Billy Maxwell, who literally grew up on the golf course, gained national prominence by winning the 1951 U.S. Amateur. He was a member of the 1963 Ryder Cup team. His final victory came at the 1962 Dallas Open Invitational, a year in which he finished a career-best 12th place on the money list with nearly $32,000. Maxwell won seven times on the PGA Tour.
Maxwell was born in Abilene on July 23rd 1929. His family lived off the fourth green at Abilene Country Club. He had a twin brother named Bobby and both Maxwells played under Coach Fred Cobb at North Texas, which won four straight NCAA championships (1949-1952). Billy Maxwell, Joe Conrad and Don January played on three national championship teams. Maxwell was an excellent iron player, while January was the big hitter and Conrad was the putter. All three have been inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. Cobb built a dynasty in North Texas.
Once Maxwell’s playing began to wind down, he turned his attention to the business side of golf, partnering with fellow Texas touring professional Chris Blocker in 1971 to purchase Hyde Park Golf Club, a public course in Jacksonville, Florida, that was designed by famed Scottish architect Donald Ross and opened in 1925.
Growing Up on the Course
Billy Maxwell’s family home sat near No. 4 green at Abilene Country Club, where his father was the head professional and superintendent. When Billy was 12, he claimed the first of four consecutive Abilene Junior Championships. “The West Texas Cyclone” won the 1947 Texas State Junior Championship at Brackenridge Park in San Antonio and later won the 1953 Mexican Amateur. His childhood course was later renamed the Maxwell Municipal Golf Course to honor his father, W.O. Golf truly was the family business, as Billy’s twin brother, Bobby, also became a pro golfer and instructor.
Billy played collegiately at mid-century golf powerhouse North Texas State, where he helped the school win the last three of the team’s four consecutive NCAA Division I National Championships (1950-52), a run that began in 1949. There, Billy played alongside fellow future Texas Golf Hall of Fame members Don January and Joe Conrad. The Eagles’ lineup, which also featured Buster Reed, is considered one of the best in college golf history, as all four stars went on to play on the PGA TOUR. Billy was inducted into the North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989.
A Young Champion
In 1951, Billy won the U.S. Amateur Championship at Saucon Valley Country Club in Pennsylvania, defeating career amateur and future New York State Supreme Court Justice Joe Gagliardi, 4 and 3, in front of a tournament-record crowd estimated at 7,000. Just 22, Billy was the second-youngest U.S. Amateur champion ever, and he also became the first Texan to win the prestigious title. At the tournament, he played with a member-loaned Wilson “Patty Berg” sand wedge that he ended up using for two decades. Billy’s victory was later chronicled in the book Once Upon A September
An Impressive Tour of Duty
After serving in the U.S. Army from 1952-54, where he was the pro and superintendent at the Fort Hood Golf Course in Killeen, Texas, Billy set out on a pro career that saw him make nearly 500 PGA TOUR starts and win seven tour events. He had 114 all-time top-10 finishes and made the cut in 89 percent of his starts. He also recorded eight top-10s in majors, with three each at the Masters and the U.S. Open and two at the PGA Championship. In 1961, Billy won the Bob Hope Desert Classic as well as the Insurance City Open and had 17 top-25 finishes and nine top-10s in 24 starts.
Standing Tall at the Ryder Cup
Perhaps generously listed at 5 feet, 6 inches, the diminutive player had a game that stood up against anyone and everyone. In 1963, Billy competed in his first and only Ryder Cup at the former Atlanta Athletic Club site, now known as East Lake Golf Club. The 34-year-old Ryder Cup rookie was the only player to sport a perfect 4-0-0 record (and he never had to play the 18th hole), and his play helped the United States cruise to a 23-9 victory over Great Britain. Not a long hitter, he made up for it with his fairway woods, including a pin-seeking 4-wood, and his impeccable short game
A Great Place to Hyde
In 1971, Billy and fellow Texas PGA TOUR golfer Chris Blocker purchased renowned Hyde Park Golf Club in Jacksonville, Fla. The public course, designed by noted course architect Donald Ross, opened in 1925 and had hosted PGA TOUR events and was the site of LPGA great Mickey Wright’s first professional victory. Hyde Park later became the site of the Billy Maxwell Claret Jug Golf Tournament benefitting the Jacksonville Area Golf Association. Upon his death in 2021 at the age of 92, visitation guests were encouraged to bring golf balls and other items of equipment to be donated to junior golf organizations on Florida’s First Coast.
Maxwell at the Abilene City Championship
Billy and Mary Katharine
Celebrating after making eagle on 18 at the Yorba Linda Open
Kissing the flat stick
1959 Bing Crosby Pro-Am
Billy and Cary Middlecoff
U.S. Amateur Champion medal (front)
Maxwell at the 1963 Ryder Cup
Maxwell (16) with Byron Nelson at an exhibition in Abilene
Joe Black with PGA Ryder Cup Team
Maxwell being presented the 1951 U.S. Amateur trophy
On the cover of Golf World 1951
1963 Ryder Cup Team
Maxwell in the service
Named the 1951 "Athlete of the Year" by the Texas Sports Writers Association
Maxwell and Bob Hope
1967 Haig Scotch Golf Tournament
1962 Masters Tournament
1952 North Texas State team - Joe Conrad, Billy Maxwell, Don January, and Buster Reed
Maxwell with the Wilson Golf Staff 1962
Hyde Park Golf Club
Maxwell with the Wilson Golf Staff, 1961
1963 Ryder Cup Team
U.S. Amateur Championship Medal (back)
This exhibit was generously sponsored by