A bout with rheumatic fever at age 10 turned young Bobby Knowles from tennis to golf, a fate he never minded. A native of Brookline, Mass., Knowles won the Eastern Interscholastic golf championship at age 16 and the Maine Amateur in 1937.
Buoyed by his triumphs, he turned professional the same year. The son of a well-to-do stockbroker, he had no problem pursuing his dreams. On the 1939 winter tour of the PGA (the forerunner of the PGA Tour), he traveled and played much of the time with Sam Snead, using Bobby’s Cadillac for transportation.
World War II and the 26th Infantry of the U.S. Army cut short his golf career. During the war, he was stationed in Augusta, Ga., and decided to remain in the South after the war. He relocated to Aiken, S.C. Knowles regained his amateur status and continued to travel the world in pursuit of golf. He won the Massachusetts Amateur in 1949, a championship for which he qualified ultimately 12 times. He won the New England Amateur in 1950 and was named to the 1951 U.S. Walker Cup team.
Bobby became the first resident of the Palmetto State to be named to a Walker Cup team, a victorious team at that. In 1951, he won the French Amateur at Chantilly Golf Club near Paris. These led to invitations to the 1952 and 1953 Masters Tournaments.
As a senior player, his talent did not diminish, winning the 1965 and 1966 Carolinas Senior Amateurs. He tied for second place in the 1967 and 1968 senior championships. He won the South Carolina Senior Amateur title in 1964 and 1967. Knowles other titles include the Tri-State Open three times and the Palmetto Golf Club seven times. He has been a member of Palmetto Golf Club since 1947.
Bobby returned to The Masters each year after his playing appearances and served on the tournament scoring committee for 28 years. He is a great-grandson of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Although a Massachusetts native, Bobby Knowles spent his adult years and earned his golf honors while living in Aiken, South Carolina. He was the first Palmetto State resident to be named to a Walker Cup team, and his 1951 side won the cup for the U.S.
At age 16, Knowles won the Eastern Interscholastic. He won the Maine Amateur in 1937, the Massachusetts Amateur in 1949 and the New England Amateur in 1950. A year later, he won the French Amateur near Paris, leading to a pair of Masters Tournament invitations.
Bobby Knowles was inducted in the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.