Former star SL athlete joins son in golf hall of fame: Chapmans each led Hawkeye basketball team in scoring, and captained U of I golf

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

There are a couple of Tom Hancock Chapmans in the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame, now. Father and son, they are the only such pairing in the Hall. Both were perhaps best known, however, as standout basketball players at the University of Iowa.

The senior Chapman, inducted for 2018, is one of the finest athletes to come out of Storm Lake.

Tom Chapman Sr. led the University of Iowa men’s hoops team in scoring for the 1942-43 season at 16.8 points per game. His son led the same school in scoring during 1966-67, amazingly, also averaging exactly 16.8 per game.

Both Chapmans were also captains of their respective U of I golf teams. Tom Jr. was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2008, his father a decade later, though neither lived to see their honor.

Chapman, Sr., an all-around athlete at Storm Lake High School and All State quarterback of an undefeated Tornado team, went to Iowa in 1941 hoping to play football, too. Shoulder and ankle injuries ended his promising gridiron career.

“Legend has it that one day the red-headed Chapman was walking across a field when a member of the Iowa track team threw a javelin in the general area. Chapman picked it up and heaved it back. Later his throw was measured as being longer than the Iowa record,” though he had never competed in track, former Fort Dodge Messenger Sports Editor Bob Brown once related.

As a freshman he led the Hawkeye basketball team in scoring, but World War II would intervene 12 games into his junior season. Six days after his last game in an Iowa uniform, he was in an Army Air Corps one. He would fly missions with the famed “Flying Tigers” in Burma, and on idle time, so the story goes, would play cards with a fellow member of the platoon, Lee Marvin, who would go on to a great acting career.

Iowa fans were eager for Tom Sr.’s return after the war, but arriving in Iowa City, he would declare that he felt he was too old to compete for the university. But he wasn’t too old to golf - and star in his one and only season for Iowa.

“It was in golf where most people remember Tom. He could bust a golf ball harder and further than anybody... including the professionals. People flocked to big and little town tournaments around the state just to watch him drive the greens on par 4 holes. Few ever hit a ball harder with more consistency than did Tom,” Brown remembered. “The one exception might be his son, Tom, Jr. Earlier at Fort Dodge High Tom Jr., had been an all-stater like his dad had been at Storm Lake.”

After graduating, Tom Sr. settled in Fort Dodge and marketed sporting goods to colleges including the Big 10, while dominating amateur golf in the region for years, winning a long list of tournaments - though he would never capture an elusive Iowa Amateur title.

Tom lost what a Hawkeye publication called “an epic semifinal match against fellow Hawkeye John Jacobs in the 1948 semifinals at Brooks in Okoboji.” The Des Moines Register’s Bert McGrane, who witnessed Jacobs’s 1-up victory over Chapman in that 1948 semifinal, called it one of the greatest matches in Iowa Amateur history.

Tom Jr. avenged his father, winning a pair of Iowa Amateur titles in 1967 and 1972 and a total of 13 major championships in the state. When Chapman, Jr. won his first Fort Dodge Amateur title, in 1970, he edged his dad by a shot. The two did team up to win a State Father-Son Championship.

The former Storm Lake standout always had a flair for the dramatic finish. In one big tournament, the winner would get to choose one of several prizes, including a shotgun and a mink stole. With Tom Sr. leading on the back nine, his wife stood by the prize table and eyed the mink. After sinking the winning putt, Tom Sr., an avid an exceptional duck hunter, strolled to the table, picked up the shotgun and began to examine it closely. The crowd around him fell uneasily silent, as the examination wore on. When Tom tossed down the gun and presented the mink to his wife, they broke out in cheers.

Chapman, Sr. living in Iowa City in later years went through hard times, suffering open heart surgery, a hip replacement and removal of a lung, but remained active.

He once shot a 67 at the University of Iowa’s Finkbine Golf Course at 67 years of age in 1988, when he was in Iowa City getting cancer treatment at University Hospitals. He would pass away just months later. Tom Chapman, Jr. went on to a career as a top-level corporate executive for multiple companies, ran multiple Drake Marathons, and was well known for his philanthropical work. He died in 2007.