USGA History: 1951 - 1970

1951

  • The USGA and R&A hold a joint conference and agree on a uniform Rules of Golf worldwide, effective the following year. The only remaining difference is the size of the ball (the R&A permits a diameter of 1.62 inches compared with the USGA's 1.68 inches). The stymie is abolished, center-shafted putters are legalized (in Britain center-shafted putters had been illegal since 1909), and the out-of-bounds penalty is made stroke and distance.
  • Ben Hogan wins The Masters and a second consecutive U.S. Open. The latter victory comes at Oakland Hills, deemed a "monster" after its redesign by Robert Trent Jones Sr., in 1950.
  • Golf Digest begins publishing.



1952
  • General Dwight David Eisenhower is elected U.S. President. During his eight years in office, his cottage at Augusta National becomes the "Little White House."
  • Jack Burke Jr. wins four consecutive events on the PGA Tour, second in history to Byron Nelson's 11.
  • Patty Berg shoots an LPGA-record 64 in the Richmond Open.
  • Julius Boros captures the U.S. Open. He also wins the biggest first-place prize, $25,000, at the World Championship.



1953
  • Ben Hogan takes the three majors he enters - The Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. It is his fourth U.S. Open title.
  • The first nationally televised tournament, the World Championship, ends with a moment of high drama when Lew Worsham holes out from 135 yards to eagle the final hole and win by one.
  • Tommy Armour's popular instruction book, How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time, published .





1954
  • The U.S. Open is televised nationally for the first time. Also new - the holes are roped for gallery control.
  • Babe Zaharias wins the U.S. Women's Open by twelve strokes a year after undergoing cancer surgery.
  • Sam Snead beats Ben Hogan in a playoff to win The Masters after amateur Billy Joe Patton falters on the final nine holes of regulation play.
  • The World Championship has the first $100,000 purse, with $50,000 going to the winner - five times more than the next largest first prize. Bob Toski earns the windfall.



1955
  • Unheralded Jack Fleck stuns Ben Hogan with his U.S. Open playoff win at The Olympic Club.
  • Arnold Palmer scores his first professional victory in the Canadian Open.
  • Life Magazine pays Ben Hogan $20,000 for a cover story revealing the "secret" he discovered nine years earlier which rid him of a hook.



1956
  • Jack Burke, Jr., makes up an eight-stroke deficit on amateur Ken Venturi to win The Masters. Burke also takes the PGA Championship.
  • Australian Peter Thomson wins his third consecutive British Open.
  • Cary Middlecoff captures his second U.S. Open title.
  • Yardage for guidance in computing par are increased to current levels:
    Three - up to 250 yards
    Four - 251 to 470 yards
    Five - 471 yards and over



1957
  • Jackie Pung finishes as the apparent winner of the U.S. Women's Open, but is disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Betsy Rawls takes the title.
  • Bobby Locke wins his fourth British Open with a record tying 279.
  • Great Britain triumphs in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1933.
  • Ben Hogan publishes an instructional classic: Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf .
  • Charlie Sifford wins the Long Beach Open, an event "cosponsored" by the PGA.



1958
  • A new USGA system provides just one handicap for golfers, not "current" and "basic."
  • Arnold Palmer wins his first of four Masters titles.
  • At age twenty-three Mickey Wright sweeps the U.S. Women's Open and LPGA Championship.
  • The PGA Championship changes from match play to stroke play. Dow Finsterwald claims the title.
  • The USGA and R&A organize the World Amateur Golf Council, and hold the first World Amateur Team Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. Bobby Jones serves as captain of the American squad.



1959
  • Mickey Wright wins her second consecutive U.S. Women's Open.
  • Bill Wright becomes the first African-American player to take a national championship, claiming the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
  • Nineteen-year-old Jack Nicklaus captures first of two U.S. Amateur titles.
  • Betsy Rawls wins 10 LPGA tournaments.



1960
  • Arnold Palmer, golf's most popular player, has his greatest year. He wins The Masters with birdies on the last two holes, the U.S. Open with a final-round 65, finishes second in the British Open, and wins eight PGA Tour events.
  • Betsy Rawls wins her fourth U.S. Women's Open.



1961
  • Mickey Wright wins three majors - the U.S. Women's Open, LPGA Championship, and the Titleholders - and 10 events in all.
  • The PGA of America drops the Caucasians-only clause from its constitution, allowing African-Americans to become members.
  • Arnold Palmer wins the British Open; his appearances in the event starting in 1960 convince more American players to make the trip.
  • Jerry Barber sinks monster putts of 40 and 60 feet on the last two holes to tie Don January for the PGA Championship; Barber then wins the 18-hole playoff by a stroke.
  • Anne Quast Sander wins the U.S. Women's Amateur by a record 14 and 13 margin over Phyllis Preuss.
  • There are now 5 million golfers in the United States, according to the National Golf Foundation.



1962
  • Rookie professional Jack Nicklaus beats hometown favorite Arnold Palmer to win the U.S. Open in a playoff at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh.
  • Arnold Palmer wins The Masters, British Open, and seven PGA Tour events.
  • Mickey Wright wins 10 tournaments for the second consecutive year.
  • For the first time, water hazards are marked with painted lines at the U.S. Open.



1963
  • Arnold Palmer is the first player to surpass $100,000 in earnings in a single year.
  • Jack Nicklaus wins The Masters and PGA Championship.
  • At the age of 20 years, 6 months, Ray Floyd is the youngest player to win a PGA Tour event (the St. Petersburg Open) since 1928.
  • New Zealand's Bob Charles becomes the only left-hander to win one of the four major championships, claiming the British Open.
  • Mickey Wright wins 13 events on the LPGA Tour.
  • Clubmakers are experimenting with the casting method for making irons, enabling them to create a larger "sweet spot" than forged blades offer.



1964
  • Pete Brown becomes the first African-American to win an "official" PGA Tournament, taking the Waco Turner Open.
  • Ken Venturi wins the U.S. Open despite suffering from heat prostration during a 36-hole final day at Congressional Country Club outside Washington, D.C.
  • Mickey Wright wins her fourth U.S. Open, one of 11 tournaments she captures during the year.
  • Bobby Nichols wins the PGA Championship with a 72-hole total of 271.
  • Arnold Palmer, for the fourth time, wins The Masters.



1965
  • Sam Snead earns his 81st and final PGA Tour victory in the Greater Greensboro Open, while becoming the Tour's oldest winner ever at 52 years, 10 months.
  • The U.S. Amateur changes from match play to stroke play. The U.S. Open is held over four days instead of three; no more 36 holes on the final day.
  • Jack Nicklaus wins The Masters by nine strokes with a record 271 total. Tournament host Bobby Jones says Nicklaus "plays a game with which I am not familiar."
  • Gary Player joins Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen to become the third player in history to win all four majors when he captures the U.S. Open. The South African is the first foreign winner of the Open in 45 years. He donates his winners check back to the USGA in support of junior golf.
  • Peter Thomson earns his fifth British Open.



1966
  • Billy Casper wins the U.S. Open in a playoff after Arnold Palmer drops a seven-stroke lead over the last nine holes of regulation at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif.
  • Jack Nicklaus takes his third Masters in four years and second in a row. He also is the British Open champion, becoming the fourth player to win all four major events.



1967
  • Jack Nicklaus takes the U.S. Open with a record total of 275 at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey.
  • Catherine Lacoste of France becomes the only amateur to win the U.S. Women's Open.
  • Forty-five-year-old Charlie Sifford wins the Greater Hartford Open.



1968
  • Croquet-style putting, recently employed by Sam Snead, is ruled illegal by the USGA.
  • The Tournament Players Division is created within the PGA.
  • Roberto De Vicenzo loses The Masters when he signs an incorrect scorecard for one stroke higher than he actually shot. He would have been in an 18-hole playoff with Bob Goalby, who is declared the winner.
  • Lee Trevino is the first player to break 70 for all four rounds in a U.S. Open, winning with a record-tying 275 total.
  • Forty-eight-year-old Julius Boros is the oldest player to claim a major title, winning the PGA Championship.
  • Jo Anne Gunderson Carner wins her fifth U.S. Women's Amateur.
  • Arnold Palmer becomes the first player to top $1 million in career earnings.
  • Kathy Whitworth and Carol Mann each win 10 tournaments on the LPGA Tour.



1969
  • Jo Anne Carner is the last amateur to win an LPGA Tour event, the Burdine's Invitational.
  • Tony Jacklin is the first homebred player to win the British Open in 18 years.



1970
  • Mickey Wright retires from full-time competition at age 34, while Jo Anne Carner turns professional at age 30 after an outstanding amateur career.
  • England's Tony Jacklin wins the U.S. Open.
  • Jack Nicklaus wins the British Open in a playoff after Doug Sanders misses a 3-foot putt on the 72nd green.
  • Lanny Wadkins beats Tom Kite by one stroke to win the U.S. Amateur.



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