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Ivo Harrington Whitton (1893–1967)

by A. G. L. Shaw

This article was published:

Ivo Harrington Whitton (1893-1967), golfer, was born on 9 December 1893 at Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, son of Percy Whitton, accountant, and his wife Eliza Lord, née Harrington, both Tasmanian born. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School where he captained the preparatory school cricket team, he is said to have taken up golf seriously at the age of 14 when passed over for the first eleven. He practised in the paddocks surrounding his home in Munro Street, Armadale, and in 1908 joined the Caulfield Golf Club in which his father was an active member. When it moved to Oakleigh that year, becoming the Metropolitan Golf Club, Ivo won the last medal on the old course and the first on the new. He was club champion three times before the war; on 11 November 1911 he set two course records (71 in the morning and 69 in the afternoon), taking the monthly medal despite a handicap of plus four. He won his first Australian Open championship in 1912 and is the only Australian golfer to have won it five times (1912, 1913, 1926, 1929 and 1931), and that as an amateur.

On leaving school in 1911, Whitton had joined the woolbroking firm of A. R. Lempriere (the Australian amateur golf champion in 1913) who allowed him time for golf in off-seasons. Late that year Whitton went to England and in 1914 competed in the British amateur championship. When World War I broke out he returned home; on being rejected by the Australian Imperial Force, he went back to England and served in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He gained his commission and served at Salonica. Contracting malaria, he was invalided home.

After the war Whitton worked as a wool-appraiser for the Commonwealth government in 1919-20 before returning to wool-buying. In 1926 he joined the sports-goods firm of A. G. Spalding & Bros, becoming a director in 1931 and later general manager. In addition to his 'opens', he won numerous amateur championships including the Australian (1922, 1923), the Victorian (1919-20, 1922-24) and the New South Wales (1929). In 1920 he won the Helms award for the outstanding athlete of the year. He published an instructional book, Golf, in 1929.

Having joined the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in 1913, Whitton was club champion nine times in 1920-36, its captain in 1947-50, and was made an honorary life member in 1953. He represented the club on the Victorian Golf Association and the Australian Golf Union. From 1948 to 1953 he was a member of the rules of golf committee of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland, and in 1951 was the Australian delegate to a conference in Britain to unify the rules. In 1960 the V.G.A. established the Ivo Whitton Trophy to be awarded annually to the best amateur.

A modest but tenacious player, Whitton also enjoyed the 'club' and social side of golf; his other interests included tennis, fishing and photography. He had married Evelyn Jessie Jennings, herself a good golfer, at All Souls Anglican Church, Sandringham, on 9 June 1920. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, Whitton died at Sandringham on 2 July 1967 and was buried in Cheltenham cemetery. The R.M.G.C. established the Ivo Whitton Cup in his memory.

Select Bibliography

  • Age (Melbourne), 4 July 1967
  • Table Talk, 24 Feb 1927
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 4 Feb 1985
  • private information.

Citation details

A. G. L. Shaw, 'Whitton, Ivo Harrington (1893–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 20 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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