On Father’s Day, like so many, it was golf day…first on the course and then in front of the TV watching the U.S. Open, and in between, it was in the pool listening to the Brewers game. But on this day, while much of this is about golf, it all began with baseball.
This is about Alvin R. When I first met him, he seemed like a giant behind the small counter of the pro shop at Beloit Municipal Golf Course. My dad said, as we were entering, ‘That’s Butch Krueger. He led the U.S. Open once.’
Once…it seemed so long ago. He wasn’t the first from the State of Wisconsin to lead the most prestigious golf tournament in the country, but he certainly was the best all around athlete to lead the tournament. Sorry Andy North. But Butch was not only a great golfer but a big time pitcher and star basketball player. As a star pitcher for the Madison Blues, a team which in 1942 would become the class ‘B’ team for the Chicago Cubs, he was known to start three games in a week. But that wasn’t his biggest outing on the sporting stage.
This was…the 1935 U.S. Open Golf Championship at Oakmont in Pittsburgh.
1935 U.S. Open Golf Championship
First Round June 6, 1935
#1 -1 Under Par
T3 +1 Over Par
T7 74 +2 Over Par
ALVIN KRUEGER LEADS NATIONAL OPEN OPENING DAY FIELD
Making the only successful attack on Oakmont’s dreaded par after one of the most calamitous opening days in the history of the United States Open golf championship, Alvin (Butch) Krueger, 29 years old semi-pro pitcher and a golf professional at Beloit, Wis., yesterday led an international field of shot makers with 35-36 71, one under par. The red-headed Wisconsin entry, a “dark horse,” was the only player among 157 starters to crack par for the full route over a course that raised havoc with some of the most famous figures in American golf. Rallies Near End He pulled a garrison finish to take over the first day’s lead from Roland MacKenzie, former amateur ace and now professional at the Congressional Country club of Washington, D. C. MacKenzie’s par-equalling round, 3S-34 72, had stood up under heavy bombardment most of the afternoon. Krueger touched off the fireworks at the close of nearly 12-hours of desperate, heart-breaking warfare with the bunkers of Oakmont. In this, the Thirty-Ninth National Open Tournament, for weeks there had been tales about the horrors and hazards of the Oakmont course. It took 301 strokes to finish first in the 1927 open tourney, played here, and natives predicted it would take as many if not more this time. “Yeah,” said Krueger, “I heard that, too, but what of it? If a fellow hits ’em straight he’s bound to score.” With few exceptions. Krueger “hit ’em straight” yesterday and he hit them long, too. So, as the sun dipped behind the Allegheny Mountains, he came in with a one-under-par 71, fashioned from a 35 and a 36. This feat supplanted the early leader, Roland MacKenzie, former well-known amateur and now professional at the Congressional Country’ Club. Washington. D. C.. who had a par 72.
It was the longest and by all odds the most gruelling start for any American Open championship since the event was last held on this back-breaking, 6,981-yard layout eight years ago. More than half the field failed to break 80. At least a dozen were within hailing distance of old man par but only two were able to draw up level and look him in the eye as Krueger came through to beat him in the stretch! and overhaul MacKenzie. Although Gene Sarazen’s 75 left him four shots behind at the outset and champion Olin Dutra’s 77 was six strokes off the pace, the vanguard of contenders was well bunched. Third Place Tie Trailing with 73’s, in a tie for third place, were Herman Barron of White Plains, N. Y., Cliff Spencer of Washington, D. C, Horton Smith of Chicago, and Jimmy Thomson, the “siege gun” from Long Beach, Calif. Another quartet was bracketed at 74. comprising big Ed Dudley of Philadelphia, Tommy Armour and Jim Foulis of Chicago, and MacDonald Smith, the Scotch veteran from Glendale, Calif. Most of these old or new figures In the title hunt had opportunities to beat Krueger to the scoring punch in the closing drive, but none was able to match the cool, calculating skill of the 29 years old Wisconsin player. Competing in his second National Open, the slim, wiry Krueger withstood terrific tension to play the last six holes in one under par, giving as fine a shot making exhibition in “the pinches” as ever made in the pitching box. His 35 Going Out Krueger had served notice of his sensational finish by going out in 35. two under par and equalling the day’s best performance for the first half of Oakmont’s bunkered battleground. He had par apparently whipped to a standstill, scoring “knockdowns” by dropping a five-foot putt for a birdie on the second hole and barely missing an eagle as he ran a 30-footer “dead” to the ninth pin. By this time the survivors of an original gallery of more than 4,000 spectators had heard the word and flocked in pursuit of the westerner. Whether or not this rattled him, he experienced a temporary lapse. He scrambled from the rough for his par in the 10th, was bunkered and lost a stroke on each of the next two holes before buckling down to a brilliant finish. His 12-foot putt dropped for a deuce on the 164-yard 13th, and he got down another of equal length on the 14th to save his par. The red head took three putts from 80-feet on the loth, which was entirely excusable and among the day’s commonest occurrences, but he came back to furnish his biggest thrill on the 234-yard 16th. Using a brassie off the tee, he hit the ball within a foot of the cup, for his second deuce. He had par under control again ana made no mistakes as he collected fours on the last two holes. playing a great iron on the home hole.’
Butch fired a 77 to finish +4, 2 behind Jimmy Thompson.
Saturday, June 8 (morning)
Butch shot a 78, the night best round but tied with Walter hagen for 4th, +10
Fourth and Final Round
Saturday, June 8 1935 (afternoon)
Butch shot a disappointing 80, finishing tied for 6th, +18as Sam Parks, Jr. won +11 and the $1,000 winners check. Butch won $218, equivalent to $3,927.77 today.
A couple of months later, the headline read:
KRUEGER TIES WITH RUNYAN FOR GOLF LEAD
Pros Shoot Sizzle 67 to Top Field of 130 in $5,000 Louisville Open (By Associated Press) LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 12. Led by the sizzling 67 of Alvin “Butch” Krueger and Paul Runyan, a field of 130 golfers, all but a half dozen of them professionals, today moved into the second round of the Louisville $5,000 open. Krueger, semi-pro baseball pitcher of Beloit, Wis., who said he had tried every form of sport and turned to golf seriously only two years ago,’ and Runyan, White Plains, N. Y., pro who has chased golf birdies nearly all his life, were four under par on the course. The low 50 and ties in today’s 18 hole round move into the 36 hole final Sunday. Tied for second, a stroke behind the leaders were Frank Walsh, Chicago, and Victor Ghezzl, Deal, N. J. (who won the 1941 PGA Championship), with 68s. Ed Dudley of Philadelphia, Arthur Bell of San Mateo, Cal., E. R. Whltcombe of the British Ryder cup team, Terl Johnson, Winter Haven, Fla., and Al Zimmerman, Northwest Open titlist from Portland, Ore., were tied up for fifth position with 69 each. Only two top flight contenders failed to qualify. Leo Dlegel, former P.G.A. and Canadian Open champion, withdrew at the turn when his card showed 41, and Alfred Perry, British Open champion, with 78 was the only member of the Ryder cup team eliminated.
A week later, in Oklahoma City, OK, on Saturday, October 19, 1935, found him battling Gene Sarazen at the National Professional Championship at the Twin Little Golf Club and beat ‘The Gentleman’ 2 and 1, advancing into the field of 16 on Sunday. The 29 year old Beloit redhead, who was competing in his first P.G.A tournament ‘is probably one of the most talented athletes in the country. He has averaged three games a week pitching for the Madison Blues and has a basketball record which made him considerable money on the professional side. He has been a golf professional only a little more than three years, but it didn’t take him long to make himself known, for he is now one of the finest of the younger pros.
Their match, the seventh of sixteen to go out, brought out the largest morning gallery of the week, one which grew to 4,000 by the time they left the tenth tee. They had come up to the ninth all even, and the 11th saw Krueger go one up. saracen evened it at the next hole, but Butch took the 14th and 15th with handsome golf, while the little Italian wa struggling to say on the fairways. That two up lead was sufficient to save Krueger from one of the typical Sarazen finishes. All Butch needed to shot out the three time winner of this crown was that noble niblick on the 17th, just when it appeared that Gene would win the hole and prolong the match to the finishing hole.
On December 10, 1935, Alvin Krueger, Beloit, Wis., was the 54 hole leader in the Sarasota Open as he fired a corse record 66. With the heading, ‘He can Groove ‘em Now’ as the photo state that Alvin Krueger, Beloit, Wisc., Pro Baseball pitcher who doubles in golf, grooved his efforts recently to lead the field in the Sarasota, FLA, $2000 Open Golf Tournament with a 67, four under par, for the first round. (He broke the course record the next day with a 66). Krueger is a lead-off specialist, have paced the National Open field to the first turn at Oakmont last June.”
In 1936, ‘Butch’ was one of the most sought after golfers for endorsements. He joined Al Espinosa and Babe Didrikson on the staff of The P. Goldsmith Sons, Inc., Cincinnati and had his name on Goldsmith woods and irons in two price ranges. The Grueger woods were sold for $9 and $6.50; the irons (flange soled) were $7.50 and $5. His performance identifies him as a ‘shining one of the youngsters stars with a fine future ahead of him. An all-around athlete, he has been a pro golfer only five years and is picked by Al Espinosa, head of the Goldsmith playing squad, as a youngster who will stay long with he lands at the top.
Two years later, Alvin ‘Butch’ Krueger tied for sixth in St. Paul Open golf meet. Aug. 4th.
Then on June 11, 1938, Alvin (Butch) Krueger, Beloit pro, the former baseball pitcher from Beloit, shot a sub-par 69 to remain within the first 15with a 148 for the first 36 holes of the U.S. Open Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club, Denver, Colorado.
A year later, Charley Bartlett golf expert of the Chicago Tribune covered the Central Intercollegiate track meet at Milwaukee and Bartlctt asked regarding Alvin ‘Butch; Krueger, the Beloit pro and Madison Blues pitcher. Charley believed that Krueger had few it any superiors in golf from tee to within 140 yards of the green. He felt that Krueger would be one of the big shots in pro link circles were the pitcher/golfer able to putt. Bartlett was one of the few who waited for Krueger to finish at Oakmont some years ago after a majority of the other Eastern golf scribes had written their stories giving a player with a 71. But Bartlett had watched Krueger in Chicago and knew he was a capable performer and Butch came home at dusk with a great finish to top the field The other scribes had to cancel their yarns and sit down and write new leads.
At 12:17 on the 1st Tee #70 in the field, Alvin ‘Butch’ Krueger, Beloit Municipal Golf Course, Beloit, Wis. was pared with Klarke Morse, of Wellston, MO, along with Leo ‘O’Grady, East Amherst, NY, teed up for the Silver Anniversary PGA Championship, at Seaview Country Club Atlantic City, NY on May 25, 1942. In the field were Ben Hogan, Ralph Guldahl, Sam Parks, Jr. (who had won the 1935 U.S. Open) Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret, Lloyd Mangrum and Sam Sneed among the 116 best pro golfers in the world.
In 1976, Krueger was named to the Wisconsin Golf Hall Of Fame.
1976 – ALVIN R. “BUTCH” KRUEGER
I never knew Butch Krueger was a red head. I remember him sitting on the bench of the second tee and saying, ‘Just hit it straight down the middle. You’ll never get in trouble and it will allow you to plan on your second shot.’ His hair was gray. But he was still athletic looking. And his tone was always reassuring.
One day I brought my catcher mitt to the course in my golf bag and on one of the fairways, I think it was the fourth, I pulled out my glove and ball Butch and I had a catch. It was one of those rare days in the Fall when few were on the course. That’s one of my most memorable moments with this once leader of the U.S. Open.
Here’s to Butch Krueger who on this Father’s Day should be enjoying watching the U.S. Open from Erin Hills and the Brewer game from his position looking down on all of us.