Joe Kirkwood

Joe Kirkwood, a member of the American Golf Hall of Fame, was a memorable character and was the head professional of the Stowe Country Club the last years of his life.

The 52nd Kirkwood Memorial Golf Tournament will be held June 21 to 23 at the Stowe Country Club.

The tournament is one of the finest amateur four-ball, match-play competitions in New England.

The Baraw family has managed this event since 1967. Stu Jr. has played in every one. The responsibility to organize the tournament started with Stu Sr., passed along to Stu Jr. and now Scot Baraw, Stu and Marion’s son.

Joe Kirkwood was a world-renowned American Golf Hall of Fame professional who “did more to popularize the game of golf around the world than anyone in his generation,” according to his induction information.

Kirkwood was the head professional of the Stowe Country Club the last years of his life. His legend, character and spirit still inhabit Stowe Country Club. This is never more apparent than during the tournament days in the early summer, when friends from across the country, as well as around the world, come together to celebrate his life the way he would have wanted — by playing a little golf. 

Fittingly, the Joe Kirkwood Tournament benefits Stowe Junior Golf. The legend survives that Joe would play four holes with just one club against the junior golfers, the winner getting a shiny new golf ball for his or her efforts. The Stowe Country Club Junior Program provides over a hundred kids between ages 7 and 14 the opportunity to learn the game through a five-week instructional program. Club professional Sue Horton leads the program. The Kirkwood has sponsored junior golfers at Stowe Country Club for more than 20 years.

The tournament format has been unchanged for 51 years. However, listening to player comments during the past few years, it became overwhelmingly clear that the Kirkwood Committee needed to make changes. The biggest change is to shorten the tournament to three days but maintain the match play format within flights.

The stroke-play, qualifying round on Thursday was an important part of the Kirkwood in the past. Every team posted its 18-hole, better-ball score. The teams were listed by order of the scores and assigned to a flight. The next three days, the teams competed within the flights.

The key change to move to a three-day tournament by assigning teams to a flight based on the player’s handicap index.

This year, only the 16 teams with the lowest index will play in a preliminary round. These 16 teams will play an 18-hole stroke play four-ball on Friday morning. The scores will order the teams for the championship flight (teams 1 to 8) and the first flight (teams 9 to 16).

The match play tournament will begin Friday afternoon with a shotgun for all flights, followed by a pig roast. On Saturday, teams play their second matches in their flight brackets. The winning teams will compete Sunday morning for flight championships and consolations. All the remaining teams will play Sunday morning in a “Last Chance” event.

Sunday afternoon, the winning teams will compete in a “shootout.” The Kirkwood Champion will be the winner of the Championship Flight, as in the past. The winner of the shootout will be richly rewarded with applause. This finale will be a fun-filled, competitive event.

As Joe Kirkwood often signed, “Happy Golfing.”

Players can register online at kirkwoodgolftournament.com.

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