years later, Stewart did win it. At the 1961 Dallas Open Invitational, Stewart won by a stroke over a trio of famous runners-up, Arnold Palmer, Doug Sanders and Gay Brewer. Stewart remains the last host professional to win a tournament on his home course, and the last club pro to win on the tour, too.

A couple years later, Stewart played a leading role in creating the PGA Tour Qualifying School, the method by which, from 1965-2013, golfers not already PGA Tour members earned playing privileges. Stewart is credited with coming up with the idea and first proposing it at the 1963 PGA of America annual meeting, and two years later the first Q-School launched.

Stewart became coach of the Southern Methodist University men's golf team in 1975, and that same year he created the first SMU women's golf program. He continued coaching the men until 1980 — one of his team members was Payne Stewart (no relation to Earl) — when that program was temporarily disbanded. He coached the women's team from 1975-87, winning the national championship in 1979 and the Southwest Conference championship in 1986. Among his team members were future LPGA players Amy Benz, Cathy (Hanlon) Marino and Missie McGeorge. (Marino later became Jordan Spieth's high school golf coach.)

In the 1970s, Stewart co-wrote a couple niche golf instructional books, in 1976 the Left Hander's Golf Book and, in 1977, Golf Begins at Forty (affiliate links).

He is a member of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, the National Golf Coaches Association Coaches Hall of Fame, and the Southern Methodist University Hall of Fame.

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