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Gene Sarazen
Sarazen in 1922
Personal information
Full name Eugenio Saraceni
Nickname The Squire
Born (1902-02-27)February 27, 1902
Harrison, New York, U.S.
Died May 13, 1999(1999-05-13) (aged 97)
Naples, Florida
Height 5 ft 5+1/2 in
Weight 162 lb (73 kg; 11.6 st)
Nationality  United States
Residence Brookfield, Connecticut
Spouse Mary Sarazen
(m. 1924–86, her death)
Children Mary Ann, Gene Jr.
Career
Turned professional 1920
Former tour(s) PGA Tour
Professional wins 48
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 38
Other 10
Best results in Major Championships
(Wins: 7)
The Masters Tournament Won: 1935
U.S. Open Won: 1922, 1932
The Open Championship Won: 1932
PGA Championship Won: 1922, 1923, 1933
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1974
PGA Tour Lifetime
Achievement Award
1996
Bob Jones Award 1992
Associated Press
Male Athlete of the Year
1932

Gene Sarazen (/ˈsɑːrəzɛn/; born Eugenio Saraceni, February 27, 1902 – May 13, 1999) was an American professional golfer, one of the world's top players in the 1920s and 1930s, and the winner of seven major championships. He is one of five players (along with Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods) to win each of the four majors at least once, now known as the Career Grand Slam: U.S. Open (1922, 1932), PGA Championship (1922, 1923, 1933), The Open Championship (1932), and Masters Tournament (1935).

Early life

Eugenio Saraceni was born on February 27, 1902, in Harrison, New York, his parents were poor Sicilian immigrants. He began caddying at age ten at local golf clubs, took up golf himself, and gradually developed his skills; Sarazen was essentially self-taught. Somewhat novel at the time, he used the interlocking grip to hold the club.

Career

Sarazen took a series of club professional jobs in the New York area from his mid-teens. In 1921, he became a professional at Titusville (Pa.) Country Club, and he contracted to be the professional at Highland Country Club near Pittsburgh, Pa. in 1922. Sarazen arrived in April, stocked the golf shop and gave a few lessons, but spent most of his time at Oakmont Country Club practicing with Emil Loeffler. At some point, the pair visited Skokie Country Club to practice on the course that would hold the U.S. Open; in July, he came from four shots behind to win the tournament. He returned to Pittsburgh and was feted at the William Penn Hotel, where he burst from a paper mâché golf ball. He did not return to Highland CC, broke his contract and became a 'touring' golf professional. Later that summer, he won the PGA Championship at Oakmont.

Sarazen was a contemporary and rival of amateur Bobby Jones, who was born in the same year; he also had many battles with Walter Hagen, who was nine years older. Sarazen, Jones, and Hagen were the world's dominant players during the 1920s. Rivalries among the three great champions significantly expanded interest in golf around the world during this period, and made the United States the world's dominant golf power for the first time, taking over this position from Great Britain. Sarazen has a plaque in his honor placed 195 yards out from the 15th green at Hororata Golf Club where he famously made a double eagle in the final round of sectional qualifiers. He earned his spot in his first United States Open in 1920 at age 18. Some say it was his greatest achievement as an amateur.

The winner of 38 PGA tour events, Sarazen was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. He was the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 1932, and won the PGA Tour's first Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He played on six U.S. Ryder Cup teams: 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, and 1937.

Invents modern sand wedge

Sarazen claimed to have invented the modern sand wedge, and debuted the club (while keeping it secret during preliminary practice rounds) at The Open Championship at Prince's Golf Club in 1932 (which he won). He called it the sand iron, and his original club is no longer on display at Prince's as it is worth too much for the insurers to cover. However, a similar club was patented in 1928 by Edwin Kerr McClain, and it is possible Sarazen saw this club.

Sarazen had previously struggled with his sand play and there had been earlier sand-specific clubs. But Bobby Jones's sand club, for example, had a concave face, which actually contacted the ball twice during a swing; this design was later banned. Sarazen's innovation was to weld solder onto the lower back of the club, building up the flange so that it sat lower than the leading edge when soled. The flange, not the leading edge, would contact the sand first, and explode sand as the shot was played. The additional weight provided punch to power through the thick sand. Sarazen's newly developed technique with the new club was to contact the sand a couple of inches behind the ball, not actually contacting the ball at all on most sand shots.

Every top-class golfer since has utilized this wedge design and technique, and the same club design and method are also used by amateur players around the world. The sand wedge also began to be used by top players for shots from grass, shortly after Sarazen introduced it, and this led to a revolution in short-game techniques, along with lower scoring by players who mastered the skills.

Masters Tournament win

Sarazen hit "the shot heard 'round the world" at Augusta National Golf Club on the fifteenth hole in the final round of the Masters Tournament in 1935. He struck a spoon (the loft of the modern four wood) 232 yards (212 m) into the hole, scoring a double eagle. At the time he was trailing Craig Wood by three shots, and was then tied with him. He parred the 16th, 17th and 18th holes to preserve the tie. The following day, the pair played a 36-hole playoff, with Sarazen winning by five shots.

The Sarazen Bridge, approaching the left side of the 15th green, was named in 1955 to commemorate the double eagle's twentieth anniversary, which included a contest to duplicate, with the closest just over 4 feet (1.2 m) away. It remains one of the most famous golf shots in golf history.

Later years, legacy

In spite of his height of 5 ft 5+12 in (1.66 m), Sarazen was one of the longest hitters of his era. He played several lengthy exhibition tours around the world, promoting his skills and the sport of golf, and earned a very good living from golf. One of his American tours in 1940 was sponsored by Golf Magazine and he played a match every day for 60 days. As a multiple past champion, he was eligible to continue competing after his best years were past, and occasionally did so in the top events, well into the 1960s, and occasionally into the 1970s. Throughout his life, Sarazen competed wearing knickers or plus-fours, which were the fashion when he broke into the top level.

For many years after his retirement, Sarazen was a familiar figure as an honorary starter at the Masters. From 1981 to 1999, he joined Byron Nelson and Sam Snead in hitting a ceremonial tee shot before each Masters tournament. He also popularized the sport with his role as a commentator on the Wonderful World of Golf television show, and was an early TV broadcaster at important events.

At age 71, Sarazen made a hole-in-one at The Open Championship in 1973, at the "Postage Stamp" at Troon in Scotland. In 1992, he was voted the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. Sarazen had what is still the longest-running endorsement contract in professional sports – with Wilson Sporting Goods from 1923 until his death, a total of 75 years.

Sarazen received an honorary degree in 1978 from Siena College, in Loudonville, New York. In 1998, shortly before his death, the Sarazen Student Union was named in his honor. He also established an endowed scholarship fund at the college, The Gene and Mary Sarazen Scholarship, which is awarded annually to students reflecting the high personal, athletic, and intellectual ideals of Dr. Sarazen. For many years, kitted in his signature plus-fours, he hit the first ball in an annual golf tournament, held to raise funds for the scholarship.

Sarazen died at age 97 in 1999 from complications of pneumonia in Naples, Florida. His wife Mary died thirteen years earlier in 1986, and they are interred at Marco Island Cemetery in Marco.

In 2000, Sarazen was ranked as the 11th greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine. In 2018, T.J. Auclair ranked Sarazen as the ninth greatest golfer of all time.

Professional wins (48)

Gene Sarazen
Sarazen with the PGA Championship trophy in 1939

PGA Tour wins (38)

  • 1922 (3) Southern (Spring) Open, U.S. Open, PGA Championship
  • 1923 (1) PGA Championship
  • 1925 (1) Metropolitan Open
  • 1926 (1) Miami Open
  • 1927 (3) Long Island Open, Miami Beach Open, Metropolitan PGA
  • 1928 (4) Miami Beach Open, Miami Open, Nassau Bahamas Open, Metropolitan PGA
  • 1929 (2) Miami Open, Miami Beach Open
  • 1930 (8) Miami Open, Agua Caliente Open, Florida West Coast Open, Concord Country Club Open, United States Pro Invitational, Western Open, Lannin Memorial Tournament, Middle Atlantic Open
  • 1931 (3) Florida West Coast Open, La Gorce Open, Lannin Memorial Tournament
  • 1932 (4) True Temper Open, Coral Gables Open, U.S. Open, The Open Championship
  • 1933 (1) PGA Championship
  • 1935 (3) Masters Tournament, Massachusetts Open, Long Island Open
  • 1937 (2) Florida West Coast Open, Chicago Open
  • 1938 (1) Lake Placid Open
  • 1941 (1) Miami Biltmore International Four-Ball (with Ben Hogan)

Major championships are shown in bold.

Source:

Australian Tour win (1)

  • 1936 Australian Open

Other wins (6)

this list may be incomplete

  • 1923 Daily Dispatch Northern Professional Championship
  • 1928 Miami International Four-Ball (with Johnny Farrell)
  • 1939 Metropolitan PGA
  • 1945 Shoreline Open
  • 1948 Shoreline Open
  • 1966 Northeast New York PGA Championship

Senior wins (3)

  • 1954 PGA Seniors' Championship, World Senior Championship
  • 1958 PGA Seniors' Championship

Major championships

Wins (7)

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner(s)-up
1922 U.S. Open 4 shot deficit +8 (72-73-75-68=288) 1 stroke United States Bobby Jones
1922 PGA Championship n/a 4 & 3 United States Emmet French
1923 PGA Championship (2) n/a 38 holes United States Walter Hagen
1932 U.S. Open (2) 1 shot deficit +6 (74-76-70-66=286) 3 strokes Scotland Bobby Cruickshank, England Philip Perkins
1932 The Open Championship 4 shot lead −13(70-69-70-74=283) 5 strokes United States Macdonald Smith
1933 PGA Championship (3) n/a 5 & 4 United States Willie Goggin
1935 Masters Tournament 3 shot deficit −6 (68-71-73-70=282) Playoff 1 United States Craig Wood

Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958
1 Defeated Craig Wood in a 36-hole playoff - Sarazen 144 (Even), Wood 149 (+5)

Results timeline

Tournament 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
U.S. Open T30 17 1 T16 T17 T5 T3 3 T6 T3
The Open Championship T41 2 T8
PGA Championship QF 1 1 R16 R32 R16 QF SF QF
Tournament 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
Masters Tournament NYF NYF NYF NYF 1 3 T24 T13 5
U.S. Open T28 T4 1 T26 2 T6 T28 T10 10 T47
The Open Championship T3 1 T3 T21 T5 CUT
PGA Championship 2 SF DNQ 1 R16 R32 R64 R32 QF R64
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
Masters Tournament T21 T19 T28 NT NT NT T26 T23 T39
U.S. Open 2 T7 NT NT NT NT CUT T39 CUT CUT
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT
PGA Championship QF SF NT R64 R16 R16 R32
Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Masters Tournament T10 T12 WD T38 T53 WD T49 CUT CUT CUT
U.S. Open T38 T35 T33 CUT WD CUT CUT
The Open Championship T17 T17 WD T16
PGA Championship R64 R64 R16 CUT WD
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Masters Tournament CUT CUT WD 49 WD CUT CUT WD CUT
U.S. Open
The Open Championship WD
PGA Championship
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976
Masters Tournament CUT CUT CUT CUT
U.S. Open
The Open Championship CUT CUT WD
PGA Championship CUT WD

     Win      Top 10      Did not play NYF = tournament not yet founded
NT = no tournament
WD = withdrew
DNQ = did not qualify for match play portion
CUT = missed the half-way cut
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Summary

Tournament Wins 2nd 3rd Top-5 Top-10 Top-25 Events Cuts made
Masters Tournament 1 0 1 3 4 10 34 17
U.S. Open 2 2 3 9 14 17 33 26
The Open Championship 1 1 2 5 6 10 17 11
PGA Championship 3 1 3 12 18 22 31 27
Totals 7 4 9 29 42 59 115 81
  • Most consecutive cuts made – 44 (1920 U.S. Open – 1937 U.S. Open)
  • Longest streak of top-10s – 7 (1927 PGA – 1929 PGA)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Gene Sarazen para niños

  • Career Grand Slam Champions
  • List of golfers with most PGA Tour wins
  • List of men's major championships winning golfers
  • Most PGA Tour wins in a year
  • Sarazen World Open
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