Willie Dunn Jr. was one of the finest players of his day. In 1894, he won what was billed as the first Golf Championship of the United States. This victory was not officially recognized by the USGA because the organization was formed after the event took place. Willie finished second in the USGA Open Championship the following year.
Not only was Dunn a fine player, he was also an innovative clubmaker. In 1891, he patented the convex sole which “enabled the player to drive the ball out of a hollow place in the ground and out of the long grass”. Some of his other club creations include the Rotary Putter, the Indestructible Wood (an aluminum shell around a solid block of wood), and the Kempshall or Pyralin putter. All of these clubs are now highly sought after by collectors.
In 1903 Dunn applied for a patent for one of his most famous clubs, a unique putter made from an early plastic compound called Pyralin. Dunn believed the elasticity of Pyralin would cushion the shock while adding power to the golfers shot. According to the patent, the sides of the head are “parallel and substantially at right angles to the face…so as the aid in fixing the direction of the shot”. The Kempshall putter was one of the first center-shafted putters. Center shafted putters have the advantage being it reduces “the leverage around the shaft to a minimum, thus lessening slicing and pulling, and greatly improving direction”.
Dunn assigned his patent to the Kempshall Mfg. Co. in Arlington, NJ. The putter was manufactured in both a black and white model. Many of the putters were also made with crossed scored brass face plates.
Both the black and white putter are popular amongst golf club collectors. Playable replicas of the Kempshall putter are available in our exclusive Louisville Golf Collectors Series.