The following profile is part of Golfweek’s Local Legends series:
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Occupation: Retired Burger King franchise owner
Club affiliation: Friendly Hills CC
Handicap index: 4.6
Accomplishments: Won Pasadena City Senior (1990); 14-time Friendly Hills CC club champion (1970-2005, including five consecutive from 2001 to ’05) and 8-time senior club champion (1998-2008, including five consecutive from 2004 to ’08); won PGA West Club Championship (four times); runner-up, Los Angeles Amateur (1979); runner-up, Los Angeles Senior (1992); holds senior course record at Friendly Hills (63) and previously held course record at PGA West’s Nicklaus Private course (63).
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Starting at age 10, Ken Kirkpatrick would get dropped off by his mother at Mission Valley Golf Course in San Diego during the summer. He’d spend most of his days there, playing golf and caddieing.
He also spent a considerable amount of time at the club’s 18-hole pitch-and-putt course.
“The pro let me play there all the time,” Kirkpatrick said. “That gave me a chance to work on my short game.”
Kirkpatrick went on to play high school golf, then made the golf team at San Diego City College and won the 1961 California Community College Athletic Association Championship. He earned a scholarship to USC, where he played alongside Dave Stockton, who had a pretty good short game, too.
The Trojans won two Pac-12 Championships in Kirkpatrick’s three years on the team, in 1962 and ’64.
“It was a life-changing experience to be able to play for a university like USC,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick remembers one day in 1962 when Stockton told him that he was planning on turning professional.
“He made a goal of it and ended up making an excellent career out of it,” Kirkpatrick said of Stockton, who won 10 PGA Tour titles, including two PGA Championships.
As for Kirkpatrick’s pro aspirations, he was advised by a friend “that if I wanted a family and that way of life, I should chose a career that would keep me around the area.”
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BEST IN STATE
Kirkpatrick was selected by the Southern California Golf Association to California’s all-state team in 1979, which included Corey Pavin and Mark O’Meara. The team was selected based on player performance the previous year.
They played golf on some pretty nice courses, too, including Pebble Beach, where Kirkpatrick and teammates attended a memorable dinner.
“I’ve never been to the Masters Champions Dinner, but I would equate it to something like that,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was a very nice ordeal, and being on that team was just a tremendous experience.”
Oh, and Kirkpatrick was able to play Cypress Point, which remains his favorite golf course – “without question” – to this day.
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Kirkpatrick has played golf with some notable names over the years – his USC teammates, which included Stockton and two other All-Americans, Sherman Finger and Rick Rhoads; and his all-state teammates, which included Pavin and O’Meara.
He also has played a round with Jerry West, a former Los Angeles Lakers star.
“Very tall, very coordinated,” Kirkpatrick said of West.
But as for his favorite playing partner ever?
“That would be my best friend, Bob Irwin,” he said.