Robert Sweeny Jr

4th June 2020

Robert “Bobby” John Vincent Sweeny Jr was born on 25th July 1911 in Pasadena, California.

He was the youngest son of Robert Sweeny Sr (b. 9th July 1884) and his wife Teresa Hanaway (b. 12th June 1886), both strict Roman Catholics of Irish descent. Robert Sr was educated at University of Notre Dame and then Harvard Law School. He met Teresa, a talented singer and musician, whilst he was in Boston. She was studying at the city’s Conservatory of Music not too far away from Harvard. They married in May 1906. 

Robert Sr was the son of Charles Sweeny Sr and it was Bobby’s grand-father to whom the family owed their thanks for the wealth which set them all up for life. Charles made a fortune in mining and real estate in the late 19th century which Robert Sr built on through hard work and astute financial investments.

Bobby’s elder brother Charles “Charlie” was born on 3rd October 1909 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, his mother’s home town.

Shortly afterwards the Sweeny family moved to San Francisco where Robert Sr set up a new law firm which he then expanded in to Los Angeles. 

In 1916, with Bobby now 5, an increasingly ambitious Robert Sr moved the family to New York.

Charlie and Bobby attended Loyola School, an independent Jesuit school which opened on Park Avenue in 1900, and then Canterbury School, a catholic boarding school which had opened in 1915 in New Milford, Connecticut. Both boys were natural sportsman playing for Canterbury’s football, basketball, baseball and hockey teams. However, it was golf that quickly garnered most of their attention. In 1923 Charlie was captain of the school golf team and Bobby won the Most Promising Player prize.

img_7177

Ben Hogan and Bobby Sweeny at Seminole G.C.

It was a stroke of good fortune that accelerated the Sweeny’s golfing development. In 1925 the family were invited to holiday at the Le Touquet home of Kingsley ‘King’ Macomber in northern France. Macomber, a U.S. business associate of Robert Sr’s and a renowned racehorse owner, spent much of the holiday talking about horses and trying to persuade the Sweeny’s to buy a villa at the fashionable French resort. Macomber was confident he was going to win the Autumn Double, the Cambridgeshire and the Cesarevitch, at Newmarket with his two horses ‘Masked Marvel’ and ‘Forseti’. Macomber, having been unsuccessful in both persuading Robert Sr to have a bet or buy a villa, left France saying he would put a little on for him anyway. The horses duly came in for Macomber a few weeks later and he and his associates won over £1 million. In October Robert Sr received a cheque for £28,000, his share of the winnings. Robert Sr wanted to return the cheque but his wife Teresa suggested a compromise – why not use the money to acquire a villa in Le Touquet. As a result Charlie and Bobby spent the following summer of 1926 receiving lessons from pro Ted Green and playing golf on Le Touquet’s La Forêt and Le Manoir courses. The Sweeny boys would holiday at Le Touquet for years to come, occasionally playing golf with Edward, Prince of Wales who was also a frequent visitor.

In 1926 Robert Sr saw the opportunity to establish The Federated Trust and Finance Corporation in London to assist with new share issues on the Stock Exchange. Whilst Robert moved between the two cities Teresa remained based in New York; Charlie and Bobby continuing their educations at Canterbury and visiting their father in the summer holidays. 

Charlie played in the 1926 British Boys’ Amateur Championship, which had commenced in 1921, at Coombe Hill. He lost by 2&1 in the quarter finals to the eventual winner Scotland’s Eric McRuvie. In 1927 both Charlie and Bobby competed at Barnton, Royal Burgess in the same Championship. Bobby lost in the 4th round to a GNS Tweedale from Edinburgh whilst Charlie again lost to the champion, Eric Fiddian 5&4, this time in the semi-finals. With their entries stating either Canterbury, USA or Connecticut, USA they both must have been amongst the very first overseas entries. It doesn’t appear as if Bobby entered alone in 1928 at Formby or 1929 again at Barnton, Royal Burgess when he still would have been eligible.

img_7176

Bobby and Charlie Sweeny At the 1927 Boys’ Amateur Championship

Two of their New York friends, Boy and Buzzie Scheftel, found themselves in a similar family situation to the Sweeny’s in the late 1920’s and the four of them spent much of their summers together in Le Touquet. In 1930 Charlie graduated from Canterbury School and passed the entrance examination for Yale. However, the Sheftels persuaded both of the Sweeny boys to change their plans and follow them to Oxford University. After one or two issues Charlie finally received the offer of a place at Wadham College. Charlie soon made the Oxford golf team and ahead of the 1933 Varsity Match against Cambridge he stayed with his friend the Prince of Wales at Fort Belvedere and the two played and practiced at nearby Sunningdale G.C. in preparation.

Bobby Sweeny doesn’t appear to have been as academically accomplished as Charlie and when his time arrived it took him over two years to pass the Oxford entrance examination. It was only after his father threatened him with having to get a job that Bobby got through it and was able to join his brother at Wadham.

Helped by a monthly allowance from their father Charlie and Bobby both appear to have enjoyed a relaxed life at Oxford playing golf at the University’s Southfields course and else where, socialising in London at the leading clubs, Bucks and Whites, and regularly holidaying at the most glamorous resorts across Europe. In addition to the Oxford University Golf Club and Oxford & Cambridge Golfing Society the Sweeny’s became members of The Addington, Berkshire, Prince’s, Stoke Poges and Sunningdale Golf Club’s. In passing Bobby also became a member of The R&A in the mid-1930’s.

Charlie (1930-1-2), who captained the Oxford team in his final year, and Bobby (1932 only) both earned golfing blues. They played in the same Oxford team that beat Cambridge 9-6 in the 1932 Varsity Match, pairing up in the foursomes (winning 5&3) before both won their singles, Charlie 4&3 and Bobby 5&4. Attending and representing Oxford at golf in the 1930’s brought them into contact with many of the leading golfers of the time as well as extending their business and aristocratic networks.   

Charlie was clearly the better golfer as a young man but it wouldn’t be long before Bobby would be asserting his dominance over his older brother. Writing in later years Bernard Darwin said Bobby “had always had a sound and elegant style and he had been a good but by no means an outstanding player for Oxford” which seems to sum up his standing at the time. Laddie Lucas was more effusive in his praise “Of the many golfing scholars I met in those week-end matches for Cambridge, Bob seemed to me to possess a golfing armoury of greater variety and quality than the majority of his contemporaries. Those with the eyes to see could tell then that here was a player who, before long, must surely prevail.”

Shortly after graduating Charlie fell in love with Margaret Whigham, considered the most attractive woman in the country at the time. To demonstrate an income ahead of a proposed marriage in February 1933, his father arranged for him to take a job at Charterhouse Investment Trust, a small merchant bank. Charlie’s new role in the City and the wedding preparations inevitably led to him practicing less and a gradual withdrawal from competitive golf. Charlie would join his father’s Federated Trust company in the mid-1930’s.

When Bobby graduated from Oxford he joined the investment banking firm of Philip Hill and Partners in London, no doubt with a helping hand from his father. As he always enjoyed socialising and playing golf more than he ever did working one assumes this was a flexible arrangement. Now a slim 6ft 3” man, with a fast improving game, he was determined to start making a name for himself in the golfing world.

Bobby was a semi-finalist in the French Open Amateur Championship in 1933 at Fourqueux and was runner-up in the New York State Men’s Amateur championship later in the summer at Garden City C.C. Two results which highlight his transatlantic schedule right from his early 20’s.

In 1934 he secured his first national win in Britain taking the H.R.H. Prince of Wales’ Cup played over 72 holes at Prince’s, the club he seemed to be most affiliated with at this time. He also made the semi-finals again in the French Amateur, this time at the Chiberta G.C. 

Bobby made his debut in the Amateur Championship in 1929 a month before his 18th birthday. However, it was not until 1935, playing in his fourth Amateur at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, that he was to reach the latter stages. He came through six rounds before losing in the semi-finals 3&2, having been 2Up after 12 holes, to the eventual champion W. Lawson Little.

Later in the summer of 1935 Bobby won the Gleneagles Silver Tassie, a leading amateur event at this time, having also come joint runner-up in the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase at the Berkshire G.C.  

Bobby was invited to play in the third U.S. Masters at Augusta in 1936. After rounds of 83-72-74-87 (+31) he finished tied 44th. He would go on to play in a total of ten Masters with his final one being in 1961. His best finish was tied 34th in 1954. His full Masters Tournament playing record is shown in an Appendix below. 

img_7181

Bobby Sweeny was a friend of Bobby Jones (Photo: Charles Sweeny)

1936 saw him make another good run at the Amateur losing in Round 5 to Australia’s Jim Ferrier on the 21st hole. Ferrier was runner-up that year falling to Hector Thomson at St. Andrews by 2 holes in the Final. Ferrier turned professional in 1941 and won the 1947 PGA Championship, the first golfer from the Southern Hemisphere to win a major title. 

The 1937 Amateur Championship was played at Royal St. George’s in Kent. Sweeny, about to turn 26, reached the final where he came up against Lionel Munn. Munn, a former Irish Open Amateur (1909-10-11) and Irish Close (1908-11-13-14) champion, had just turned 50 years old and whilst he hadn’t played much in the 1920s a move to Kent and membership at Sandwich had re-ignited his interest in the game. Despite both finalists having associations with local clubs the final was watched by a modest crowd totalling no more than 500. Peter Lawless writing in the Morning Post on 31st May 1937 reported that Sweeny had a “beautifully smooth swing, with the hands carried through unusually high.”

Bobby got off to a good start in the final moving 3Up after four holes. He took the first with a par but then holed long putts on the 3rd and 4th. The lead was reduced to 1Up after 9 holes as Munn settled down and it remained this way after all of the morning 18 holes had been played. At the 22nd hole Munn drew back level and on the next went 1Up. The 24th hole, the par 3 ‘Maiden’, would settle the match. Munn, in the ascendancy and with the tee, got caught between a 5 and a 6-iron and pushed his opening shot into a pot bunker on the right hand side. Sweeny also missed the green but chipped stone dead to secure a par his opponent was ultimately unable to match. When Bobby won the next hole too he was back on track and would eventually see out the match 3&2. It appears his greater length off the tee and extra fitness, in the sunny conditions, ultimately paid off against the older man. Bernard Darwin said Sweeny “played beautifully at Sandwich and was not only the winner but the dominating figure of the tournament.”

img_2932

Bobby Sweeny Jr Receives the Amateur Championship Trophy

Final Scores – Morning Round

Sweeny   4  4  2  4  5  3  5  3  4 = 34    4  4  4  5  4  5  4  4  5 = 39 [73]

Munn      5  4  3  5  4  3  5  3  3 = 35    4  4  4  5  5  5  3  5  4 = 39 [74]

Final Scores – Afternoon Round

Sweeny   5  4  4  6  5  3  4  3  4 = 38    4  5  4  5  4  6  2 = 30  (after 16 holes)

Munn      5  4  4  5  4  4  5  4  3 = 38    6  4  5  5  5  5  3 = 39  (after 16 holes)

Now full of confidence Bobby won the 1937 Golf Illustrated Gold Vase at West Herts G.C. by 7-shots with an impressive 137 36-hole total. He also won the Gleneagles Silver Tassie again in 1937 when he shot a course record 66 on the Queen’s Course and followed it with a 74 on the Kings Course to post a record 140 total.

Around this time it was reported that Sweeny had been dominating the White’s Club tournament in recent years, played annually over 36 holes at Royal St. George’s. Members enjoyed to gamble and it was said that Sweeny always left the event with thousands of pounds from winnings and side bets.

In December 1937 Sweeny announced his intention to file naturalisation papers and become a British subject. His sponsors were Lord Dudley and his employer Philip Ernest Hill. However, matters of the heart ultimately put an end to his plans.

Bobby Sweeny had been fending off women since University his looks, wealth and sporting prowess acting like a magnet to the fairer sex. Throughout both of their lives Bobby and his brother Charlie would repeatedly find themselves drawn to the fragile and spoilt debutantes they were exposed to on the circuit of high society balls and parties they attended. Sadly it was a weakness they would both repeatedly live to regret. 

In 1938 Bobby finally met a lady in London who he was interested in. Barbara Hutton was the Woolworth ‘five and dime store’ heiress and one of the wealthiest women in the world at the time. Both had lived in San Francisco, New York and now London and these shared experiences helped nurture an initial attraction. Matters were complicated as Barbara, 25, was in the process of separating from her second husband Count Kurt Haugwitz-Reventlow of Denmark, who she had given up her Amercian citizenship to be with and with whom she had had a son, Lance (now 3). Nevertheless the couple embarked on a romance touring France, Italy, Greece and Egypt during the autumn and winter of 1938/39. The couple became engaged but Reventlow wanted a settlement of $2.5m for a quick divorce. Barbara was happy to pay the sum but Bobby considered this black mail and suggested they wait him out knowing that having signed a separation agreement in July 1938 the Count would have to accept a lower settlement after 18 months when the divorce would be finalised under Danish law. In October 1939 with World War II developing at pace Bobby escorted Barbara and Lance back to New York and on to Palm Beach in Florida for the winter where Bobby relaxed by played golf at the Everglades Club. In February 1940 the couple returned to New York but by this time Barbara had started a relationship with the actor Cary Grant, whom she had first met in 1939, and Bobby was soon dispensed with. It is said he was given $350,000 by Barbara by way of a separation gift. 

img_3289

Barbara Hutton and Bobby Sweeny in Palm Beach

Bobby recorded his best finish in the Open Championship in 1939 at St. Andrews. Rounds of 74-75-80-79 giving him a 308 total and 33rd place result. He had made his debut in the Championship in 1932 at Prince’s and played in a total of ten Open’s before his last one 28 years later at St. Andrews in 1970. Whilst he was very much an also ran throughout one can not help but admire his competitive drive, fitness and longevity. His full Open Championship playing record is shown in an Appendix below.   

With World War II now underway Bobby quickly returned to Britain, keen to support the war effort in his adopted country. His brother Charlie had got a head start on him and had begun recruiting experienced American pilots to support the RAF. His ‘Eagle Squadrons’ were established in September 1940 and first saw action in July 1941. The Sweeny family raised $100,000 to fund the establishment of the Squadrons, primarily for getting the pilots to Britain and then paying them. At it’s peak the Squadron had 244 American volunteers trained up as spitfire fighter pilots. In September 1942 it was disbanded when those pilots still alive (88 died) transferred to the U.S. 8th Air Force after their home country had joined the allied forces.

Bobby was a qualified pilot with over 50 hours flying experience and now unattached wanted to quickly get into the thick of the action. Unfortunately his application to the RAF in 1940 to become a fighter pilot was turned down on the grounds he was too old at 28/29. Wanting to be involved with the Eagle Squadron he was made an adjutant, a lower ranking officer who assists a higher ranking officer with administrative duties. His job was to keep the U.S. pilots in order. Once in position he started to use his charm and influence to talk his way into the skies.

He was successful and ended up being posted as a Flying Officer to 224 Squadron Coastal Command tasked with flying four-engined B-24 Liberator planes. Wishing to continue living in the style he had become accustomed to he turned his back on the pilots’ encampment in Torquay, staying at the Imperial Hotel and commuting in his Bentley. He would go on to fly over 800 operational hours during which he and his crew destroyed two german U-Boat submarines and damaged a further five. During one of the successful attacks in the Bay of Biscay on 31st May 1943 his plane was shelled on it’s right wing. He managed to return the plane over 1,000 miles back to his base at RAF St. Eval in Cornwall flying at a very low altitude, fending off German plane attacks off the northern French coast and regularly throwing the plane’s contents out of the windows to reduce it’s weight as much as possible. For gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy Bobby received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) from King George VI in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 3rd September 1943. Whilst Bobby wanted to carry on flying Charlie was concerned that his luck would eventually run out so arranged for a friend, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands who was heading up the Free Dutch Forces, to request him as his new RAF Liaison Officer. As a result Bobby would safely see out the war at the FDF’s headquarters in a chateau on the outskirts of Brussels.

img_3284

Flying Officer Bobby Sweeny DFC

In May 1940 Bobby’s parents left London and sailed back to New York for their own safety. In July 1941 his mother, Teresa, died from a heart attack whilst undergoing an operation for the removal of her gall bladder. After the War his father, Robert Sr, returned to England but sadly died of cancer in December 1945. A family plot at Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking in Surrey, was acquired. Robert Sr was buried here and shortly afterwards Teresa was re-buried alongside him.

The War cost Sweeny six of his prime golfing years but he wasted no time getting back to the top of the game when play properly resumed in 1946. 

The Amateur Championship was staged at Royal Birkdale and Bobby reached the final where he came up against the pre-war star of GB&I amateur golf, Ireland’s 26 year old Jimmy Bruen. Bruen had won the 1936 Boys’ Championship at Birkdale and was an obvious favourite for the 1946 Amateur. Bruen came out on top, winning by 4&3. Henry Longhurst reporting on the final said Bruen was lucky to go in 2Up after the morning round after winning the 16th and 17th holes but not hitting a fairway until the 11th and generally finding favourable lies early on. On the 8th hole the powerful Irishman broke his steel shafted mashie niblick hacking out of the rough only to turn around and see a watching Henry Cotton using an identical club as a walking stick. The stick was quickly added to Bruen’s bag and he proceeded to use it to good effect throughout the rest of the match. The afternoon round was played in rain with Sweeny unable to make any in roads on the Irishman.

img_7038

Jimmy Bruen and Bobby Sweeny Ahead of the 1946 Amateur Final

Bobby continued to play in the Championship but only featured in the latter stages on one further occasion. Aged 52 he came through five rounds at Ganton in 1964 before losing to Martin Christmas 6&5 in the quarter finals. 

Sweeny played in his final Amateur Championship in 1974, just shy of his 63 birthday and what I believe to be a record 45 years after his first entry. In total he played in 25 Championships and 72 matches, winning 48 (67%) and losing 24. His full Amateur Championship playing record is shown in an Appendix below.  

Sweeny was the co-winner of the inaugural Berkshire Trophy in 1946 alongside GB&I Walker Cup player, John Beck. Laddie Lucas, who won it the following year, noted in his autobiography that it was Bobby who had donated the famous gold cup to the club.

A place in the U.S.A. Walker Cup team alluded Bobby throughout his long career. This was a shame as he clearly had experience and the game for links golf so would have certainly benefited most of America’s visiting teams to these shores. He was not helped by being based in England for most of the pre-War period and by his high profile love life which was often written about in the papers. The Americans viewed him as British whilst his friends in England saw him as an American so he almost didn’t belong to either side. The closest he got to honours was the 1947 match at St. Andrews where the USGA selected him as an alternate.

After the War and their father’s death Charlie and Bobby found themselves picking up the pieces at Federated Trust which they now owned 50%:50%. Whilst neither of them had a great deal of City experience they did have a lot of capital which was obviously a useful commodity at the time and gave them time to learn from their mistakes. Bobby, with little motivation and a lack of real interest in business, ultimately decided to return to America in the late 1940’s where he had many friends, particularly in the golfing world.

He first settled in New York where he carried on playing championship golf. He lost the final of the 1948 Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur at Winged Foot 8&6 to Ray Billows. He would also lose in the final of this competition again in 1957, this time 3&2 to Paul Kelly at Nassau G.C.

In 1948 Bobby met 18 year old Joanne Marie Connelley, who had been voted New York’s most beautiful debutante that season. Despite being over twice her age Sweeny married Joanne in 1949, her aspiring mother Margaret encouraging the arrangement. Soon after the couple moved to Palm Beach in Florida, an area Bobby knew well from spending time there with Barbara Hutton, where they had two daughters, Sharon (b. 1950) and Brenda (b. 1952). However, after a while the couple started to drift apart, Bobby playing more golf and Joanne, who was feeling as if she was missing out on life as a young mother, losing weight and partying. Matters came to ahead in 1953 after Joanne was allegedly caught in a compromising situation in a London hotel with international playboy Porfiro Rubirosa. Sweeny immediately sued for divorce in London and was able to divest himself of Joanne and gain custody of both his daughters whilst Rubirosa was left to pick up the costs of the legal proceedings.

In an aside, again encouraged by her mother, Connelley went on to marry Jaime Ortiz-Patiño in Paris in April 1954. Ortiz-Patiño, the French born son of a Bolivian aristocrat and tin magnate heiress, would go on to acquire Real Club Valderrama in Spain in 1984. This marriage was on the rocks within 2 months with Connelley attempting suicide and Ortiz-Patiño commencing divorce proceedings on the grounds of desertion by July. The matter took 3 years to resolve and with Connelley holed up in Swiss chalet throughout her unhappiness continued. She eventually died of a heart attack, allegedly brought on by a drug overdose, aged 27 in July 1957. Brenda inherited her mother’s drug addictions and eventually died in 2000 aged 49. 

img_3287

Joanne Marie Connelley – Life Magazine 10th January, 1949 

Bobby continued to live in Palm Beach and started to play more golf at the exclusive Seminole Golf Club, where he had become a member. Perhaps helped by his links golf experience he became a master of the course which could be transformed by the wind from round to round. Bobby became a good friend of Claude Harmon, club pro between 1945-57, and Ben Hogan who regularly played at the club, particularly in preparation for the Masters in the 1950’s. Bobby was used to mingling with the great and the good and Hogan appreciated the fact he could play with him and be treated just like one of the boys. They would regularly have $50 and $100 Nassau side bets during their games and it was general knowledge at the club that Bobby would more often than not win these and ocassionally agreed to give Hogan shots to help him. Bobby won a number of club competitions, including one alongside fellow member, H.R.H. Duke of Windsor, and kept the card when Hogan shot the lowest round of his life, a 61, in one of their four-balls.  

img_2948

Bobby Sweeny Seminole Trophy (Photo: GoldenAgeGolfAuctions.com)

In early 1954 Bobby started a relationship with another troubled society beauty and sometime actress, 24 year old Pamela Dudley Curran. Curran was at this point estranged from her husband Joseph A. Wade Jr who she had married in January 1951. In July 1954 it was widely reported that Wade and his private investigator had caught Bobby and Pamela in bed together at the Hotel Westburn in New York and that he would be seeking a divorce on the grounds of her adultery.

img_3288

Pamela Dudley Curran – Life Magazine 24th November, 1947 

A few weeks later Sweeny put the incident behind him and travelled to the Country Club of Detroit for the 1954 U.S. Amateur. Showing good mental strength Bobby, now aged 43, reached the final. The “graying millionaire playboy who is a celebrity on two continents”, as he was described by Herbert Warren Wind in Sports Illustrated, found himself up against a relatively unknown 24 year old paint salesman from Cleveland. His name was Arnold Palmer. Palmer started as slight underdog in the final having struggled in his semi-final against Edward Meister Jr. After Meister had missed a number of putts down the stretch Palmer made a stupendous up-and-down on the 36th hole before coming through on the 39th.

Recalling Sweeny and the final years later Palmer said “he looked like a movie star, he was as thin as a reed. Interestingly he recalled Sweeny having a female companion in the gallery (presumably Pamela but possibly not) “let’s put it this way, she was more than amply endowed”. Sweeny started the 36 hole final well, making putts of 35ft and 18ft at the 2nd and 3rd holes to go 2Up. On the 4th hole his ‘friend’ came through the ropes and gave Sweeny a big hug and kiss. He immediately holed a 20ft putt at the 4th to go 3Up. “I was already 3Down,” Palmer said. “It’s not enough that he’s rich, handsome, a bomber pilot, and gets the girl, he also makes every damn putt he looks at.” Palmer recalled that as they walked off the 4th green Sweeny whispered to him “‘Don’t worry Arnie, you know I can’t keep this up forever’. Bob was a real sportsman, a real gentleman. I appreciated that. Even during the nip and tuck of our match, I knew I would always have a good feeling about him.” Sweeny immediately three putted the 5th but was still able to take a 2Up lead into lunch.

img_2931

Arnold Palmer and Bobby Sweeny Ahead of the 1954 U.S. Amateur Final

Palmer eventually regained parity on the 27th hole, although Sweeny dropped another long putt on the 28th to regain the lead. Palmer caught him again at the 30th, holing a 6ft putt, and finally took the lead on the 32nd, when Sweeny bogeyed having missed the green with his approach. Palmer sank a 10 ft birdie putt on the 33rd hole to go 2Up with 3 holes to play. Sweeny, showing his fighting qualities got up and down out of a green side bunker on 35th with an 8ft putt to take the match to the 36th. 1Down playing the final hole Sweeny drove in the rough and shanked his 2nd out. He was still 7 ft away after his third. Palmer, safely on the green in two, putted up close from 45ft. and Sweeny made a quick concession. Whilst Palmer had clearly won the final 2Up referee Joe Day was so impressed with Sweeny’s play and sportsmanship he advised Palmer that he was calling the last a half and that the result would be recorded as a 1Up victory for him. The result would of course change Palmer’s live and arguably the future of both amateur and professional golf.     

USGA Highlights of the 1954 U.S. Amateur (0.00 – 1.41 mins.) 

Bobby played in ten U.S. Amateur Championships in total. His only other performances of note came in 1946 and 1949 when he lost in Round 4. His full U.S. Amateur Championship playing record is shown in an Appendix below.  

Bobby made his one and only U.S. Open Championship in 1955, aged 43, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, benefiting from his 1954 U.S. Amateur runner-up exemption. He missed the cut after recording rounds of 80 and 77 for a 157 (+17) total. The Championship proved to be a memorable one as the unknown Jack Fleck beat Bobby’s friend Ben Hogan in a play-off. 

Bobby continued his on-off relationship with the now divorced Pamela for a number of years before marrying her in August 1957 at the Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. They divorced in May 1961.

With good health and finances, Bobby continued competing in all of the main American and British Championships for a number of years but inevitably as he moved towards and beyond his 50th birthday successes were few and far between. 

Bobby returned to England on a permanent basis in the late 1960s as he wanted his two daughters to finish their educations in England. He was first diagnosed with cancer in 1979 and eventually died from it at his home in London on 21st October 1983 aged 72. He is buried, alongside his father, mother and brother in the Brookwood Cemetry. His older brother Charlie died ten years later in 1993.

img_2943

Bobby Sweeny’s Grave in Woking (Photo: Ian Wood)

Bobby Sweeny has been described as golf’s last ‘Great Gatsby’ and it’s easy to see why. He was a celebrity in both British and American society and a popular character in the golfing world. He was a natural who seemingly didn’t practice very often and frequently turned up for Championships the day before he would be teeing it up. Whilst he lived in an era and manner which is unrecognisable to most people nowadays his longevity at the top of the amateur game, if not his titles, make him worthy of further recognition.

______________________________________________

Appendix

1. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete Amateur Championship Record (Club Affiliation)

Royal St. George’s – 1929 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Lost to T.A. Torrance 8&6

Muirfield – 1932 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat Capt. J.R. Pelham-Burn 2&1
Rd 2 Beat R.H. Wethered 6&4
Rd 3 Lost to A.J. Peech 1 Hole

Royal Liverpool – 1933 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Walkover v. F.C. Harrison
Rd 2 Beat H.M. Dickson 5&3
Rd 3 Lost to EC Hatton 4&3

Royal Lytham – 1935 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat A.R. Walton 2&1
Rd 2 Beat P.W.L. Risdon 4&3
Rd 3 Beat J. Graham 5&4
Rd 4 Beat Brig. Gen. A.C. Critchley 5&4
Rd 5 Beat W.M. Robb 19th Hole
QF Beat A. Walker 1 Hole
SF Lost to W.L. Little 3&2 – Little beat Dr. W. Tweddell by 1 Hole in the Final

St. Andrews – 1936 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat JM Baillieu 3&2
Rd 2 Beat Lord C Hope 5&4
Rd 3 Beat J McLean 20th Hole
Rd 4 Beat E.F. Storey 2&1
Rd 5 Lost to J. Ferrier 21st Hole – Ferrier lost to Hector Thomson by 2 Holes in the Final

Royal St. George’s – 1937 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Beat H.G. Bentley 2&1
Rd 2 Beat M.W. Budd 1 Hole
Rd 3 Beat W.H.H. Aitken 5&4
Rd 4 Beat E. Bromley-Davenport 19th Hole
Rd 5 Beat Dr. H. Gardiner-Hill 2 Holes
QF Beat W Wehrle 3&2
SF Beat C Stowe 6&5
Final Beat L.O.M. Munn 3&2

Royal Troon – 1938 (Club – Prince’s)
Rd 1 Beat J.R. Hordern 4&3
Rd 2 Lost to W.M. Robb 5&4

Royal Liverpool – 1939 (Club – R&A)
Prelim Rd Walkover v. Hon. Denys Scott

1940-45 World War II saw six Amateur Championships cancelled

Royal Birkdale – 1946 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Beat R.J. Nauen
Rd 2 Beat W.C.I. Boulton 2 Holes
Rd 3 Beat R.F. Cottingham 5&4
Rd 4 Beat W. Sutton 20th Hole
Rd 5 Beat J.W. Jones 2 Holes
QF Beat H. McInally 19th Hole
SF Beat G.H. Micklem 5&4
Final Lost to J. Bruen 4&3

Carnoustie – 1947 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Beat C.G. Griffith 7&5
Rd 2 Beat F. Kammer Jr 5&3
Rd 3 Lost to W.E. Scott 3&2

Royal St. George’s – 1948 (Club – Meadow Brook, USA)
Rd 1 Beat F.G. Dewar 3&1
Rd 2 Beat Major Viscount Coke 7&6
Rd 3 Lost to S.B. Roberts 1 Hole

St Andrews – 1950 (Club – Meadow Brook, USA)
Rd 1 Lost to G.W. Mackie 1 Hole

Prestwick – 1952 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Lost to A.T. Kyle Walkover

Royal Liverpool – 1953 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat W.C.A. Stead 4&3
Rd 2 Beat J. Bennett 1 Hole
Rd 3 Beat J. Taggart 2 Holes
Rd 4 Lost to R.C. MacGregor 1 Hole

Muirfield – 1954 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat Lt. Col. A.A. Duncan 20th Hole
Rd 2 Lost to J de Bendern 4&3

Royal Lytham – 1955 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Lost to S.V. Tredinnick Walkover

Royal Troon – 1956 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Lost to M.M. McKeand Walkover

Turnberry – 1961 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Lost to J. Pirie Walkover

Royal Liverpool – 1962 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat R.M. de Lloyd 2&1
Rd 2 Beat J. Glover 1 Hole
Rd 3 Beat H.A. Wilton 5&4
Rd 4 Lost to D.J. Palmer 6&4

St. Andrews – 1963 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Lost to Dr. C.C. Bird 3&2

Ganton – 1964 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat M.E. Barker 6&5
Rd 2 Walkover J.M. Tweedy
Rd 3 Beat J.H. King 4&2
Rd 4 Beat R.H. Tupling 19th Hole
Rd 5 Beat P.D. Flaherty 2&1
QF Lost to M.J. Christmas 6&5

Royal Porthcawl – 1965 (Club – USA)
Prelim Rd Beat M.L. MacKenzie 2&1
Rd 1 Lost to P.D. Kelley 2&1

Carnoustie – 1966 (Club – USA)
Rd 1 Lost to D. Charmat 4&3

Formby – 1967 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Beat G.B.B. Jeffrey 4&2
Rd 2 Lost to R.H. Webster 3&2

Royal Troon – 1968 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Beat R.E. Faulkner 23rd Hole
Rd 2 Beat J.E. Behrend 2&1
Rd 3 Lost to R.W. Millen 3&1

Royal Liverpool – 1969 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to T.F. Connell 1 Hole

Royal County Down – 1970 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to B. Edwards 1 Hole

Carnoustie – 1971 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to R.C. Beaumont 3&1

Royal St. George’s – 1972 (Club – Royal St. George’s)
Rd 1 Lost to E.S. Proctor 1 Hole

Royal Porthcawl – 1973 (Club – R&A)
Rd 1 Lost to M.M. McKeand Walkover

Muirfield – 1974 (Club – Sunningdale)
Rd 1 Lost to G. Brand 4&3

2. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete Open Championship Record

Prince’s 1932   44th 78-74-77-78 = 307

St. George’s 1934   MC 80-79

Muirfield 1935   46th 72-73-82-80 = 307

Carnoustie 1937   MC 75-85

St Andrews 1939   33rd 74-75-80-79 = 308

St Andrews 1946   MC 85-77

Muirfield 1959   MC 78-73

Royal Liverpool 1967   MC 81-75

Carnoustie 1968   MC 79-77

St. Andrews 1970   MC 75-80

3. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete U.S. Masters Tournament Record

1936  T44  83-72-74-87 = 319 +31

1940  T39  76-78-73-78 = 305 +17

1949  52nd  82-80-79-77 = 318 +30

1950  T51  77-76-79-78 = 310 +22

1951  T55  80-79-78-78 = 315 +27

1952  T55  74-77-79-83 = 313 +25

1953  T34  75-76-72-75 = 298 +10

1954  63rd  81-76-79-76 = 312 +24

1955  WD  Pre-Tournament

Cut instituted in 1957 – Low T40 between 1957-62

1959  MC  81-77 = 158 +14

1960  MC  81-73 = 154 +10

1961 MC 74-77 = 151 +7

4. Bobby Sweeny’s Complete U.S. Amateur Championship Record (Club Affiliation)

Country Club, Cleveland – 1935 (Club – Sandwich, England)
Rd 1 Beat Robert W. Knowles 3&2
Rd 2 Lost to Roger S. Peacock  6&4

Baltusrol, New Jersey – 1946 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat Thomas W. Barnes 1Hole
Rd 2 Beat Edward L. Meister 20th Hole
Rd 3 Beat James Frisina 1Hole
Rd 4 Lost to Robert W. Willets 4&3

Pebble Beach GL, California – 1947 (Club – Meadow Brook, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Lost to Donald P. Kennedy 3&2

Memphis C.C., Tennessee – 1948 (Club – Meadow Brook, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Beat C. McVicker 4&3
Rd 2 Lost to William K. Barrett Jr 4&3

Oak Hill C.C., New York – 1949 (Club – Meadow Brook, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Beat John C. Owens 5&3
Rd 3 Beat Jack B. Key Jr 4&3
Rd 4 Lost to Charlie R. Coe 4&2

C.C. of Detroit, Michigan – 1954 (Club – Sands Point, N.Y.)
Rd 1 Beat Harry W. Easterly 2&1
Rd 2 Beat Stanton Shalar 6&5
Rd 3 Beat Gene Brehaut 4&3
Rd 4 Beat Clyde Oskin 1Hole
Rd 5 Beat M. Edward Merrins 3&1
QF Beat Dale Morey 4&3
SF Beat Dr. Ted N. Lenczyk 5&4
Final Lost to Arnold D. Palmer 1Hole

C.C. of Virginia, Virginia – 1955 (Club – National Golf Links of America)
Rd 1 Beat Thomas H. Pritchard 7&6
Rd 2 Lost to Willie P. Turnesa 19th Hole

Knollwood Club, Illinois – 1956 (Club – National Golf Links of America)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Beat William C. Scarbrough 6&4
Rd 3 Lost to Robert Shave Jr 6&5

Country Club, Brookline, Mass. – 1957 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Beat John C. Owens 4&3
Rd 2 Lost to Rober M. Bierne 5&4

St. Louis C.C., Missouri – 1960 (Club – Seminole)
Rd 1 Bye
Rd 2 Lost to Leslie R. Fowler 3&2

Bilbiography

1. Callaghan, Tom. ‘Arnie The Life of Arnold Palmer’. Arena Sport, 2017.

2. Caine, Philip D.. ‘Eagles of the RAF: The World War II Eagle Squadrons’

3. Darwin, Bernard. ‘Golf Between Two Wars’. Chatto & Windus, 1944,

4. The 55th Golfer’s Handbook, The R&A, 1958

5. Heymann, C. David. ‘Poor Little Rich Girl – The Life and Legend Of Barbara Hutton’. Pocket Books, 1986

6. Lawless, Peter (Ed). ‘The Golfer’s Companion’. JM Dent & Sons Ltd, 1937.

7. Lucas, Laddie. ‘The Sport of Princes’. Stanley Paul, 1980.

8. O’Connor, Ian. ‘Arnie & Jack’.  The Life of Arnold Palmer’. Yellow Jersey Press, 2008.

9. Rambler, Nash A (pseudonym), ’30th November 1939’. The Esoteric Curiosa.

10. Roberts, Charley & Haas, Charles.  ‘Charles Sweeny, the Man Who Inspired Hemmingway’. McFarland & Company, 2017

11. Sweeny, Charles & Goodson, Col. James A. Goodson. ’Sweeny: The Autobiography of Charles Sweeny’. Wingham Press, 1990.

ME.

Copyright © 2014-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

5 thoughts on “Robert Sweeny Jr

  1. Mark Eley
    Great job with a really cool story. We’re running a similar longform feature on Sweeny and were wondering where you found several of the pictures. If you see this somehow in time, please reach out. Thanks
    Scott Michaux

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s