Joseph Henry Kirkwood, Sr. (3 April 1897 – 29 October 1970) was a professional golfer who is acknowledged as having put Australian golf on the world map.
Kirkwood was born in Sydney, Australia. As a ten-year-old, he left home to work on a sheep ranch in the Australian Outback where his boss introduced him to the game of golf. He developed his skills to the point where he could compete in his country's most important golf tournaments. In 1920 he won the Australian Open and in that year's New Zealand Open he astounded the golfing world with a victory that surpassed the previous tournament record score by twelve strokes.
Kirkwood's success led to his going on tour in England and Europe where, in his first competition, he defeated the great Harry Vardon. In 1923, he began playing on the professional tour in the United States, winning that year's Houston Invitational, and becoming the first Australian to win on what became the PGA Tour. In 1924, he was one of the top ranked golfers on the Tour, scoring five victories, three of which were consecutive. He remains co-holder of the record for the widest winning stroke margin in PGA Tour history, set at the 1924 Corpus Christi Open in Texas. That year he also teamed up with Walter Hagen to begin travelling around the globe putting on golf and trick-shot exhibitions, newsreels of which were sent back home to be shown in movie theatres around the U.S.
Kirkwood best performance in a major championships was a third place finish in the British Open. In 1933, he won the Canadian Open golf championship. He was apparently the first-ever golfer to tee off from the howdah atop a domesticated elephant, which he first did (and was photographed doing) at Royal Calcutta Golf Club in Calcutta in 1937, and soon after in other clubs in India, and later in Africa.
Over his lifetime in golf, Kirkwood is credited with scoring twenty-nine holes-in-one, two of which came in the same round. In his later years, he retired to the mountain resort community of Stowe, Vermont, where he was the local teaching pro at the Stowe Country Club. The club has held the Joe Kirkwood Memorial Golf Tournament annually since 1967. Notably, Kirkwood's skills remained at a high level for most of his life and at age fifty-one, in 1948 he and his son Joe Kirkwood, Jr. both made the cut at the U.S. Open, the first father and son to do so and a record tied only in 2004. When his son won the 1951 Blue Ribbon Open in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they became the third father-son winners in the history of the PGA Tour, which by 2010 still has only seven such pairs of winners. One of Kirkwood's most remarkable feats was playing a round of golf at 10 under par 62 at the age of sixty-three.
Kirkwood died in 1970 in Burlington, Vermont. He was elected to the American Golf Hall of Fame at Foxburg, Pennsylvania. His autobiography, as told to Barbara Fey, was published posthumously in 1973 under the title "Links of Life." In his honour, the annual winner of Australian PGA Championship receives the Kirkwood Cup
- 1923 (5) California Open Championship, St. Augustine Open, Houston Invitational, Open Championship of Illinois, Kansas Mid-Continent Pro Championship (tie with Walter Hagen)
- 1924 (4) Texas Open, Houston Open, Philadelphia Open Championship, Corpus Christi Open
- 1930 (1) Long Beach Open (tie with Olin Dutra)
- 1931 (1) Southeastern Open
- 1933 (2) North and South Open, Canadian Open
this list may be incomplete
- 1920 Australian Open, New Zealand Open, New Zealand PGA Championship