Saturday, January 30
San Diego’s Homegrown Pro Golfers
“Gene the Machine” Littler.
WHEN I RECENTLY WROTE about LPGA great Mickey Wright, it occurred to me there are several past and present professional golfers who have hailed from San Diego. They include three current Hall of Famers, and at least one more, Phil Mickelson, who is a lock.
With the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in nearby La Jolla, it’s an opportune time to recognize the many pros who grew up, live, or once resided in San Diego.
Mickey Wright (Hall of Famer)
With 82 LPGA victories, including 13 majors, Mickey Wright is arguably the best female golfer of all time. Only Kathy Whitworth has more lifetime wins. Wright will accept the 2010 Bob Jones Award at Pinehurst next week.
Billy Casper (Hall of Famer)
Billy Casper notched 51 wins on the PGA Tour, including three majors. He beat Arnold Palmer in a playoff to claim the 1966 U.S. Open. I had an unplanned visit with Billy last September.
Lefty’s 37 tour wins and three majors are Hall-of-Fame numbers. I’ve had one close encounter with Phil. We nearly bumped into each other in St. Louis during the 2008 BMW Championship. He was exiting a hotel elevator with his large Callaway golf bag slung over his shoulder. After nearly colliding, we exchanged greetings.
Gene Littler (Hall of Famer)
Nicknamed “Gene the Machine,” Littler collected 29 PGA Tour wins, including one major, the 1961 U.S. Open. When I saw Gene last year, I mentioned that we both attended San Diego State. He said, “Yeah, but I didn’t graduate.” Things worked out OK for him nonetheless.
Craig “Walrus” Stadler was born in San Diego and attended La Jolla High School. His 29 PGA Tour titles, including a Green Jacket, should get him into the Hall someday.
A San Diego native, Scott Simpson attended USC and was a two-time medalist in the NCAA Championship. He had seven wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1987 U.S. Open. Both Simpson and Casper won their U.S. Opens at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Born in San Diego, Phil Rodgers was the 1958 NCAA champion while playing for University of Houston. Rodgers won five events on the PGA Tour and lost to Bob Charles in a 36-hole playoff in the 1963 British Open. In later years, Rogers was known as a short-game guru. His most famous pupil was Jack Nicklaus.
Pat Perez is a PGA Tour veteran and winner of the 2009 Bob Hope Classic. He graduated from Torrey Pines High School.
Born in San Diego, Chris Riley has one PGA Tour win and a victory on the Nationwide Tour. He played on the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup Team and is a pal of Tiger Woods.
A San Diego resident, Jill McGill is an LPGA veteran who has one tour win and is a former Women’s U.S. Amateur champion.
Dennis Paulson and Lenny Clements
Both San Diego State products, Paulson and Clements played on the PGA Tour.
−The Armchair Golfer