NYSGA Centennial: The 1930s

August 01, 2023

1930 - 1939: NYS Women's Amateur, An Emerging Star, Quality Is In


NYS Women’s Amateur Championship

For the New York State Women’s Amateur in 1930, the NYSGA was graced by the presence of a 19-year-old phenomenon from Hewlett on Long Island — Helen Hicks. She won her first NYSGA championship in Rochester at Oak Hill, followed it up a year later with a win at Lido, took a year off and then won it a third time in 1933 at Plandome. 

Young Hicks wasn’t simply the best woman golfer in New York, but one of the best in the country. She twice reached the U.S. Amateur finals, besting Glenna Collett Vare in 1931 and losing to Virginia Van Wie in 1933. After compiling a sterling amateur record, Hicks was asked by the USGA to represent the U.S. in the first Curtis Cup competition in 1932 in Wentworth, England (the U.S. won, 5.5-3.5). 

Helen Hicks was an early pioneer of women's golf. She won three of the first four NYS Women's Amateurs, along with a U.S. Amateur (left) at CC of Buffalo in 1931.

Hicks had reached the top of the amateur golf mountain in her early 20s. An innovator, Hicks in 1934 became one of the first women sports professionals by signing with Wilson Sporting Goods to promote its golf equipment. Taking that thought one step further, in 1950, Hicks became one of the 13 founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. 

Who knows what influence the Women’s State Amateur had on Hicks’ budding career, but winning state championships on great venues must have been a confidence-builder. 

Helen Hicks of Hewlett after winning the 1930 NYS Women's Amateur at Oak Hill CC. Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester.





Oak Hill CC (East)

Helen Hicks, Hewlett


Lido CC

Helen Hicks, Hewlett


Yahnundasis GC

Peggy Wattles, Hamburg


Plandome CC

Helen Hicks, Hewlett

An Emerging Star

The demise of the New York State Open due to lack of funding proved to be a boon for the state’s junior golfers. Following quickly on the heels of the newly created Women’s Amateur, the NYSGA readjusted its sights and started the New York State Boys’ Junior Championship. 

The first championship was held in 1931 at Onondaga. Hamilton Wright from Garden City will forever be the Empire State’s first junior champion with his win in 1931, but like the Women’s Amateur, a golfer soon emerged who would capture the state’s attention for years. 

Tommy Goodwin, a free-spirited 18-year-old from Winged Foot, would win both the 1932 Boys’ Junior at Siwanoy and the Men’s State Amateur at Niagara Falls to become the first of only two golfers to capture both titles in one year. For good measure, Goodwin would go on to successfully defend his junior title in 1933 at Troy. 

Hamilton Wright (left), winner of inaugural NYS Junior Am. Tommy Goodwin (right) capture two NYS Junior Am, and four NYS Men's Am titles.

In fact, by the time he hung up his spikes, Goodwin had won the NYSGA State Amateur four times (1932, ’36, ’46, ’53) and had been “in the arena” many times more, a worthy opponent for an increasingly impressive bevy of New York competitors. 


Host Club



Fresh Meadow CC

Jack Mackie Jr., Inwood


Oak Hill CC (East)

Phil Perkins, Fox Hills


Niagara Falls CC

Tommy Goodwin, Rye


Garden City GC

Eddie Driggs Jr., Garden City


Sagamore GC

Eddie Driggs Jr., Garden City


Winged Foot (West)

Ray Billows, Poughkeepsie


Bellevue CC 

Tommy Goodwin, Rye


Oak Hill CC (East)

Ray Billows, Poughkeepsie


Quaker Ridge CC

Willie Turnesa, Elmsford


Siwanoy CC 

Richard Chapman, Larchmont


Ray Bilows after his first state title in 1935 at Winged Foot. He went on to capture seven from '35 to '49, which still stands as the record for most victories.

Quality Is In

A fraternity of fairly evenly matched, excellent competitors emerged in New York in the 1930s. Jack Mackie Jr. of Inwood won his second State Amateur in 1930. Tommy Goodwin contributed two wins in the decade, in 1932 and 1936.

An extraordinary golfer, Ray Billows, burst on the scene with a win in the 1935 State Amateur at Winged Foot, despite the distraction of having his jalopy break down as he pulled into the facility the first day and sleeping on the club’s porch to finance his caddie fees. He would win again in 1937 at Oak Hill, showing a penchant for wonderful venues. Billows, it turned out, was just getting started.

To the chagrin of low-handicappers throughout New York, these players may not have been the best of the lot. The decade wound down with State Am wins by Willie Turnesa at Quaker Ridge in 1938 and Richard (Dick) Chapman at Siwanoy in 1939, players who would compile international resumes.

In terms of quality of players, New York was about to suffer an embarrassment of riches.

Phil Perkins (left) with Bobby Jones, William Turnesa (middle) and Richard Chapman (right). They each captured NYS Men's Amateur titles in the 1930s.

Ray Billows (left, middle) at U.S. Amateur final versus Bud Ward. Pictured right is Jack Creavy of Tuckahoe who won the 1935 NYS Junior Am.

Familiar Faces: 

  • Eddie Driggs Jr. added to his 1923 Men’s State Amateur title by winning two more in 1933 (Garden City) and ’34 (Sagamore), becoming the first three-time titleist. 

  • Jack Creavy, from Tuckahoe, won the Boys’ Junior Amateur in 1935 at Siwanoy, then found himself later that year in the Men’s State Amateur finals at Winged Foot (West) against a young Ray Billows. Alas, Billows came out on top, kickstarting his awesome NYSGA record. 

  • Don Parker of Garden City was one of the early visionaries for the NYSGA. He was the first secretary-treasurer and instrumental in securing the inaugural men’s amateur at his club, Garden City. He took over as president just two years later in 1926 and led the association for the next nine years until he stepped down in 1935. After his death, the association named their qualifying medals after him for all three championships at the time, the men’s am, women’s am and junior. 

  • Billy Ward of Syracuse won the 1934 NYS Boys’ Junior, and his younger brother, John, who eventually became a notable leader of the NYSGA administration, won the championship in 1941.

To read out the previous article from this centennial series on the 1920s, click here.

Written by freelance golf writer Kevin Casey, author of Remarkable Stories of NJ Golf