Here we take a look at 10 people who have shaped golf over the last 100 years. Some have influenced the game by the way they played, others by their off-course actions.
Arnold Palmer (1929 – )
As golf entered the “television age” in the mid 1950s, the sport was in need of a charismatic talisman. Enter Arnold Palmer. Nobody in the history of the game has done so much to boost the sport’s popularity.
Developing a reputation for swashbuckling and attacking golf, “The King” gained an army of fans who cheered him on to seven Major Championships and 62 PGA Tour victories.
Arnie’s flair and style captivated television audiences across the world. He was golf’s first global superstar and the sport would not be where it is today without him.
Jack Nicklaus (1940 – )
Nicklaus has been at the forefront of golf for 50 years. He’s the all-time leading Major winner with 18 victories – His first as a fresh-faced 22-year-old at the 1962 US Open, his last as a stout 46-year-old at the 1986 Masters. The viewing public has followed Nicklaus’ entire playing career.
As a course-designer, a businessman and an ambassador for the sport, “The Golden Bear” has represented golf proudly and flawlessly for the last half century.
Mark McCormack (1930 – 2003)
When Arnold Palmer shook Mark McCormack’s hand in 1959 accepting McCormack as his manager, golf was changed for good.
Soon after securing Palmer as his first client, McCormack brought both Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus into the burgeoning IMG stable.
McCormack was responsible for the creation of the World Match Play, he sold the ideas of appearance money, the licensing of television rights and merchandising and he created the Official World Golf Ranking. His impact on the professional game has been immense.
Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones (1902 – 1971)
The finest amateur golfer ever to swing a club, Jones was a great man as well as a great champion. His “Grand Slam” of 1930 when he won the US and British Amateurs as well as the US and British Opens will surely never be replicated. He retired from competitive golf at the age of 28 and went on to co-found Augusta National and The Masters Tournament. Jones set the benchmarks for sportsmanship and integrity – the cornerstones of our sport.
Harry S. Colt (1869 – 1951)
A founder member of the R&A’s rules committee and secretary at Sunningdale before moving into course architecture, Colt was, arguably the most talented golf course designer of the early 20th century. His layouts, demanding strategic and precise play, have stood the test of time. Many of Colt’s creations, including Sunningdale and Wentworth, appeared in Golf Monthly’s most recent Top 100 Courses list.
Tiger Woods (1975 – )
Woods was a phenomenon when he burst onto the stage in the 1990s. He became the most financially successful sportsman of all time. He inspired a generation of golfers and set new standards in the professional game.
He’s held the World Number 1 position for 683 weeks during his career, has won 14 Major titles and a total of 106 professional tournaments around the world. His fame transcends golf, as displayed by the furore surrounding his off course transgressions.
Walter Hagen (1892 – 1969)
Hagen was responsible for changing the perception of professional golfers. Before him, the pro was viewed as a second-class citizen. Arnold Palmer once said at a dinner held in honour of Hagen, “If not for you Walter, this dinner would be down in the pro-shop, not in the ballroom.”
He was a charismatic showman with a game to match his bravado. He won 11 Major titles and 34 further PGA Tour events.
Severiano Ballesteros (1957 – 2011)
Seve revitalised European golf and spearheaded the continent’s return to the pinnacle of the professional game. His cavalier playing style entranced fans as Palmer’s had in the 1960s. Audacious escapes, improbable birdies and romantic victories make Seve one of the best-loved and most inspirational golfers in history.
Bernard Darwin (1876 – 1961)
The most famous of all golf writers, Darwin’s prose conveyed the reader to the heart of the action, painting a glorious picture of the course, the players and the competition. His writing brought golf into thousands of households long before television was able to.
He was golf correspondent for The Times between 1907 and 1953 and authored numerous books including “Golf Courses of the British Isles” and “Golf Between Two Wars.”
Dr Frank Barney Gorton Stableford (1870-1959)
Amateurs across the world are indebted to Dr Frank Stableford. As Henry Longhurst put it, “I doubt whether any single man did more to increase the pleasure of the humble club golfer.”
When playing at Wallasey Golf Club in 1931, Stableford devised a points-based scoring system designed to allow the average golfer to better enjoy a competitive round. It was something of a success.
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