The Jimmy (Conroe) Flowers Putter Company
(Photo Tommy Flowers 09/2016)
The Jimmy Flowers Putter Company was actually founded in 1933. My grandfather was working at the Texas Oil and Refining Co ( Now Texaco) at the time, but was very athletic and an avid golfer. Having attended Sam Houston State College from 1925 to 1928. He was what one might call, a “Jock” then. He was a star Quarterback on the football team, star golfer on the golf team. And, I was told,He drove the first golf ball off the number one tee at the new Sam Houston golf course built in Huntsville Texas in 1927.
After graduating, he married Lillian Cummins. That union produced two sons. Jimmy H. Flowers Jr. and Tommy Flowers. Tommy would end playing an important part in the company and actually made most of the putters from the late 40's to the late 70's.
The first putter was developed was when my when grandfather was in what many golfers know as a “putting slump”. This was in 1933. No matter what putter he found, none seem to work for him. So, he decided to design his own putter. He was a very talented individual having been a sign painter before attending Sam Houston and very handy with his hands. He carved several putter designs in softwood before finally coming up with the design which would become to be known as the model #555.
From there he had aluminum casting molds made at Oil City Brass in Beaumont, Texas, who would cast all the Jimmy Flowers putter models in bronze. Then he would take the rough bronze putter head castings and hand sand each one, first using a coarse sanding belt then switching to a very fine grit sanding belt. As he sanded the putters he would check the balance to make sure the feel and swing were perfect. From there he would join either a wood or a steel True Temper golf shaft to the putter head with color coordinated ferrules and rings at the shaft and putter joint.
Once the putter shaft was joined to the putter head, it was polished with a buffing wheel and special bronze buffing compound. This resulted in giving a beautiful highly polished putter finish, which became a trademark of Jimmy Flowers Putters. When you held one of his putters you knew immediately that you had something special in your hands.
Some putters were hand painted with color coordinating colors, popular at this time, that matched the ferrules, rings and golf grips. It was really a site to see all those beautiful putters lined on the work bench with their accents colors, nice gripps and high polished brass putter heads. Once this was all done, the putter heads were sprayed with several coats of clear lacquer which protect the brass putter heads.
In the beginning, he was using his model 555 in tournaments and gained a reputation as a master of the short game! It has been said by many, he was deadly on the putting green! Nearly everyone who played with him ended up buying a model 555. As these golfers started using and winning with his putters, word spread like wildfire and orders started flying in from all over Texas and from all over the US and many countries overseas.
In the late 40's, a major sporting goods manufacturer wanted to buy the 555 patent to manufacture a cheap steel version of the model 555 named “Lyne of Flight”. There was actually one mock-up produced. I saw this putter and it was really ugly when produced in steel instead of brass. The feel was wrong and my grandfather was not impressed with it. The company wanting to buy his model 555 made one condition that my grandfather could not comply with! They wanted him to get out of the putter business completely. Well, he knew that horse wasn't going to fly and turned the manufacturer down and canceled the sale.
Jimmy Flowers retired from the Texas Company in the late 60's and turned full time to his putter company and produce many new, striking and excellent putter designs which all sold very well.
After becoming a pro-golfer himself, in the 30's and 40's, my grandfather decided to only sell his putters exclusively through Golf Pro Shops at exclusive country clubs. These putters would sell for from $25.00 to $35.00 a club back in that time period which would translate into a $300 to $400 putter in today's dollars!
Many famous golf pros in the 30's, 40's and 50's knew and used the Jimmy Putters and swore by them. They might advertise another putter, but more time than not, they always used a Jimmy Flowers putter when putting for the dough!
From mid 60's to almost 1980, there were many offers from interested parties wanting to purchase the Jimmy Flowers Putter Co., but my grandfather just couldn't sell it.
From 1933 to 1987, the company produced over 35,000 putters, all handmade in 44 models. The model 555 was the best seller of all and is still sought after by many golfers and collectors today, not just for collecting but for actually stroking the ball!
Jimmy Flowers died in 1987 from congested heart failure at the age of 81. Since the two sons had left the company and had gone in different fields of work, there was no one to continue the Jimmy Flowers Putter Company so it quietly went away.
We still have people contacting us to purchase putters or to trying to find a replacement putter. One man wanted to know if we still made the 555. His dad had one for years but someone stole it out of his golf bag.He was wanting to try and replace it for him on his birthday.
Most golf collectors are just starting to discover Jimmy Flowers Putters. What made them special is they were not massed produced! Each one was handcrafted and are as good a ball striker today as they were when they were first made some 50 or 60 years ago.
The value placed on Jimmy Flowers putters will vary depending on the model and the collector. The putter company was actually a very small but important but little-known part of the history of Golf in Texas. Babe Zaharias used a Jimmy Flowers putter in many of her tournaments. There is also a putter in her museum in Beaumont, Texas.