We all know about the triumphs of Nicklaus, Palmer, Tiger, Hogan, and Snead; but there are golfers that had success before most of us were alive that chose never to pursue life as a professional golfer. Devout golf fans will have heard a few of the these names before, but most will know not of their accomplishments. I present to you the eight greatest amateur golfers who never turned pro.
Charles “Chick” Evans Jr. was born on July 18, 1890. His family moved to Chicago in 1893, and five years later, at age eight, Chick began caddying at Edgewater Golf Club.
In 1909 Evans garnered national attention when he won the Western Amateur, and a year later became the first amateur to win the Western Open (at that time the Western Open was considered somewhat of a major).
Much like other successful golfers of his generation, Evans felt a lot of pressure to turn professional as his fame grew. But Evans was a golf purist of the highest degree, and didn't believe in exploiting the game for money.
In 1916, Chick became the first golfer to win the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open in the same year. Only Bobby Jones has matched that feat since.
No other golfer in history has played as well after starting so late in life. Travis didn't touch a golf club until he was 35, and less than a month later he won his first tournament, and two years later he reached the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur Championships.
By Travis' 39th birthday he had won his first of three U.S. Amateurs and was the first American golfer to travel to Great Britain and win the British Amateur Championship.
Travis' career came to a close with what many call his signature win at the Metropolitan Amateur in New York when he was 53.
Bonallack's legacy is a rare one, as he is just as well known for his attributions to the administrative side of golf as he is for his triumphs as an amateur.
Bonallack played on nine Walker Cup teams for England, and is well-known for his contribution to the 1971 team. He won the British Amateur title five times between 1961-1970, and was the high amateur in the 1968 and 1971 British Open.
Before taking up his post with the Royal & Ancient as Secretary in 1983, Bonallack was chairman of the European Professional Golfers Association and Golf Foundation and president of the English Golf Union.
Francis Ouimet was an amateur golfer and businessman famous for the biggest upset in the history of golf. His victory in the 1913 U.S. Open over The Stylist, Harry Vardon, is considered one of the greatest moments in the history of American golf. Ouimet proved that his win was no fluke when he won the 1914 U.S. Amateur Championship.
In what was perhaps one of the greatest travesties in golf at the time, he was banned from all USGA events, a move that was reversed in 1922, but the damage was done. He missed eight years of golf in his prime and if he hadn't of been banned, he may very well have sat No. 1 on this list.
He returned to action when the ban was lifted and competed in the inaugural Walker Cup, and the seven that followed, serving as captain four more years thereafter.
In 1931, at age 38, Ouimet found the magic one more time when he won the U.S. Amateur.
He was the first ever American to serve as Captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and his victory at the 1913 U.S. Open is said to have brought more than 1.5 million golfers to the game over the next ten years.
If you haven''t read The Greatest Game Ever Played, I highly recommend you do so. It is an in depth chronicle of the 1913 U.S. Open and the events that led up to it.
Jerry Travers was without a doubt the most feared golfer of his generation.
In a nine-year stretch from 1906-1915, Travers won four U.S. Amateurs, five Metropolitan Amateurs and a U.S. Open. Only Bobby Jones won more amateur titles and Travers was one of only five amateurs to win the U.S. Open.
Travers' career is marred by his actions off the course that could have rivaled that of Walter Hagen. As such, for no reason at all, he never played in another U.S. Open after winning in 1915, and twice decided against playing in the U.S. Amateur.
Among his peers, however, Travers earned ultimate, almost intimidating respect. Chick Evans called him "the coldest, hardest golfer I ever knew.'' Francis Ouimet described him as "the best match player in the country.'' Alex Smith, the National Open champion who taught Travers, called his student, "the greatest competitor I have ever known.''
John Ball was to British amateur golf what Bobby Jones was to American amateur golf.
He won eight British Amateur championships, a British Open and the hearts and respect of his country. In the words of British golf historian Donald Steele, "No golfer ever came to be more of a legend in his own lifetime." He was the first amateur golfer in England to be named by the Royal Empire as an Immortal.
In 1878, at the age of 17, Ball finished fifth in the British Open at Prestwick. His run of Amateur titles began in 1888 and stretched until 1912, when he was 51 years old. His best year was 1890, when he won both the British Amateur and Open Championships. Jones, who won the Grand Slam in 1930, is the only other golfer in history to win those two tournaments in the same year.
1911, Harold Hilton sent shock waves across the nation when he became the first foreign born player to win the U.S. Amateur.
The way he did it, is even more shocking.
Playing the 37th hole of the 1911 U.S. Amateur final against Fred Herreshoff, Hilton hit a spoon (three-wood) that was headed into a rock bed right of the first green. As if guided by the hands of fate, the ball ricocheted onto the putting surface, stunning Herreshoff, who half-topped his approach shot and made bogey.
Hilton two-putted for par and at 42 forever etched his name in golf lore. At Apawamis, they still call it Hilton's Rock.
That wasn't Hilton's only success, as he also won four British Amateurs and two British Opens.
Not even Tiger Woods was as revered as Bobby Jones was at his pinnacle.
Beginning with his victory in the 1923 U.S. Open at Inwood and ending with his U.S. Amateur victory at Merion in 1930, Jones won 13 championships in 20 tries, the most imposing run of major titles the game has ever seen.
His crowning glory was The Grand Slam of 1930, in which he became the only golfer ever to win the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, British Open and U.S. Open in the same year, indeed, the only golfer to win all four in a career. When he retired at the end of that year at the age of 28, it shocked and befuddled the golfing world. Little did he know that his next venture would change the game forever.
Jones founded Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament in 1934. He played in the tournament several times, but he could never manage to finish higher than 13th.
In 1948, he developed syringomyelia, a fluid-filled cavity in his spinal cord first causing pain, then paralysis. Jones never played golf again and was eventually restricted to a wheelchair until his death Dec. 18, 1971.