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Ferrier, James Bennett (Jim) (1915–1986)

by Brian Stoddart

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

James Bennett Elliott (Jim) Ferrier (1915-1986), golfer, was born on 24 February 1915 at Manly, Sydney, son of John Bennett Ferrier, an insurance clerk born in Shanghai, China, and his Sydney-born wife Louisa, née Elliott. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Jim began his playing career at Manly Golf Club, of which his father was secretary. In 1931, aged 16, Ferrier won the New South Wales amateur title, and was runner-up to Ivo Whitton in the Australian Open. Very tall and solidly built, `Big Jim’ won the Australian amateur title on four occasions (1935, 1936, 1938, 1939), as well as numerous State titles. In Britain in 1936 he lost the final of the British amateur at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland, but won two other significant titles. He married Norma Kathleen Jennings (d.1979) on 12 January 1938 at All Saints Church of England, Woollahra, Sydney. An ungainly but powerful hitter with an accurate short game and a strong will, he won the Australian Open title in 1938 and 1939.

The amateur rules were applied in Australia in a manner that allowed Ferrier to earn his living by writing about golf. In 1940 he went to the United States of America to contest open and amateur championships and to cover the professional circuit for the Sydney Morning Herald but, after the United States Golf Association deemed that his small manual Jim Ferrier’s Golf Shots (1940) breached his amateur status, he became the club professional at Elmhurst Country Club, Chicago. From March 1944 to November 1945 he served in the United States Army, rising to staff sergeant. He became an American citizen in 1944.

In 1947 Ferrier won the Professional Golfers’ Association of America championship, the first Australian-born golfer to win one of the four major tournaments. He achieved second place in another `major’, the US Masters at Augusta National in 1950. That year he won several titles including the Canadian Open (won again in 1951) and finished as the second-highest money winner on the US tour. In 1960, aged 45, he finished second in the American PGA. Winner of eighteen US tour titles, he also earned substantial income by endorsing golf equipment and clothing and by being paid appearance money. He contributed to The Golf Clinic (1949).

From 1954 Ferrier eased his playing schedule, taking a position as golf professional at the Lakeside Golf Club, Hollywood. His yearly retainer there matched his 1950 winnings. Returning to Australia occasionally, he contested the 1948 Australian Open (which he lost in a play-off), the 1973 New South Wales Open, and a veterans’ event at Manly in 1978. His combination of force, finesse and focus had earned him grim nicknames: `the Undertaker’ was the most common, `the Wolf’ another. On 11 September 1980 he married Lorraine Ruth Sheldon, née Devirian, a divorcee, with Presbyterian forms at Los Angeles. Survived by his wife, he died on 12 June 1986 at Burbank, California, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. H. Bertie, A History of the Manly Golf Club (1946)
  • A. Barkow, The History of the PGA Tour (1989)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Golf (1990)
  • P. Mitchell, The Complete Golfer Peter Thomson (1991)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 1947, p 10, 3 Oct 1973, p 17
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 7 Apr 1972, p 34
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 6 July 1986, p 66.

Citation details

Brian Stoddart, 'Ferrier, James Bennett (Jim) (1915–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ferrier-james-bennett-jim-12485/text22459, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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