Tuesday, December 16

Remembering Harry Vardon: The Isle of Jersey Caddie Who Mastered the Game

HARRY VARDON WON THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP a record six times. Only one other player has won a major golf championship six times. His name is Jack Nicklaus. There's the famous Vardon grip. Trophies that bear Vardon's name are awarded each year by the PGA Tour and European Tour.

Harry the Great
The influence of a man whose prime was a century ago lives on.

In a New York Times feature that published in July, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Dave Anderson asked, "Who knows how many more [Opens] Vardon might have won if, two weeks after his sixth, World War I had not been sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The Open would not be played again until 1920, when Vardon was 50."

The only major championships during the early 20th century were The Open Championship and the U.S. Open. That's just two cracks per year. Vardon won seven majors, including one U.S. Open in 1900. His last victory in the Open Championship came 100 years ago, in 1914. As Anderson reported, Vardon, by his own count, won 62 golf tournaments in a long career.

"I'm the best and I'll thank you to remember that," Vardon once said.

It's true. He was. Vardon is still one of the all-time greats.

Following is an excerpt from Anderson's story on Harry Vardon:
Vardon grew up as a caddie on the Isle of Jersey off the southern coast of England. He was to British golf at the turn of the last century what Bobby Jones would be to American golf in the Roaring Twenties. In the years after the first British Open in 1860 at Prestwick on Scotland’s western shore, Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom, from St. Andrews on the eastern shore, dominated the tournament, each winning four times. But in the 1890s, the handsome, trim Englishman named Vardon arrived. 
After winning the British Open in 1896 at Muirfield (in a 36-hole playoff with Taylor), in 1898 at Prestwick (as the first with four rounds in the 70s) and 1899 at Royal St. George’s (first prize paid 90 pounds), he sailed to the United States as golf’s first international ambassador. During his 1900 tour of 65 exhibition matches (he won 50, lost 13 and halved 2), he won that year’s United States Open while promoting a Spalding gutta-percha golf ball known as the Vardon Flyer.
Vardon also designed golf courses, coached youth and penned golf instruction articles and books. He died in 1937 at the age of 66.

Read the entire Times article.

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