Ross Brothers

The Ross brothers: Alex (left) and Donald (right).

The legacy of Donald Ross will live in perpetuity based on his connection to Pinehurst No. 2 and other famous courses he designed throughout the country.

Yet, Donald was not the only member of the family to forge a successful career in the game taking America by storm.

Ross had three brothers all of whom were born in the tiny village of Dornoch, Scotland. Donald, the oldest, was born in 1872. A brother, John, was born in 1874 but died while living in London in 1902, the result of injuries sustained in the Boer War.

Aeneas, the youngest brother, was born in 1881. A History of the Royal Dornoch Golf Club 1877-1999 notes that he emigrated to the states and was Donald’s assistant for many years.

Unfortunately, he sustained financial problems as a result of the stock market crash of 1929. Aeneas then returned to Dornoch where he lived modestly for the last 28 years of his life.

Alex Ross was born in 1879. He apprenticed under his older brother at Dornoch Golf Club until the latter left Scotland for America in 1900 seeking higher wages.

Alex’s duties at Dornoch included club making, teaching and groundskeeping. However, he too left to follow his oldest brother to the United States in the early 1900s.

The eldest Ross brother reaped the greatest financial rewards based on his highly successful golf architecture business. In The Golden Age of Pinehurst, it is noted when prize money for golf professionals was averaging $1,000 per tournament, Donald Ross was earning $30,000 annually and some estimates indicate he had 3,000 men working for him at one time.

Although Donald Ross was extremely well respected as a playing professional, Alex was even more successful.

Alex would go on to win the U.S. Open in June 1907, which was played at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. He shot rounds of 76, 76, 74 and 76 for a two-shot victory. The winner’s share was $300 and a gold medal.

By all accounts, Donald was proud of his younger brother. A November 1907 article in The Pinehurst Outlook noted that Donald and Alex were on the road much of the time playing exhibitions and teaching. The article went on to state: 

“And there isn’t a happier man in the country over Alex’s success than Donald, for it was he who brought the ‘youngster’ here and taught him the tricks of the trade, as well and even better than he knows them himself, when it comes to competitive play. Alex has always been a sort of ‘son’ to Donald as well as brother, and he has watched his progress with a pride which only a blue-blooded Scotchman knows.” 

Alex Ross would enjoy a stellar professional playing career, winning the North and South Open in Pinehurst six times. Additionally, he won the Swiss Open three times, was a six-time winner of the Massachusetts Open, as well as his major victory in the U.S. Open in 1907.

Similar to his brother Donald, who enjoyed great success at Pinehurst, Alex had a long and distinguished career at the Detroit Golf Club from 1916 until his retirement in 1946.

Although Donald was unable to attend his brother’s retirement celebration, he sent a heartfelt letter: “Alex is a loyal friend and a beloved brother. He has a heart of gold and is full of kindly sentiment but he has a hard time showing it which is characteristic of the Scotch ... Alex had a full part in the early development of golf in America. He was a great player, a lover of golf and he believed in its finest traditions. He was a good loser as well as a modest winner.”

Alex passed away on June 25, 1952. In his obituary, The Pinehurst Outlook noted his contributions to Pinehurst as a teaching instructor and assisting his brother in developing the golf landscape here.

Donald Ross predeceased his younger brother, having passed away in 1948.

Mark Edwards is a retired attorney who resides in Pinehurst.

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