Willie Jr. Was Mungo’s nephew
How many times have you ever heard the phrase “Like father, like son”? In this case, that phrase should also include Willie Park's uncle, Mungo. Willie Sr., Willie Jr. and Uncle Mungo all made their mark on the game of golf, but Willie Jr. actually did more for the game of golf than his father or uncle.
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Willie Park Jr. was born in Musselburgh, Scotland (near Edinburgh), in 1864 and grew up with a love for the game, which he got from his father. He caddied at his hometown course as a young boy and worked hard on his golf game with instruction from his dad.
Willie Jr. was destined for golf immortality. His father won the British Open four times during his golfing career while his Uncle Mungo Park, who went to sea for 20 years before playing competitive golf, won the title once in 1874.
As a teenager, Willie not only caddied but played against older professional golfers in stakes matches and tournaments to make money, when not working in the family business of club and ball manufacturing and marketing.
Willie played in his first British Open in 1880 at age 16 and finished in 16th place. His lifetime goal was to win at least once (like his uncle) but he had his sights set on winning at least four times, like his dad.
During the next 30 years of play in the Open, he won twice (1887, 1889). He placed in the top 10 a dozen times and was known for his excellent short game and putting, mixed with a sometimes unreliable short game. For work-related reasons he waited nine years to play in his only U.S. Open tournament (which began in 1910), missing the cut in 1919 at age 55.
Like most golfers who were businessmen of that era he still had to make a living long after his best golf was behind him. After he took over the family business sometime in the late 1800s, he saw an opportunity to expand his club and ball manufacturing to an international market and was one of the first golf companies to export equipment to foreign countries.
In 1896, he decided to write a book entitled “The Game of Golf,” which was the first book ever written by a professional golfer. It became an instant success and has stood the test of time. It is available today on amazon.com for $24.30 and is 224 pages of instruction and stories. It's well worth the price.
In 1920 he published his second book, “The Art of Putting,” which is also available in paperback on Amazon for $8. His greatest achievement in the game of golf came in golf course architecture.
Park is credited with becoming one of the first full-time golf course architects. He designed more than 170 courses in Europe, the British Isles, Canada and the United States. His first course design was at the turn of the 20th century, when he completed the course at Sunnydale, England. One of his last designs was the North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club, near Chicago.
In 1925, Park’s health was on the decline from overwork and the drive to be the best. In today’s language he was a workaholic. He knew he was dying, so he returned home from the United States to his beloved Scotland. He died at age 61. Even though he had never won more than two British Open tournaments, he surpassed his father and uncle in golf fame and fortune, but for some reason, he wasn’t inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame until this year.
19th hole trivia
• Willie Jr. had a daughter who also played golf. Her best finish was second in the Women’s Amateurs Championship tournament in 1937.
• Arnold Palmer’s first professional victory was at the 1955 Canadian Open Tournament played at the Weston Golf and Country Club in Toronto. This was one of Park’s premiere architectural designs.
• Each summer since 1925 the Weston Golf and Country Club holds an amateur men’s thirty-six hole tournament to memorialize the passing of a great pioneer of golf, Willie Park, Jr.
• Willie’s most famous quote still stands today: “A man who can putt can play with anyone.”
• Unlike Willie Sr. and Jr., Uncle Mungo has yet to make the Hall of Fame