Hall of Fame: Taking a Look at The Most Famous Golfers Throughout History
The sport of golf has produced many talented players throughout its long history spanning over centuries. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane to look at the most famous golfers from the past to the present day.
Golf today is a diverse sport enjoyed by millions of people regardless of social class or racial background. In the early days of the PGA Championship, however, this was not the case, and there was a rule in place that stated that you couldn’t be invited to play an open unless you were Caucasian. It was down to the hard work of famous black golfers such as Bill Spiller, who fought tirelessly to open the doors of the country club to the wider public and stop the discrimination at play. He campaigned until the early 1960s, and by the time the laws were revoked, Spiller was 48 years old, and his playing career had passed its peak. What he did for the sport though, was allow future generations of golfers of all races and backgrounds to enjoy it. Had it not been for Spiller’s efforts, we would never have had the pleasure of witnessing the talent of arguably the best golfer of all time, Tiger Woods.
Famous Golfers of the early years
Before we get to the modern era of golf, with its high-tech equipment and modern fashion aesthetics, it is only right to acknowledge the greats of the past. One of the more famous golfers from the early years is Gene Sarazen. Known primarily for one shot in particular, Gene was a legend of the game whose double eagle in his first Masters in 1937 will be talked about for years to come. After his tee shot left him 220 yards from the target, Gene was left with a decision on Augusta’s No.15 5 par. He asked for the advice of his caddy on whether to play it safe, and his caddy famously responded, ‘Nooo, go for it.’ Sarazen reached for his four wood and delivered a devastatingly accurate shot, bound for the green. The ball sank into the hole for one of the most spectacular shots ever at the Masters. Known as ‘the shot heard around the world,’ Gene Sarazen went on to win the tournament, and that double eagle will never be forgotten in the world of golf.
Other famous golfers names from this era include Bobby Jones, who dominated the sport from 1923 to 1930. The young prodigy won 13 majors in his career, a record that stood for over 40 years. It was in the last year of his career that Jones made golf history by winning the ‘grand slam.’ Scooping victories in four major tournaments consisting of the British and US Open, and the British and US Amateurs, he retired with his record intact, and that achievement still hasn’t been matched to this day. Jones continued to have a profound impact on the sport even in his retirement, founding Augusta’s National Golf Club, where a small gathering of Jones and his friends turned into the Masters.
The Arnie Years
One of the most famous golfers to emerge from the founding of the Masters was Arnold Palmer. Over ten years between 1958 and 1968, Arnie was competing with the best of the best at every Masters, except for 1963. Winning the tournament four times and finishing runner-up twice, he also came third once and fourth twice. That’s nine top-four finishes in ten years. Arnie is also famous for becoming the first PGA Tour millionaire, collecting 60 wins on the Tour and going fifteen consecutive years picking up at least one victory. Arnold Palmer’s career is one to behold.
Other famous golfers from this era include Ben ‘The Hawk’ Hogan, Sam Sneed, and Jack Nicklaus. The latter, Nicklaus has scooped 18 major championships and finished in the top two an unbelievable 37 times. He has gone toe to toe with the greatest in the business, including Ballesteros, Palmer, Hogan, and Kite. Not many golfers, if any, can say they have achieved what Nicklaus has.
As well as the men’s game, there are many famous female golfers of the past and present that are worth taking note of. Most importantly we should begin with Patty Berg. Responsible for revolutionizing women’s golf, Patty also has the record for the most Major wins, sweeping up fifteen of them during her career. Other famous golfers from the past include Betsy Rawls, Babe Zaharias, and Louise Suggs. Kathy Whitworth is another great example of a famous female golfer. She has won 6 majors in her career during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Winning an astonishing 88 times on the LPGA Tour, Kathy was unstoppable at her peak and has paved the way for many female golfers, including Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, and Joanne Carner, and more recently, young sensations such as Lilia Vu. This list also wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Dame Laura Davies. Registering at least one LPGA Tour victory every single year from 1985 to 2010, Davies dominated the scene picking up four Majors and 88 Tour wins.
The Modern Era
Nowadays, golf has grown to unprecedented levels, and its popularity worldwide has spawned a new generation of golfers. When teaching your kids to play golf, they have many role models they can look up to in today’s game. Tiger Woods began his rise to the top of golf’s greatest lists in 1997. Tiger took his first Masters tournament by storm, finishing 18 under par and 12 shots in front of his runner-up Tom Kite. After starting the tournament badly, Woods cleaned up on the back nine and left his opponents in the dust as he blitzed through the course taking no prisoners.
This was the start of a golfing phenomenon that would see Woods go on to win fifteen majors, 82 PGA Tour victories, and countless awards and records, including the lowest career scoring average in the Tour’s history. Since Woods, the likes of Rory McIlroy have stepped up and taken the torch. The Northern Irish pro has had massive success in his career, winning four majors, including both the PGA Tour Championship and the Open championship in 2014. Even more recently than McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, and John Rahm are experiencing some of the limelight, topping the official rankings above McIlroy in third. It’s exciting to think that in another twenty years’ time, this list will be full of more future legends who are yet to achieve greatness.
February 6, 2024