Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (2023)

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Today's top golf professionals are among the highest paid athletes in the world. They enjoy worldwide fame and a worldwide fan base. Hundreds of millions of people watch each of the game's four major men's tournaments, and the winners of these most prestigious events become household names. Golf fans would recognize dozens, if not hundreds, of current professional players, and even fans of non-golf sports would remember a significant number.

But that wasn't always the case, and there are many great golf champions who end up in the dustbin of history.

These days, winning a single major championship is enough to define a player for life, whereas in the past he could have gained a few hundred pounds and a pat on the back from the local club.

Below, we'll take a look at the fascinating stories of some of those great champions whose achievements have been forgotten, or perhaps ignored, by all but the most avid golf statisticians.

Ralph Guldahl (1911-1987)

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (1)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Born a year before Ben Hogan andSam Snead, Ralph Guldahl's playing career peaked and rocked twice before one of these golfing legends peaked. The Texan turned professional in 1931 and soon won the Santa Monica Open; The following season, he won the Arizona Open title. 1933United States OpenAt the end of the final round, the 21-year-old, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, hit nine shots off Johnny Goodman in just eleven holes. Guldahl faced a four-foot putt on the final green to force a playoff. He lost and gave up competitive golf for three years, moved back to his hometown of Dallas, and became a used car salesman. However, in 1936 he resumed the game and between 1937 and 1939 Guldahl was arguably the best player in the world. He finished second at the 1937 Masters before winning the US Open at Oakland Hills by two strokes. He again finished second at the 1938 Masters and successfully retained his US Open title, this time winning by six strokes at Cherry Hills. He finally got his win at Augusta in 1939 and won three more titles that season.

During that short period of time, Guldahl was at the forefront of the sport. But from 1940 onwards he lost the game and withdrew from the golf tournament. He played his last US Open in 1949.

Many believed that his involvement in creating textbooks was the reason for his golf breakdown - it caused him to overanalyze his game. Guldahl attributed this to a lack of competitive spirit and travel fatigue.

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In 1959 he became a teacher at the Braemar Country Club in California, where he worked until his death in 1987. One of his students at Braemar was the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.

Jack Stain (1921-2014)

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (2)

With Ben Hogan safely in the clubhouse, two clear of the underrated Jack Fleck, nearly everyone had handed The Hawk the 1955 US Open title. NBC television ended coverage before Fleck completed his round, ending with a scene of Gene Sarazen congratulating Hogan on another US Open title.

But Fleck still had four to play. He birdied the 15th and 18th holes, shot a 67, and tied Hogan for the lead. The following day, Fleck defeated the grand champion in an 18-hole playoff.

Many years after Fleck's surprise victory at the Olympic Club, his triumph was written off as an accident. He was portrayed as a club professional or journeyman, a one-hit wonder. Granted, he didn't exactly become a world champion, but he won two more on the PGA Tour, recorded 41 top-10 finishes on the track, and made 261 of the 271 tournaments he entered.

The truth is that Fleck was not the man that the vast majority of the Olympic Club's fans wanted to win over. His victory over Hogan can be compared to Stewart Cink's victory in the playoffsTom Watsonat Turnberry in 2009: The golf public yearned for a different outcome.

At the 1955 awards ceremony, Hogan announced that he was "done with competitive golf". Many spectators began to cry. Even Fleck's own son told him, "I rooted for your dad, but I'm sorry Hogan lost."

Thus, it was only recently, and especially with the return of the US Open to the Olympic Club in 2012, that Fleck's feat gained more recognition.

Fleck drove 49 hours from his Iowa home to San Francisco in June 1955. He opened his US Open campaign with 76, nine fewer shots than leader Tommy Bolt.

But he rallied to a 69 and was in the race with two laps to go. His last 67 was one of the best Grand Tours and his playoff victory over the best player in the world was a phenomenal display of skill and confidence.

Dick Burton (1907-1974)

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (3)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Richard "Dick" Burton held the title of Open champion longer than any other man in the tournament's history. He picked up the pitcher of red winesaint andrein 1939 and the competition was only held again in 1946, after the end of World War II.

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When he submitted his application to the R&A in 1946, he enclosed a brief letter: "Dear Sir or Madam, Enclosed is my fee of five guineas for this year's Opens. I will return the trophy when it arrives."

Burton was not a flash in the pan. A professional golfer at Ellesmere Port (then Hooton) Golf Club and later at Sale Golf Club, he won his first Northern Professional Championship title in 1934. He won seven professional tournaments and made three appearances in theKing Ryder.

But his open victory in the birthplace of golf was his greatest moment. Burton needed to score 72 points in the final round to win, and he birdied the 18th to beat Johnny Bulla by two shots. Just a few weeks later, war broke out and Burton joined the RAF.

Later in life, Burton was asked if he regretted not being able to capitalize on his Open triumph.

"I was lucky," he replied. “Many of those who watched me at St Andrews also went into battle and never returned. Some of my friends couldn't make it either, but I did."

Lionel Hebert (1928-2000)

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (4)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As a young man, Lionel Hebert had to decide whether he wanted to be a golfer or a musician. He was an excellent trumpeter and studied music at Louisiana State University.

But Lionel followed in his brother Jay's footsteps and decided to pursue a career as a professional golfer.

The Heberts (pronounced A-Bear) were Cajuns - an ethnic group native primarily to Louisiana, descended from French-speaking Acadians (now part of Canada).

Lionel and Jay are the only brothers who wonUSPGA championship. Lionel was the last match play winner in 1957, while Jay won the stroke play format title in 1960.

Lionel played 580 events on the PGA Tour and Senior Tour. He was twice chairman of the PGA Tournament Committee and co-founder of the Senior Tour. But he never traveled to participate in the Open Championship, claiming travel was "too expensive".

Herman Keizer (1914 – 2003)

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (5)

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The 1946 Masters marked the rebirth of the great professional sport of golf after World War II. The day's stars gathered and Augusta patrons expected a big fight between Hogan, Snead and Nelson.

But after three rounds, it was a relatively unknown Missouri pro - Herman Keizer - who had a five-stroke lead.

Nicknamed the "Mortician of Missouri" for his brooding expression on the golf course, Keizer spent 31 months at sea aboard the U.S.S. Cincinnati served.

Hogan caught Keizer with one hole left in Augusta, but "The Hawk" three-stroked the last green and Keizer was the champion.

Keizer played in the 1947 Ryder Cup as the USA won 11–1. That point for Great Britain was due to Keizer's singles loss to Sam King. "The Mortician" retired from competitive golf in the mid-1950s and purchased a driving range in Ohio.

Andy North (n. 1950)

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (6)

Andy North, best known to golf fans as a television commentator, has won three events on the PGA Tour. There's nothing special about it, except that two of those titles were the US Open.

North had won the Westchester Classic in 1977, but when he entered the 1978 US Open at Cherry Hills he could be considered a good guy. He was not considered a candidate, but outlasted Nicklaus, Watson,Müllerand the player wins at once.

He disappeared from golf's radar again in the early 1980s, recording only nine top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour between 1979 and 1984. But in 1985 he had a resurgence and won the US Open again, this time in Oakland Hills. After 1985, North managed only three more top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour.

Billy Burke (1902-1972)

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (7)

Billy Burke's victory at the 1931 US Open was notable for two reasons: he was the first major champion to use steel-shank racquets, and his victory came after the longest playoff in majors history.

After four rounds at the Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Burke was tied with George Von Elm at the top of the standings. They came back for a 36-hole playoff the next day and were still tied afterwards. Another 36-hole playoff followed, and this time Burke won by a margin of 144 holes and 589 strokes compared to von Elm's 590.

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After losing a finger as a teenager while working in a foundry, Burke used an unorthodox grip with notable success. He had 80 top-10 finishes during his PGA Tour career. The son of Polish immigrants, Burke (née Burkowski) competed in the 1931 and 1933 Ryder Cups and went undefeated.

Others forget big winners

The big overlooked winners mentioned above were just a few considered in the research for this article. There are many others, and too many to go into detail.

Take Walter Burkemo, 1953 USPGA champion. He had just one more PGA Tour victory in his career and left the Tour in 1954 to return to the professional club.

Dick Mayer won the 1957 US Open and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year. But he struggled with alcoholism and it is believed that this prevented him from winning. He died at age 64.

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (8)

According to Sam Snead and Ben Hogan, 1950 USPGA champion Chandler Harper was the best putter in the world. He was a close friend of Bobby Jones and later became a mentor to Curtis Strange.

And what about the successive winners of the British Open Championship in 1935 and 1936 - Alf Perry and Alf Padgham? Perry's best Open finish was tied for 17th in his victory over Muirfield in 1935, while Padgham, who had left his rackets overnight at the Hoylake Pro Shop, had to break a window to get them in in time for his third. round of the year. in 1936.

Golf's Forgotten Big Winners (9)

These men all achieved some fame through golf, albeit briefly. But none were as financially rewarded as today's big winners, whose lives were forever changed by the recommendations and invitations they received. So when the green jacket is introduced this coming April, remember Ralph Guldahl. When the Claret Jug is hoisted in Royal Troon, think of Dick Burton and the two Alfs.

These great warriors of ancient times are an important part of the rich world of the Gulf, but their place has faded somewhat.



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Who has the most PGA Tour wins without winning a major? ›

Most PGA Tour wins without a major is 29 by Harry Cooper. Mac Smith, Doug Sanders, Bill Mehlhorn and Dutch Harrison also make the list.

Has anyone won all 4 majors in golf? ›

Only five golfers have won all four of golf's modern majors at any time during their careers, an achievement which is often referred to as a Career Grand Slam: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

Has any golfer won all 4 majors in the same year? ›

None have accomplished the career grand slam in the same year. Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan came the closest to pulling it off, each winning three of the four majors in a given year.

What is the biggest win in golf history? ›

The biggest margin of victory in a golf major championships was achieved by Tiger Woods (USA), who won the 2000 US Open by 15 shots. He finished with a round of 67 to add to rounds of 65, 69 and 71 for a 12 under par total of 272.

Has anyone ever birdied all 18 holes? ›

No man or woman on any significant professional golf tour has birdied all 18 holes—in other words, scored a 54—in a single round. (Jim Furyk holds the PGA Tour record with a 58.)

Who is better Tiger or Jack? ›

The argument for Nicklaus is pretty simple: he won the most majors and had even more runner-up finishes in the biggest events. While five players have won the Players twice (Woods included), Nicklaus is the only player to win the Tour's flagship event three times, doing so in the event's first 5 years.

How many golfers have won at least six majors? ›

The List: Golfers With Most Major Wins
Nick Faldo61987–1996
Phil Mickelson62004–2021
Lee Trevino61968–1984
Seve Ballesteros51979–1988
82 more rows

Has Rickie Fowler ever won a major? ›

Fowler is considered one of the best players never to win a major and made it as high as No. 4 overall in the Official World Golf Rankings during the height of his career around 2015.

How many golfers have won every major? ›

Only five golfers have won all four of golf's modern majors at any time during their careers, an achievement which is often referred to as a Career Grand Slam: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Woods and Nicklaus have won each of the four majors at least three times.

Who has more wins than Tiger Woods? ›

Jack Nicklaus won 18 men's major golf championships, more than any other man. Jack Nicklaus has won the most majors, achieving 18 victories during his career. Second on the list is Tiger Woods, who has won 15 majors to date; his most recent major victory was at the 2019 Masters.


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