Gene Sarazen

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Gene Sarazen
— Golfer —
Gene Sarazen.JPG
Sarazen with the PGA Championship trophy
Personal information
Full name Eugenio Saraceni
Nickname The Squire
Born (1902-02-27)February 27, 1902
Harrison, New York
Died May 13, 1999(1999-05-13) (aged 97)
Naples, Florida
Height 5 ft 5.5 in (1.66 m)
Weight 162 lb (73 kg; 11.6 st)
Nationality  United States
Spouse Mary Sarazen
(m. 1924–86, her death)
Children Mary Ann, Gene Jr.
Turned professional 1920
Former tour(s) PGA Tour
Professional wins 48
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 39 (tied 11th all time)
Other 9
Best results in major championships
(wins: 7)
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 (member page)
PGA Tour Lifetime
Achievement Award
Bob Jones Award 1992
Associated Press
Male Athlete of the Year

Gene Sarazen (/ˈsɑːrəzɛn/;[1] February 27, 1902 – May 13, 1999) was an American professional golfer, one of the world's top players in the 1920s and 1930s. He is one of five golfers (along with Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods) to win all the current major championships in his career, the Career Grand Slam: U.S. Open in 1922, 1932, PGA Championship in 1922, 1923, 1933, The Open Championship in 1932,[2] and Masters Tournament in 1935.

Early life

Sarazen was born in Harrison, New York as Eugenio Saraceni[3] to a poor family of Sicilian immigrants.[4] Sarazen began caddying at age ten at local golf clubs, took up golf himself, and gradually developed his skills; he was essentially self-taught. He used the somewhat unusual, at the time, interlocking grip to hold the club.

Young prodigy

Sarazen took a series of club professional jobs in the New York area from his mid-teens, and worked hard on his game. Sarazen won his first major championships – the 1922 U.S. Open and PGA Championship – at age 20. He was a contemporary and great rival of Bobby Jones, who was born in the same year; Sarazen also had many great battles with Walter Hagen, who was about ten 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.

The winner of 39 PGA tournaments, 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 invented the modern sand wedge,[5] 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. Sarazen had previously struggled with his sand play. 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" in the 1935 Masters Tournament. It was a final round 235-yard 4-wood on the par-5 15th hole that went in, giving him a very rare double eagle 2 on the hole, only one of four people to ever achieve such a feat on any hole at the Masters. He trailed the leader by three shots at the time, and made them up all at once. It led to his later winning the tournament in a 36-hole playoff over Craig Wood the next day. At the time of his second shot a check for $1,500, the winning prize, had already been written to Craig Wood, who had finished his round. Wood would have to wait another six years before finally winning his Masters title. The Sarazen Bridge at the Augusta National Golf Club is named to commemorate the 20th anniversary of this feat.[6] It remains one of the most famous shots in golf history.

Later years, legacy

In spite of his height – he only stood 5 feet 5.5 inches (1.66 m) tall[7] – Sarazen could hit the ball a very long way, even when compared with larger, stronger players. Sarazen played several lengthy exhibition tours around the world, promoting his skills and the sport of golf, and earned a very good living from golf. 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 1981–1999, 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 the age of 71, Sarazen made a hole-in-one at the 1973 Open Championship. 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.

He 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 plus-fours, he hit the first ball in an annual golf tournament, held to raise funds for the scholarship.[8]

Sarazen died in Naples, Florida in 1999 from complications of pneumonia, aged 97. He is interred at Marco Island Cemetery, Marco, Florida. His wife died in 1986.[9]

In 2000, Sarazen was ranked as the 11th greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.[10]

Professional wins

Sarazen (left) with Eddie Loos (center) and Leo Diegel (right) in 1921

PGA Tour wins (39)

(missing one win)

Major championships are shown in bold.


Other wins

this list may be incomplete

Senior wins

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 DNP DNP DNP DNP T41 DNP DNP DNP 2 T8
PGA Championship DNP 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 DNP 1 3 T24 T13 5
U.S. Open T28 T4 1 T26 2 T6 T28 T10 10 T47
The Open Championship DNP T3 1 T3 T21 DNP T5 CUT DNP DNP
PGA Championship 2 SF DNP 1 R16 R32 R64 R32 QF R64
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
Masters Tournament T21 T19 T29 NT NT NT DNP T26 T23 T39
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship QF SF DNP NT DNP R64 DNP R16 R16 R32
Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Masters Tournament T10 T12 WD T36 T53 WD T49 CUT CUT CUT
The Open Championship DNP DNP T17 DNP T17 DNP WD DNP T16 DNP
PGA Championship DNP R64 DNP DNP DNP R64 R16 DNP CUT CUT
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Masters Tournament CUT CUT WD 49 WD CUT CUT WD DNP CUT
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976
Masters Tournament CUT CUT CUT CUT DNP DNP DNP
The Open Championship CUT DNP DNP CUT DNP DNP WD

NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
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
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10.


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


  1. Asked how to say his name, he told the Literary Digest "Veteran Gene Sarazen/ Aims to play par again". (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)
  2. "1932 Gene Sarazen". The Open. Retrieved October 17, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Dorman, Larry (May 14, 1999). "Gene Sarazen, 97, Golf Champion, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Starn, Orin (2006). "Caddying for the Dalai Lama: Golf, Heritage Tourism, and the Pinehurst Resort" (PDF). South Atlantic Quarterly. 105 (2): 452.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Barkow, Al (1986). Gettin' to the Dance Floor. Atheneum. ISBN 978-0689115172.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The Sarazen Bridge". Retrieved January 15, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Elliott, Len; Kelly, Barbara (1976). Who's Who in Golf. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House. p. 168. ISBN 0-87000-225-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Sarazen Student Union Naming Opportunities". Archived from the original on July 4, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hardwig, Greg (May 15, 1999). "Golf: Ken Venturi remembers Gene Sarazen as 'dear friend'". Naples Daily News. Retrieved February 26, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Yocom, Guy (July 2000). "50 Greatest Golfers of All Time: And What They Taught Us". Golf Digest. Retrieved December 5, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Barkow, Al (1989). The History of the PGA TOUR. Doubleday. p. 266. ISBN 0-385-26145-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links