Below is a list that I consider to be the ten most defining moments in the history of golf.
Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers
Back in 1744 the first golf club was formed. They called themselves The Honorable Company of Edinburgh
Golfers. It is my opinion that this set the stage for the protocol for golfers to come. Not only did they form the first
club, but they also set up their own private golfing facility, Muirfield. Muirfield in its own right is an historic course
which has hosted numerous Open Championships, but the model that was established has been the foundation
for the growth of golf throughout the world. That model has been copied time and time again with the modern
Golf/Country Club. Furthermore, The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers were the first to publish the rules
of golf. Simplistic in its idea, but ground breaking at the time.
Walter Hagen earning respect for professional golfers
Back in the day, pro golfers were looked upon with disdain. Amateur golfers were the ones kids admired and
women wanted to be with. However, that all changed with Walter Hagen. As we all know Walter Hagen was great
golfer, in fact I rated him as one of the best ever. But perhaps his greatest contribution to the game was getting
professional golfers a level of respect and dignity that they still enjoy today. I think that Gene Sarazen's comment
that, "All the professionals should say a silent thanks to Walter Hagen each time they stretch a check
between their fingers. It was Walter who made professional golf what it is," is still relevant today. During Hagen
and Sarazen's day golf professionals were often not allowed to partake of the facilities of the clubhouse and were
sometimes not allowed to enter the clubhouse by the front door. Sarazen overcame this with his actions, on one
occasion he hired a car to serve as his dressing room because he was refused entrance to the clubhouse
dressing room. On another occasion he refused to enter a clubhouse to claim his prize because he had earlier
been denied entrance. He had to do this to overcome the negative stereotypes associated with pro golfers and to
maximize his opportunities in regards to making a living, "My game was my business and as a business it
demanded constant playing in the championship bracket, for a current title was my selling
commodity," is a quote associated with Walter Hagen.
Francis Ouimet wins the US Open
This feat is detailed on many of my lists. Aside from being one of the truly amazing accomplishments in the
history of golf, it served as one of the truly defining moments in the history of the game. In 1913, the year of Mr.
Ouimets historic US Open victory, golf was dominated by the blokes from across the pond. But after the shocking
victory, the number of golfers in the United States tripled and the amount of golf
courses available to Americans to play on skyrocketed. Frankly, without this victory golf wouldn't be where it is
today in America.
Creation of The Masters
In the early 1930's, the greatest golfer in the world got together with a golf architect (who would become
recognized as one of the greatest of all time as well) and created, perhaps, the world's greatest course and the
world's greatest golf tournament. Bobby Jones, the only winner of the calendar year grand slam, teamed up with
Alister Mackenzie to build Augusta National. They cooked up the concept to have an
invitation only tournament where only the best golfers in the world would be invited. Against Bobby Jones' wishes,
it was called the Masters. In its second year, Gene Sarazen hits "the shot heard round the world" hit double eagle
to propel him to victory. And, voilà, we've got one of the most recognizable golf tournaments in the history of golf.
Right around the time television was going mainstream in America, Arnold Palmer was taking over golf. In the
1950's and into the 60's Arnie was the dominant golfer in the game. He fan base was known as "Arnie's Army"
and they followed Mr. Palmer's every move. The advent of t.v. made this easier and the proliferation of his "Army"
across the country made golf a fast growing national interest.
Palmer wins British
As late as the 1950's, The Open Championship began to loose its status among golfing professionals. Many of
the top players were in the United States and they weren't too interested to make the trip over the Atlantic to play
in the British. So, this historic and illustrious major began to loose its aura and panache. In fact, Arnold Palmer,
The King, didn't play his first Open Championship until 1960. But when he won it in 1961…The Open was back
on the map and is has been ever since. The King and his "Army" had led a resurgence of golf in the States
and now he was expanding the interest in golf "across the pond."
Nicklaus beats Arnie
A funny thing happened in the 1962, the top golfer of the day, The King Arnold Palmer, went into the US Open
having already won the Masters and 5 other tournaments in 1962 and had a 3 shot lead on the final day and
lost! He didn't loose to Ben Hogan, the great but fading star, instead he lost to Jack Nicklaus. As time passed,
this moment seemed to define the passing of the torch from Palmer to Nicklaus as the dominant golfer of the era.
I must say that I try not to be a negative person. So talking about someone as a choker is difficult for me.
Nevertheless, reviewing Greg Norman's resume can lead a rational person to no other conclusion. Despite this, I
think this void that his choking left was a necessary evil. You see from the time Jack and Tom Watson faded from
dominance, no one seemed to be able to grab the mantel of "King of Golf". Langer tried, but never really
dominated. Faldo won a bunch of majors, but didn't compete enough on the PGA Tour to be the guy. Norman
had everything set up for him to be the undisputed "King". In fact, he even led all four majors heading into
Sunday in 1986. He only managed to win one of those majors and let his time slip right through his fingers. This
void that was created needed to be filled and golf was hungry for some one to fill it…enter Tiger!
As unfulfilling as the "Norman era" was, the "Tiger era" has more than made up for it. We went from seeing the
best of the day drop the ball on almost every occasion, to seeing the best of the day seize every opportunity and
many times crush the competition right from the start. In fact, on August 1996 Tiger became a professional. He
won his first Masters title in 1997 by humiliating the field and setting an Augusta record in the process. Then in
2000, he began his epic run towards the "Tiger Slam". By the Spring of 2001, Tiger was the current holder of
all four major championships. And once again, he didn't just win those majors…he destroyed the fields…winning
by 15 in the US Open and 8 in the British. When he was pushed, he came through…like taking down Bob May to
win the PGA in a playoff. He proved he could win in a blowout, but that he would also rise to the occasion when
the pressure was on. To date, he has won 14 majors and 68 PGA events. He is clearly the dominant golfers of
our current era and may go down as the greatest ever.
I include Nancy Lopez in this list of golf's defining moments, not because she was the greatest golfer ever…but I
think women's golf needed her at precisely the time she hit the scene. In the time when men's golf had a whole
host of great and charismatic players, I think women's golf needed someone. When Nancy Lopez broke onto the
scene in the late 70's, America fell in love with her. She earned LPGA rookie of the year honors and developed
quite a following. A following that helped the LPGA gain some recognition and get a much needed head of steam.