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Gene Sarazen - the first golfing grand slam winner

A highly talented individual who transformed the game of golf

Posted Mar 28, 2011 by Legends

Gene Sarazen

His name isn’t particularly well known outside of his sport, but for those in the know in golf, Gene Sarazen is one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game.
A diminutive figure at just 5ft 5”, Sarazen made up for his lack of height with outstanding ability and understanding of the game. Testament to this talent was his record in the majors where he won seven overall and became the first person to win a career grand slam of all four majors in one season.
Other than this, he was known for his accomplishments off the course too, where he is famous for his invention of the modern sand wedge. According to the World Golf Hall of Fame, Sarazen noticed how an airplane’s tail adjusted whilst in flight when he was taking a flying lesson in 1931. This was to see the birth of a club that is still used today. He is also noted for his development of a weighted practice club and he took his views to those at the top of the sport unsuccessfully at times too. He once campaigned for the enlargement of the hole size stating that he believe that if players made more putts, the sport would benefit from increased popularity and more fans. His idea was thrown out.
On the course, this colourful man was equally successful. Having turned pro in 1920 whilst still in his teens, it didn’t take him long to make an impact on the PGA Tour. In 1922, aged just 20, he won the US Open and the PGA Championship. He added another PGA Championship a year later and then had to wait nine years for another when he completed the grand slam between 1932 and 1935. His “Shot Heard ‘Round the World’” at the 1935 Masters is one of the most famous shots in the history of the sport. Here, he holed out from 225 yards at the 15th in his final round for a double eagle and this forced a play-off with Craig Wood that Sarazen went on to win.
He continued to play on the Seniors Tour following his retirement from the professional game, twice winning the PGA Seniors Championship and, aged 71 in 1973, hitting a hole-in-one on the famous ‘Postage Stamp’ hole at Royal Troon in the British Open.
Sarazen died in 1999 aged 97 and at that time he was the oldest and longest-serving member of the American PGA. Between 1984 and his death, Sarazen was part of a threesome of golfing greats hitting honourary opening tee shots at The Mastes alongside Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. His presence in the sport is greatly missed.

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