Home' Australian Golf Digest : June 2017 Contents 60 australiangolfdigest.com.au | june 2017
late-1970s, firstly at the professional level
and then by making the game easier for less-
accomplished amateurs. Its commercial
success validated Crow’s move to California
where he founded Cobra.
That Crow was able to build Cobra Golf
into a company worth three-quarters of a
billion dollars is one of the greatest success
stories in the history of Australian golf.
An incredible journey
Sadly, the beautiful mind that conceived
the Baffler [below] is no longer with us.
While he’s still in good shape physically, his
cognitive abilities have declined gradually
over the past four years.
Today, the 85-year-old is increasingly
dependent upon his wife Cally and son
Jamie at their home in Jackson Hole,
Wyoming, a town famous for mountain
men and freezing temperatures. It’s not
uncommon to see a herd of bison or gang
of elk in the snow-ridden fields outside
the Crow residence, which is a far cry from
Tom’s childhood in Melbourne.
Born on August 23, 1931, Thomas Leslie
Crow was the youngest of three brothers
who grew up in the inner eastern suburb of
Camberwell. Tom began playing golf as a
lefty, but switched to right-handed in his
early teens at the urging of older brother
Peter who had read about the scarcity of
good left-handed clubs.
Tom was a natural athlete and
charismatic leader, as evidenced from
his time at prestigious Scotch College
Melbourne where he was elected school
captain in 1950. He represented the school
in AFL, swimming and cricket. As a left-
arm fast bowler, he took 134 wickets at an
average of 10.45. (Shortly afterwards, Crow
walked into Colling wood’s first-grade side
and represented the Victoria Second XI
But golf was his true calling. Crow
won more than 20 club championships
at Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne and
Royal Sydney. He won the 1952 Victorian
Close Championship, 1956 Victorian
Amateur Championship and 1957 Victorian
Champion of Champions (shooting a course-
record 63 on Royal Melbourne West).
Crow twice captured the Riversdale Cup
(1961, 1962) and represented Australia at
the Eisenhower Trophy teams’ event on
two occasions (1962, 1964). His crowning
achievement, however, was victory in the
1961 Australian Amateur when he defeated
Phil Billings in the final.
Upon leaving school, Crow worked in
life insurance. But that didn’t interest him
and he entered the golf industry through
a job offer from Clare Higson to manage
the Victorian office of clubmaker East
Brothers. That was back in the days when
Australia was a world leader in golf club
After two years, Crow moved to Sydney to
become international marketing manager
for East Brothers, which merged with
Chesterfield to become Precision Golf
Forging (PGF). The role would take Crow to
the West Coast of America, the Far East of
Asia and beyond.
During his time at PGF in the 1960s,
Crow had input into what many considered
the world’s first utility club. PGF’s ‘Little
Slammer’ featured a smaller clubhead
(made from a thermoplastic resin called
Cycolac), a rounded heavy brass sole and
a slightly shorter shaft than other woods.
The Little Slammer was very popular
Former colleague John Higson recalls:
“ Tom had a lot of ability in club design and
was very well read. And he developed a lot
of his knowledge from Ernest Kermeth, who
was the general manager of PGF.”
How Tom Crow conquered America
However by 1973, Crow was disillusioned
about the impending sale of PGF to the
international conglomerate Colgate-
Palmolive. He had made relatively little
from the success of the Little Slammer. So
at the age of 42, he decided to pack up his
young family and relocate to California with
the unshakable belief he could produce his
own clubs and pitch them to the American
market. Kerry Packer was one of Crow’s
original backers and supported him to the
tune of about $10,000.
Incidentally, the origin of the name Cobra
is an interesting side story. The Crows were
sitting in the living room of their Bellevue
Hill home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Tom was adamant he needed a one-word
name to capture the imagination. Some of
the big equipment makers at the time were
defined by one iconic word: MacGregor.
4/05/2017 11:47 am
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