Getting Their Due
Jones, Parks, Hogan Tasted
Victory At Oakmont
February 28, 2007
With the U.S. Open returning to Oakmont this June for a
remarkable eighth time - no course has held more U.S. Opens -
we offer the second installment of a four-part series that
examines all the USGA championships held there.
Click here for part I.
By , USGA
Far Hills, N.J. - Six years after lost to in the U.S. Amateur
final, Oakmont again played host to the championship. But by this
time, Jones had become one of the game's most dominant
figures. He had already won the 1923 U.S. Open and was the
defending Amateur champion. During practice, Jones routinely
launched drives that approached 300 yards and he carded a 67.
Also, the format for the Amateur had been altered. Criticized
that the Amateur was too long, the USGA decided to trim the
match-play field from 32 to 16, making all matches 36 holes as to
eliminate "flukes." The USGA believed this format would
allow for the best players to advance.
It just didn't count on some of the best players
performing poorly in qualifying. Past champions , and former
Oakmont member Herron (now a member at Merion near ) failed to
make the match-play cut. Nevertheless, Jones, 1924 runner-up ,
1921 winner and 1922 champ Jess Sweetser did qualify along with
Jones' young protÃ©gÃ© Watts Gunn, a fellow East Lake Golf Club
member from .
Following the championship, the USGA abandoned the format and
went back to a 32-player match-play draw. Some critics called the
'25 Amateur the dullest since the event began in 1895. Of
course, they could have been talking about how Jones turned the
competition into his own personal invitational. His match-play
victories were by margins of 11 and 10, 6 and 5, 7 and 6, and 8
and 7 in the final over Gunn.
The event, however, didn't just belong to Jones. Surprise
medalist , an 18-year-old from , and a 1924 USA Walker Cupper,
met his future wife, , the daughter of 1910 Amateur champion .
While MacKenzie lost in the first round, he won a future
companion, as the two eventually wed 15 years later.
The Proper Armour
With two successful U.S. Amateurs now in the books, Oakmont
was clearly ready to host a U.S. Open. Some writers were calling
the 1927 U.S. Open the greatest in 31 years of the championship.
Oakmont had now been stretched to 6,965 yards (par 72) with 193
tantalizing bunkers. Two-time champion Jones sealed his fate in
one of those bunkers in the first round when took three shots to
get out of a hazard at the par-5 fourth hole. It led to a double
bogey and a 76.
An amateur did garner early headlines, but it wasn't
Jones. of , a two-time (1923 and '24) shot 74-73 to lead the
Open at the midway point. He eagled the par-5 first in the third
round before falling apart. He made three consecutive 6s en route
to an 87.
Eventually the competition came down to two men: 's and
Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper. The 22-year-old Cooper was
given his nickname for his fast play, but he also had won the
1927 Los Angeles Open and Texas . Armour was a 32-year-old World
War I veteran who had enlisted in the British Tank Corps. He
returned from the conflict partially blind in his left eye and
with shrapnel in his shoulder. Some believed he would never play
Cooper, at 301, finished first and looked like the champion.
Armour needed a 3 on the 72nd hole to forge a tie and 18-hole
playoff. From 180 yards away, Armour unleashed a perfectly
executed 3-iron approach that stopped 10 feet from the hole. He
converted the ensuing putt and defeated Cooper the following day
in the playoff, 76-79. The par-3 16th hole proved to be decisive.
Cooper had made three consecutive bogeys to fall into a tie. At
16 he pushed his tee shot into a deep bunker. Shades of 1919 and
Jones then appeared when someone yelled, "Down in
front!" as Cooper was attempting his shot. He stopped his
swing in time, but still made a double-bogey 5 to Armour's 3.
Both players birdied the short 17th before Armour added a 4 on 18
for the three-stroke win.
It was Armour's first victory as a pro and would be
a harbinger of things to come at Oakmont. Thirty-five years
later, won his first professional win at Oakmont in an 18-hole
U.S Open playoff.
Prior to the 1935 U.S. Open all the focus was on greats such
as two-time winner , 1932 champion , Denny Shute, and defending
was just another name in the small agate newspaper type. He
was a local club professional at South Hills Country Club who
worked the shop in the summer and played competitively during the
winter months. You could say he was a major dark horse, the
equivalent of a No. 15 or 16 seed winning the NCAA basketball
But Parks did prepare vigorously for this rare championship in
his backyard. He went to Oakmont practically every day for a
month to familiarize himself with the course. "I had a great
deal of familiarity with both the bunkers and the very fast
greens," he said.
Parks opened the championship with an indifferent 5-over-par
77 to put himself in 17th place. A second-round 73 lifted him to
11th with 36 holes to play. In Saturday's 36-hole finale,
Parks chipped in for eagle at the par-5 ninth (third round) and
added a clutch par save at the par-3 13th (fourth round). He
moved into a tie for first with Thomson after the third-round 73,
yet Parks wasn't thinking about winning. He just hoped for a
top-5 finish. His final-round 76, including a bogey at the 72nd
hole, was good enough to beat Thomson by two strokes and the
immortal Hagen by three.
|A well-prepared Sam Parks admitted after
winning the Open that the victory not only surprised the golf
world but himself as well. (USGA Photo Archives)|
"I was flabbergasted," said Parks. "I had never
planned on that."
The difference was Parks' preparation. He somehow mastered
the treacherous Oakmont greens to the tune of just two
three-putts over the 72 holes. His 11-over-par 299 winning total
was the highest since Armour won at Oakmont in 1927, but he was
the only player to break 300 on the difficult 6,981-yard
Park's victory stunned the golf world. It was the ultimate
upset, akin to what achieved against at The Olympic Club 20 years
later or 's win in 1969 at Champions. Parks would be forever
known as the "Dark Horse."
"It gave me a tag to my name that lives on," Parks
The 1935 Open was also the birthplace of a key instrument used
at every golf course today. In the gallery was , a Harvard
graduate and an avid golfer who was convinced the greens were
simply too fast. But nobody could quantify just how slick the
putting surfaces were. Stimpson eventually developed a device
that would become known as the Stimpmeter. The distance the ball
rolls off the device gives officials and superintendents the
speed of the green measured in feet.
, a professional and a friend from back home in the area,
desperately tried to get to implement something new to Oakmont
for the 1938 U.S. Amateur. The sand wedge had been developed by a
few years earlier, but was still a novelty in the golf world.
Galgano knew the wedge could help Turnesa defend himself from one
of Oakmont's biggest challenges. Other than the slick greens,
the bunkers at Oakmont could wreak havoc on even the best
Turnesa planned to use his No. 9 iron for the sand, but
Galgano warned him that club would not save him at Oakmont
because the bunkers were furrowed and the ball sat down. This new
club, which Galgano had received from sportswriter (Rice had
gotten one from Sarazen), was the perfect implement for Oakmont.
Turnesa reluctantly took the wedge and it likely helped him to
One of six golfing brothers, but the only one who was an
amateur, managed to make his way through the draw, where he met
part-time actor of , in the final. Over the 29 holes of the
scheduled 36-hole final, Turnesa found himself in a bunker on 13
occasions, yet he still registered an 8-and-7 victory. A hot
putter also played a role, as he needed only 42 putts to secure
the Havemeyer Trophy.
Turnesa never was intimidated by Oakmont's greens, but he
did survive a 20-hole third-round encounter with 1936 Amateur
"Mr. [Henry] Fownes always saw to it that no one was
going to burn up Oakmont," said Turnesa, whose brother, Joe,
was the 1926 U.S. Open runner-up. "The greens were so fast.
But the greens never bothered me. I thought I could make
everything - and I almost did."
After the Amateur, the press awarded Turnesa the nickname
"Willie the Wedge" for his prowess with that new
technology he almost disdained.
Only two players - and Jones - had managed to win four U.S.
Open titles. Both accomplishments came in the pre-World War II
era. By 1953, was the most dominant golfer of his generation. He
had won three U.S. Open titles, two of which came after
overcoming a near-tragic automobile accident in 1949. In 1953,
Hogan had already won the Masters and now he was the clear
favorite to win his second major title of the year.
The 40-year-old Hogan limped into Oakmont, still feeling the
effects of the accident four years previous. At this juncture,
the USGA had implemented a new qualifying system for the Open,
one that it would scrap after the '53 championship. Not only
did players have to endure sectional qualifying, but the 300
qualifiers, including defending champion , had to go through 36
additional holes of qualifying to get into the final Open field
of 157. Competitors played 18 holes at Oakmont and another 18 at
nearby Pittsburgh Field Club. Hogan managed to qualify, but it
did take a physical toll.
|It was a minor miracle that Ben Hogan,
pictured next to a crumpled mess of his car, survived a 1949
accident. (USGA Photo Archives)|
Oakmont's famous furrows also were a hot topic of
discussion. Oakmont wanted to keep them, while the USGA preferred
to smooth them out. , the grounds chairman at Oakmont, came up
with a compromise. He introduced several rakes with teeth of
varying sizes. The USGA chose a less-penal size, but the furrows
remained in a modified form. The club had also removed some 60
bunkers from the layout because a severe fungus infestation had
slowed them down. Even the greens were a bit slower than in
Despite the modifications, the 36-hole cut still came at
9-over-par 153. Two locals of note failed to qualify: Oakmont pro
, who had won the Open in 1947, and a 23-year-old amateur from
the Coast Guard named Arnold Palmer. The Latrobe, , native would
make news a year later with his U.S. Amateur triumph, which was a
springboard to a legendary professional career that included the
1960 U.S. Open title. Low-amateur honors went to , a former
football starter and Oakmont member who shot 8-over 296.
Hogan, meanwhile, went wire-to-wire to make history with his
fourth Open title, defeating perennial bridesmaid by a whopping
six strokes. Snead was a four-time U.S. Open runner-up and it was
the only major championship he failed to win. "I guess
it's not in the cards for me to win this one," said
Snead. "It's predestination or something like
that." Like Palmer and the Championship, Snead would have
the same heartache with the U.S. Open.
Hogan went on to win the British Open at Carnoustie, becoming
the first player to win three professional majors in one year. He
might have won all four but he chose not to play in the
Championship due to the conflict with the British Open and his
physical condition. Hogan only played in six tournaments in 1953
and won five. His three majors in one year would eventually be
matched by Tiger Woods in 2000.
Hogan just missed the Open 36-hole record by a shot, firing a
5-under-139, including a first-round 67. He shot 73-71 on the
final day for a 5-under 283 total, a competitive course record.
Hogan never did win a record fifth Open, although he finished a
disappointing second in 1955 and '56, and tied for ninth at
the age of 47 in 1960 when a bogey at the 71st hole cost him a
chance at victory.
is a staff writer for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.