Harry Vardon

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Harry Vardon
— Golfer —
Vardon, circa 1908–1914
Personal information
Full name Henry William Vardon[1]
Nickname Harry
Born (1870-05-09)9 May 1870
Grouville, Jersey,
Channel Islands
Died 20 March 1937(1937-03-20) (aged 66)
Whetstone, London
Nationality  Jersey
Spouse Jessie Bryant (d. 1946)[1]
Turned professional 1890
Professional wins 48
Best results in major championships
(wins: 7)
U.S. Open Won: 1900
The Open Championship Won: 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1974 (member page)
Fred McLeod and Vardon at the 1913 U.S. Open

Henry William "Harry" Vardon (9 May 1870 – 20 March 1937) was a professional golfer from the Bailiwick of Jersey. He was a member of the fabled Great Triumvirate of the sport in his day, along with John Henry Taylor and James Braid. Vardon won The Open Championship a record six times[2] and also won the 1900 U.S. Open.[3][4]

Early years

Born in Grouville, Jersey, Channel Islands, Vardon, whose mother was French and father English, did not play much golf as a youngster, but showed natural talent for the sport as a young caddie in his teens. Harry and his brother Tom Vardon, younger by two years and also interested in golf, were very close. Their golf development was held back by poor family circumstances; and their father was not supportive of his sons' golf interest. Tom actually made the move from Jersey to England first, to pursue a golf career. Harry followed Tom to England in the spring of 1890, taking a job as greenkeeper at age 20, at Studley Royal Golf Club, Ripon, Yorks. A year later he became club professional at Bury Golf Club and in 1896 the club professional at Ganton Golf Club, in Yorkshire. Harry was the better player of the two brothers. By his early 20s, Harry developed a demanding practice program, the most ambitious seen to that time. He was the first professional golfer to play in knickerbockers – discarding the "proper" dress of an Englishman in an uncomfortable shirt and tie with a buttoned jacket.[5]

World's best player

Within a few years he became golf's first superstar since the days of Young Tom Morris. In 1896, Vardon won the first of his record six Open Championships (a record that still stands today). Vardon had great rivalries with James Braid and J.H. Taylor, who each won five Open Championships; together the three formed the 'Great Triumvirate', and dominated worldwide golf from the mid-1890s to the mid-1910s. These rivalries enormously increased the public's interest in golf.

Scottish Challenge

In 1898 Harry Vardon won his second Open Championship at Prestwick, beating Willie Park, Jnr by a single stroke. Park missed a makeable putt on the 18th green to take the match to a play off. So aggrieved was Willie that he immediately offered a challenge to Vardon to play him over 72 holes, 36 holes at his home course of Musselburgh and 36 holes at a golf course of Vardon's choosing, for a wager of £100 per side. Willie Park, Jnr was not adverse to offering such challenges. Some years earlier he had met and defeated Ben Sayers at Musselburgh and North Berwick, and in 1897 Park defeated J.H. Taylor over two venues, also for £100 per side. Vardon refused Park's challenge. Besides the £100 per side, Vardon had nothing to gain from such a match, and he most certainly was not going to play Park at Musselburgh, where fan partisanship was less than courteous to rival players.

Eventually Willie Park, Jnr conceded to play his home leg at North Berwick instead of Musselburgh, and Vardon chose his home course of Ganton, Yorkshire. Golf Week magazine acted as both promoter and stakeholder, and the match took place in July 1899, by which time Vardon had won his third Open Championship. The British press billed the encounter as the greatest golf competition of all time. Such was the interest, that 10,000 Scottish fans attended the match at North Berwick, and that on a day when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was making a State visit to nearby Edinburgh. Special trains were laid on to ferry fans from Edinburgh and other nearby towns.

The first 36 holes at North Berwick ended with Vardon holding a two hole lead, the format being match play. The second leg took place two weeks later at Ganton, and Vardon completed the rout, winning 11 up with ten holes to play, collecting the £200 prize and the glory.

Tours United States and Canada

He became golf's first international celebrity in 1900 when he toured the United States and Canada, together with Taylor. Vardon played in more than 90 matches and capped it off with a victory in the U.S. Open, where Taylor was second. Vardon wrote that while on this tour, he lost only two matches[6] while playing head-to-head against a single opponent, and both were against the Boston professional Bernard (Ben) Nicholls,[7] older brother of Gilbert Nicholls; the Nicholls brothers had recently emigrated from the British Isles.

Twice runner-up in U.S. Opens

Vardon was the runner-up at his next U.S. Open in 1913, an event portrayed in the film The Greatest Game Ever Played. He toured North America with Ted Ray that year, as he did once more in 1920. At the age of 50, Vardon was again the runner-up in his third and final U.S. Open appearance, in 1920.

Overcomes tuberculosis

During his career, Vardon won 48 tournaments and 21 team events; that was the most titles won by a single player to that juncture in golf history. He won the German Open in 1911 and the British PGA Matchplay Championship in 1912. Between 1898 and 1899 Vardon played in 17 tournaments, winning 14 and coming 2nd in the other three. Vardon popularised the overlapping grip that bears his name, one still used by over 90 percent of golfers. In his later years, he became a golf course architect, designing several courses in Britain, Llandrindod Wells Golf Club, Woodhall Spa and Radcliffe-on-Trent being notable examples. Following a bout with tuberculosis, he struggled with health problems for years, but turned to coaching and writing golf instruction and inspirational books.

Death and legacy

During his peak years, Vardon was known for his exceptional accuracy and control with all clubs, the greatest ever seen to that stage. However, after his comeback to the game following a prolonged absence while recovering from tuberculosis, he experienced serious problems with his short-range putting as a result of nerve damage to his right hand, and several commentators claim that he could have added to his list of majors had this disability not afflicted him.[5]

Vardon died in 1937 at the age 66, of pleurisy or possibly lung cancer,[8] at his home at 14 (now number 35) Totteridge Lane, Whetstone, London,[9][10] and is buried in St. Andrew's Church cemetery in Totteridge after a funeral service on 24 March.[1][11] That year, the PGA of America created the Vardon Trophy, now awarded annually to the player on the PGA Tour with the year's lowest adjusted scoring average. The British PGA also created the Harry Vardon Trophy which now serves as the award for the winner of the European Tour's Race to Dubai.

In 1974, Vardon was chosen as one of the initial group of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His most prestigious medals, including those from his six British Open Championships, are on display in a tribute to him at the Jersey Museum. In the annals of golf, he is considered one of the greats of the game. In 2000, Vardon was ranked as the 13th best golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.[12]

Vardon is often called "The Stylist", "Mr. Golf" and "The Icon of Golfing"; another nickname attached to him was "Greyhound".

Vardon Grip

Vardon was also well known for the Vardon Grip, or overlapping grip, the grip most popular among professional golfers. In the Vardon Grip, one places the little finger of the trailing hand (the one placed lower on the club – right hand for a right-handed player) in between the index and middle finger on the leading hand (the hand that is higher on the club). The leading-hand thumb should fit in the lifeline of the trailing hand. Vardon actually took up this grip some time after Johnny Laidlay, a champion Scottish amateur player, invented it.

Performance in the U.S. Open

Statue of Vardon at the Royal Jersey Golf Club
on the Island of Jersey

Vardon played in the U.S. Open three times, 1900, 1913, and 1920. In 1900, the event was played at the Chicago Golf Club, and he won by shooting 313 (79-78-76-80). Vardon also won 70 exhibition matches that year.

In 1913 he finished in second place, losing to amateur Francis Ouimet in an 18-hole playoff necessitated by Vardon missing a 10-foot (3.0 m) putt on the final hole of regulation. Vardon shot eight-over-par 304 (75-72-78-79). Ted Ray also was in the playoff, but shot himself out of contention by shooting 78. In the playoff Vardon shot a 77 while Ouimet shot a 72. The event was played southwest of Boston at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, across the road from Ouimet's home. The golf world was shocked when Vardon and Ray lost to the 20-year-old amateur.[5]

Vardon played in the U.S. Open for the last time in 1920 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. He finished tied in second place, one stroke behind fellow Jerseyman, Ted Ray, missing a short putt on the final hole to force a playoff. Vardon shot eight-over-par 296 (74-73-71-78).

Media depictions

  • A biography of Vardon, published in 1991 and authored by his daughter-in-law, Audrey Howell, provides much intimate detail about the life of this champion.
  • English actor Stephen Dillane portrayed Vardon in director Bill Paxton's 2005 film The Greatest Game Ever Played. A book of the same name (upon which the movie was based), written by Mark Frost, goes into great detail depicting Vardon's life.
  • Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn portrayed Vardon in the 2004 film Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius.
  • Harry Vardon authored a golf instruction book, The Gist of Golf.
  • A career record of Vardon, published in 2015 and authored by Bill Williams, provides a definitive list of the tournaments he played in and where he finished in the field.

Tournament wins (48)


Major championships are shown in bold.

Team event wins (21)

  • 1899 England vs Scotland International Foursome (36 holes match play) Vardon & John Ball vs Freddie Tait & Willie Park, Jr.
  • 1905 England vs Scotland International Foursome (144 holes match play) Vardon & J.H. Taylor vs James Braid & Sandy Herd
  • 1906 England vs Scotland at Muirfield (Sco) - England won 12 – 6
  • 1907 England vs Scotland at Hoylake (Eng) - England won 8 – 5 (3 halved)
  • 1908 Great Britain vs France at Cagnes (Fra) (3-a-side singles) - Great Britain won all three matches
  • 1909 England vs Scotland at Royal Cinque Ports (Eng) - England won 11 – 4 (3 halved)
  • 1910 England vs Scotland at St Andrews (Sco) - England won 11 – 5 (2 halved)
  • 1911 Coronation match (Eng) - Professionals beat Amateurs 8 – 1
  • 1913 Sphere and Tatler Foursomes Tournament (Eng) - (with Tom Willamson), England vs Scotland at Hoylake (Eng) - England won 13 – 4 (1 halved)
  • 1914 England vs Scotland at Fulwell (Eng) - England won 8 – 6 (4 halved)
  • 1919 England vs Scotland at St Andrews (Sco) (4-a-side medal play) - England won with an aggregate of 305 – 307
  • 1920 England vs Scotland at Moray Golf Club (Sco) - England won 7 – 5 (12 halved), Herts County Golfers Alliance Pro-Am (Eng) - Winners South Herts GC
  • 1921 Great Britain vs USA at Gleneagles (Sco) - GB won 9 – 3 (3 halved)
  • 1925 Porters Park Bowl (Eng) - (Vardon & C.N. Brown)
  • 1927 Herts Alliance Bogey Competition (Eng) - (Vardon & J.L. Dunne), Herts Golfing Union Professionals vs Amateurs
  • 1928 Seniors vs Juniors at Verulam (Eng) - Seniors won 7 – 1 (2 halved)
  • 1931 Herts Golfing Union Professionals vs Amateurs (Eng)
  • 1933 Herts Golfing Union Professionals vs Amateurs (Eng)


Major championships

Wins (7)

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1896 The Open Championship 4 shot deficit 83-78-78-77=316 Playoff 1 England J.H. Taylor
1898 The Open Championship (2) 2 shot deficit 79-75-77-76=307 1 stroke Scotland Willie Park, Jr.
1899 The Open Championship (3) 3 shot lead 76-76-81-77=310 5 strokes Scotland Jack White
1900 U.S. Open 4 shot lead 79-78-76-80=313 2 strokes England J.H. Taylor
1903 The Open Championship (4) 7 shot lead 73-77-72-78=300 6 strokes Jersey Tom Vardon
1911 The Open Championship (5) 3 shot lead 74-74-75-80=303 Playoff 2 France Arnaud Massy
1914 The Open Championship (6) 2 shot deficit 73-77-78-78=306 3 strokes England J.H. Taylor

1 Defeated J.H. Taylor in 36-hole playoff by 4 strokes
2 Defeated Arnaud Massy in 36-hole playoff: Massy conceded on the 35th hole

Results timeline

Vardon played in only The Open Championship and the U.S. Open.

Tournament 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
The Open Championship T23 T5 T9 1 6 1 1
Tournament 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
The Open Championship 2 2 T2 1 5 T7 3 T7 T5 T26
Tournament 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
The Open Championship T16 1 2 T3 1 NT NT NT NT NT
Tournament 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
The Open Championship T14 T23 T8 DNP DNP T17 CUT CUT T47 CUT

NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Harry Henry William Vardon". Find a Grave. Retrieved 18 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "1896 Harry Vardon". The Open. Retrieved 16 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Woelfel, Rick (19 January 2011). "Harry Vardon – the one who taught us how to hold a club". Exegolf. Retrieved 18 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Scores of First Day's Golf Play". The Chicago Tribune. 5 October 1900.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Frost, Mark (6 November 2002). The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf. Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-6920-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Vardon's Chief Matches and Records". The Tribune Almanac (1901). Retrieved 8 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. My Golfing Life, by Harry Vardon, 1933
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Williams, Bill (February 2015). Harry Vardon – A Career Record of a Champion Golfer (First ed.). USA: Xlibris Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5035-3568-8. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/
  10. "The London Gazette, 4852 - Re: the Estate of Henry William Vardon, Deceased" (PDF). 7 July 1937. Retrieved 17 February 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Funeral of Harry Vardon". The Times. 25 March 1937. p. 6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Yocom, Guy (July 2000). "50 Greatest Golfers of All Time: And What They Taught Us". Golf Digest. Retrieved 5 December 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Adapted from the article Harry Vardon, from Wikinfo, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

External links