Forgotten Heroes

Thought for the Day
Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time

Forgotten heroes
There are many great golfers – Hogan, Jones, Nicklaus, Woods et al who will always be mentioned when the rollcall of great champions is discussed. But there are others whose names fade from memory who should nevertheless be remembered and celebrated

Billy Casper
The rotund Californian did not live up to everyone’s image of a lithe athlete but he is not only America’s most successful Ryder Cup player (he played in eight competitions, with a record of 20 wins and seven halves from 37 matches) but won two US Opens and a Masters. He also had three runner-up finishes in the US PGA, and all of this was achieved in the era of Player, Palmer and Nicklaus. He couldn’t match the latter pair in distance but was probably the second greatest putter ever seen, behind only Bobby Locke of South Africa. Between 1962-1970, he won 33 times, the same as Jack Nicklaus. In the same stretch Arnold Palmer won 30 and Player eight.

Johnny Miller
He is now best-known as an outspoken commentator but for three years between 1973-6 he played the game as well as it has ever been played – even Nicklaus was in awe of what he could do. Two Majors are scant return for the dominance he showed and that final day 63 in the US Open at Oakmont remains one of golf’s greatest ever rounds. He once said: ‘Serenity is knowing that your worst shot is still pretty good,’ a concept with which the rest of us are not overly familiar.

Cary Middlecoff
Another with three Major wins (two US Opens and a Masters) who is rarely remembered but he dominated the US Tour in the 1950s and won 40 times in his career. He also lost a playoff for the 1957 US Open. Maddeningly slow, he’s the man who many blame for the pace of play in the modern game – which is perhaps one of the reasons why he’s not regarded with the fondness reserved for other multiple Major winners. He was also a qualified dentist, so maybe that didn’t enhance his popularity either.

J. Douglas Edgar
Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edgar won the 1914 French Open by six – from Harry Vardon, who had just lifted the claret jug for the sixth time. He then won the Canadian Open twice, including a 16-stroke margin, the biggest victory in any national Open anywhere (including Tiger Woods’ performance at Pebble Beach in 2000). Bob Jones called him a ‘magician with a golf club’ and Tommy Armour said: ‘He was the best I ever saw.’ Having emigrated to America in 1919, two years later he was murdered in Atlanta by person or persons unknown, possibly as a result of an affair with a married woman. He was found in the street bleeding from a leg wound and died before medical help arrived, robbing us of a man that Vardon said could potentially surpass everyone.

Peter Thomson
The no-nonsense Australian is probably the most under-rated multiple Major winner there has ever been. All five of his big wins came in the Open Championship – he didn’t like American ‘target’ golf, nor many of the courses over which it was played. Between 1952-8, his record in the Open was: 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st. Forthright and honest, he didn’t always endear himself to his fellow professionals, and his love of culture and literature set him apart from the herd.

Ralph Guldahl
Precociously talented, Guldahl won his first PGA tour event aged 19. In 1933, aged 21, he needed to par the 72nd hole of the US Open to force a playoff with Johnny Goodman but made bogey. After a few more disappointments he quit pro golf to become a car salesman. Tempted back in 1936, over the next four years he won 11 times, including two US Opens, a Masters and three straight Western Opens. Yet from being one of the best in the world he suddenly lost it and never won again. Paul Runyan said: ‘It’s the most ridiculous thing, really. Guldahl went from being temporarily the best player in the world to one who couldn’t play at all.’ It is perhaps the most astonishing and complete loss of form ever seen, including that of David Duval.

Doug Ford
He won the 1957 Masters by holing a bunker shot on the last and the 1955 US PGA, in addition to 19 other victories (he also featured in seven playoffs, all of which he lost). From 1951-60 he was never outside the top-10 of the US money list and twice came second, and he played in four consecutive Ryder Cups. A short hitter, he compensated by being one of the best putters around. Ford tainted his legacy a little by insisting on playing The Masters well into his 80s, with no chance of making the cut, let alone winning, until they changed the qualification rules. His uncompromising ‘screw you’ attitude didn’t win him too many fans either.

Marion Hollins
Possibly the greatest woman athlete of the 1920s, she was a millionaire and accomplished at golf, tennis, marksmanship, racing cars and horse riding. She won the US Women’s Amateur in 1921 and a year later captained the first American Curtis Cup team. It was she who recommended Alister Mackenzie to design two courses on the Monterey peninsula – Cypress Point and Pasatiempo. As a result of these, Mackenzie was hired to help create Augusta National and was greatly influenced by Marion’s thoughts on design and said of her: ‘I do not know of any man who has sounder ideas.’ This is, admittedly, not the most ringing endorsement anyone has ever received (she’s so good she could almost be a man) but nevertheless gives an indication of quite how talented she was.

Lloyd Mangrum
Magnificent sports writer Jim Murray has called Mangrum the forgotten man of golf and he is quite right. His playing record was immense – the 1946 US Open and 35 other victories – and would certainly have been more if World War II had not intervened. He was serving in the US Army and preparing for the D-Day landings when he was offered a golf pro job that gave him the chance to get out of the military. He refused to take it and was subsequently wounded in the Normandy invasion and again at the Battle of the Bulge and left the army with two purple hearts, two silver stars and two bronze stars. In the 1950 US Open at Merion, when Ben Hogan launched that superb 1-iron into the final green of the playoff, it was Mangrum he beat.

David Graham
An Australian who won the 1979 US PGA and the 1981 US Open in addition to eight other US Tour victories. By his own admission he was a driven, not very pleasant obsessive who could be a pain in the backside but in addition to being an excellent iron player, on his day he could putt the lights out.

Jock Hutchinson
A Scot who emigrated to America and won the US PGA in 1920, and the Open championship the following year. In addition, he was twice second in the US Open and twice third. Won at least eight times in the US (the Tour was in its infancy and people weren’t always sure what was an official event).

Johnny McDermott
One of the great tragedies of golf, a complete mental breakdown forced his early retirement from the game he looked set to dominate. He won consecutive US Opens in 1911-12 (having been runner-up in 1910) and remains the youngest winner of a Major, bar Young Tom Morris, having captured his first at 19 years. Crossed the Atlantic to compete in the Open and finished fifth before his mental demons took hold.

Larry Nelson
The man from Alabama won the 1983 US Open, and the US PGA in both 1981 and ’87. Furthermore, he played in the Ryder Cup three times and his record in the first two was played 9, won 9 – which is unlikely ever to be matched. In truth, a quiet, unassuming man who never dominated but had the knack of playing Majors. Once said that he lived for the two weeks every year when he could putt well enough to win – a view supported by commentator Dan Lauck who said: Most weeks he couldn’t putt the ball into a two-car garage.’

Quote of the Week
You can make a lot of money in this game. Just ask my ex-wives. Both of them are so rich that neither of their husband’s work
Lee Trevino

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.