Gene Littler

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Gene Littler
— Golfer —
Personal information
Full name Gene Alec Littler
Born (1930-07-21) July 21, 1930 (age 84)
San Diego, California
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight 155 lb (70 kg; 11.1 st)
Nationality  United States
Residence Rancho Santa Fe, California
Career
College San Diego State University
Turned professional 1954
Former tour(s) PGA Tour
Champions Tour
Professional wins 52
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 29
Japan Golf Tour 2
Champions Tour 8
Other 13
Best results in major championships
(Wins: 2)
Masters Tournament 2nd: 1970
U.S. Open Won: 1961
The Open Championship T18: 1974
PGA Championship 2nd: 1977
U.S. Amateur Won: 1953
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1990 (member page)
Bob Jones Award 1973

Gene Alec Littler (born July 21, 1930) is an American professional golfer and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.[1] Known for a solid temperament and nicknamed "Gene the Machine" for his smooth rhythmical swing,[1] he once said that, "Golf is not a game of great shots. It's a game of the best misses. The people who win make the smallest mistakes."

Early years and amateur career[edit]

Littler was born in San Diego, California. He played on the 1953 United States Walker Cup team, and won the U.S. Amateur and the California State Amateur that same year.[1] In 1954, he won a PGA Tour event as an amateur, a rare achievement which was not to be repeated until Doug Sanders won the Canadian Open in 1956.

Littler graduated from San Diego State University. He also served in the United States Navy before turning pro in the spring of 1954.

Professional career[edit]

An early highlight of Littler's professional playing career was a second-place finish at the 1954 U.S. Open. He finished one shot behind Ed Furgol.

In 1955, he won four times on the tour, but fell into a slump in the late 1950s after tinkering with his swing. After taking advice from Paul Runyan and adjusting his grip,[2] he recovered in 1959 to have his best year with five PGA Tour victories. He finished second on the money list that year, which was to remain his career best. Only once from 1954 to 1979 did Littler finish out of the top 60 on the final money list. He was stricken with melanoma cancer found in a lymph node under his left arm in 1972,[1] but came back to win five more times on the PGA Tour. He ended his career with 29 PGA Tour wins, and also won two tournaments in Japan and one in Australia.

One of Littler's 29 PGA Tour wins was unique. When he won the 1975 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, it marked the first and (so far) only time that a player won that event as a professional after having previously won the pro-amateur portion, which Littler did as a 23-year-old amateur in 1954.[3]

Littler won one major championship – the 1961 U.S. Open. He shot a 68 in the final round to overtake Doug Sanders. He accumulated 17 top-10 finishes in the three U.S.-based majors: seven at the Masters Tournament, five at the PGA Championship, and five at the U.S. Open. In addition to his U.S. Open victory, he had one second-place finish in each of the three U.S. majors, losing playoffs to Billy Casper at the 1970 Masters and to Lanny Wadkins at the 1977 PGA Championship. The latter was the first ever sudden-death playoff in a major. He was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup teams of 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1975, and had a 14-5-8 win/loss/tie record including five wins and three ties in 10 singles matches.

Littler received the Ben Hogan Award in 1973 for a courageous comeback from injury or illness, after returning to the tour following treatment for malignant melanoma. Also in 1973, he was given the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. In the 1980s and 1990s Littler played on the Senior PGA Tour, winning eight times. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.[1]

Professional wins[edit]

PGA Tour wins (29)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
victory
Runner(s)-up
1 Jan 21, 1954 San Diego Open
(as an amateur)
−14 (67-66-69-72=274) 4 strokes United States Dutch Harrison
2 Jan 10, 1955 Los Angeles Open −8 (72-67-68-69=276) 2 strokes United States Ted Kroll
3 Feb 7, 1955 Phoenix Open −5 (66-70-68-71=275) 1 stroke United States Billy Maxwell, United States Arnold Palmer
4 May 1, 1955 Tournament of Champions −8 (69-71-68-72=280) 13 strokes United States Jerry Barber, United States Pete Cooper,
United States Bob Toski
5 Aug 26, 1955 Labatt Open −8 (67-69-68-68=272) Playoff Canada Stan Leonard
6 Feb 19, 1956 Texas Open Invitational −12 (68-73-70-65=276) 2 stroke United States Mike Fetchick, United States Frank Stranahan,
United States Ernie Vossler
7 Apr 29, 1956 Tournament of Champions −7 (70-71-69-71=281) 4 strokes United States Cary Middlecoff
8 Jun 10, 1956 Palm Beach Round Robin +55 pts (69-69-68-68-70=344) 24 points United States Ted Kroll
9 May 31, 1957 Tournament of Champions −3 (73-73-69-70=285) 3 strokes United States Billy Casper, United States Jimmy Demaret,
United States Dow Finsterwald, United States Billy Maxwell
10 Feb 8, 1959 Phoenix Open Invitational −12 (67-63-67-71=268) 1 stroke United States Art Wall, Jr.
11 Feb 15, 1959 Tucson Open Invitational −14 (65-67-68-66=266) 1 stroke United States Joe Campbell, United States Art Wall, Jr.
12 May 17, 1959 Arlington Hotel Open −18 (67-69-64-70=270) 1 stroke United States Jim Ferree
13 Jul 19, 1959 Insurance City Open Invitational −12 (64-66-72-70=272) 1 stroke United States Tom Nieporte
14 Aug 30, 1959 Miller Open Invitational −15 (68-66-64-67=265) 1 stroke United States Bob Rosburg, United States Bo Wininger
15 Jun 12, 1960 Oklahoma City Open Invitational −11 (71-64-70-68=273) 1 stroke United States Art Wall, Jr.
16 Jul 31, 1960 Eastern Open Invitational −15 (65-68-73-67=273) 2 strokes South Africa Gary Player
17 Jun 17, 1961 U.S. Open +1 (73-68-72-68=281) 1 stroke United States Bob Goalby, United States Doug Sanders
18 Jan 28, 1962 Lucky International Open −10 (65-68-68-73=274) 2 strokes Canada George Knudson
19 Jun 10, 1962 Thunderbird Classic Invitational −9 (67-71-70-67=275) 2 strokes United States Jack Nicklaus
20 Jul 17, 1965 Canadian Open −7 (70-68-69-66=273) 1 stroke United States Jack Nicklaus
21 Feb 16, 1969 Phoenix Open Invitational −21 (69-66-62-66=263) 2 strokes United States Miller Barber, United States Don January,
United States Billy Maxwell
22 Apr 6, 1969 Greater Greensboro Open −10 (66-70-69-69=274) Playoff United States Julius Boros, United States Orville Moody,
United States Tom Weiskopf
23 Apr 18, 1971 Monsanto Open −8 (71-67-71-67=276) 3 strokes United States George Archer, United States Pete Brown
24 May 23, 1971 Colonial National Invitation +3 (72-68-74-69=283) 1 stroke United States Bert Yancey
25 Jul 22, 1973 St. Louis Children's Hospital Golf Classic −12 (66-66-68-68=268) 1 stroke Australia Bruce Crampton
26 Jan 26, 1975 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am −8 (68-71-68-73=280) 4 strokes United States Hubert Green
27 May 25, 1975 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic −18 (67-68-69-66=270) 5 strokes United States John Mahaffey
28 Aug 3, 1975 Westchester Classic −17 (68-68-69-66=271) Playoff United States Julius Boros
29 May 1, 1977 Houston Open −12 (70-65-67-74=276) 3 strokes United States Lanny Wadkins

Source[4]

PGA Tour playoff record (3–8)

No. Year Tournament Opponent(s) Result
1 1955 Labatt Open Canada Stan Leonard Won with par on first playoff hole
2 1956 Texas International Open United States Cary Middlecoff, Australia Peter Thomson Thomson won with birdie on second extra hole
3 1957 Western Open United States George Bayer, United States Doug Ford,
United States Billy Maxwell
Ford won with par on third extra hole
Littler and Maxwell eliminated with par on first extra hole
4 1960 Memphis Open Invitational United States Tommy Bolt, United States Ben Hogan Lost an 18-hole playoff (Bolt:68, Hogan:69, Littler:71)
5 1962 Memphis Open Invitational United States Lionel Hebert, South Africa Gary Player Hebert won with birdie on first extra hole
6 1966 Tucson Open United States Joe Campbell Lost to birdie on first extra hole
7 1969 Greater Greensboro Open United States Julius Boros, United States Orville Moody,
United States Tom Weiskopf
Littler won with birdie on fifth extra hole
Weiskopf eliminated with par on first hole
8 1970 Masters Tournament United States Billy Casper Lost an 18-hole playoff (Casper:69, Littler:74)
9 1975 Westchester Classic United States Julius Boros Won with par on first extra hole
10 1977 Tucson Open United States Bruce Lietzke Lost to birdie on fourth extra hole
11 1977 PGA Championship United States Lanny Wadkins Lost to par on third extra hole

Major championship is shown in bold.

Japan Golf Tour wins (2)[edit]

Other wins (3)[edit]

this list may be incomplete

Champions Tour wins (8)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
victory
Runner(s)-up
1 Mar 20, 1983 Greater Daytona Senior Classic −13 (65-70-68=203) 6 strokes England Guy Wolstenholme
2 Jul 10, 1983 Greater Syracuse Senior's Pro Classic −9 (69-69-70-67=275) 2 strokes United States Don January
3 Jan 4, 1984 Seiko-Tucson Senior Match Play Championship 1 up United States Don January
4 May 4, 1986 Sunwest Bank Charley Pride Senior Golf Classic −14 (65-66-71=202) 2 strokes United States Don January
5 Aug 31, 1986 Bank One Senior Golf Classic −12 (71-63-67=201) Playoff United States Miller Barber, United States Bob Goalby
6 Aug 2, 1987 NYNEX/Golf Digest Commemorative −10 (67-68-65=200) 1 stroke United States Dale Douglass
7 Nov 22, 1987 Gus Machado Senior Classic −6 (71-67-69=207) 3 strokes United States Orville Moody
8 Feb 26, 1989 Aetna Challenge −7 (70-70-69=209) 2 strokes South Africa Harold Henning

Champions Tour playoff record (1–2)

No. Year Tournament Opponent(s) Result
1 1981 Peter Jackson Champions United States Miller Barber Lost to par on first extra hole
2 1986 Greater Grand Rapids Open United States Jim Ferree, United States Chi-Chi Rodríguez Ferree won with birdie on first extra hole
3 1986 Bank One Senior Golf Classic United States Miller Barber, United States Bob Goalby Littler won with par on third extra hole
Goalby eliminated with par on first hole

Other senior wins (10)[edit]

Major championships[edit]

Wins (1)[edit]

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runners-up
1961 U.S. Open 3 shot deficit +1 (73-68-72-68=281) 1 stroke United States Bob Goalby, United States Doug Sanders

Amateur wins (1)[edit]

Year Championship Winning score Runner-up
1953 U.S. Amateur 1 up United States Dale Morey

Results timeline[edit]

Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Masters Tournament DNP DNP DNP DNP T22 T22 T12 CUT 42 T8
U.S. Open DNP DNP DNP DNP 2 15 T34 T32 4 T11
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP R64 DNP T10
U.S. Amateur R64 DNP QF 1 - - - - - -
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Masters Tournament CUT T15 4 T24 T13 T6 T44 T26 T43 T8
U.S. Open CUT 1 T8 T21 T11 T8 T48 CUT DNP CUT
The Open Championship DNP DNP CUT DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship T18 T5 T23 T34 T33 T28 T3 T7 T30 T48
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Masters Tournament 2 T4 DNP T17 T39 T22 T12 T8 T24 T10
U.S. Open T12 T37 DNP T18 CUT T49 T50 DNP T35 CUT
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP T18 CUT T32 DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship T4 T75 DNP CUT T28 T7 T22 2 CUT T16
Tournament 1980 1981 1982 1983
Masters Tournament 49 DNP DNP DNP
U.S. Open T38 DNP T22 DNP
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship CUT CUT T49 CUT

DNP = Did not play
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10

Source for U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur: USGA Championship Database

Summary[edit]

Tournament Wins 2nd 3rd Top-5 Top-10 Top-25 Events Cuts made
Masters Tournament 0 1 0 3 8 18 26 24
U.S. Open 1 1 0 3 5 12 25 20
The Open Championship 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 2
PGA Championship 0 1 1 4 7 11 25 20
Totals 1 3 1 10 20 42 80 66
  • Most consecutive cuts made – 14 (1962 PGA – 1967 Masters)
  • Longest streak of top-10s – 4 (1961 U.S. Open – 1962 U.S. Open)

U.S. national team appearances[edit]

Amateur

Professional

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "World Golf Hall of Fame profile". Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  2. ^ Kelley, Brent. "Gene Littler profile". About.com. Retrieved August 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ Shain, Jeff (February 1, 2013). "AT&T Pebble Beach – First Look". PGA Tour. Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  4. ^ Barkow, Al (November 1989). The History of the PGA TOUR. Copyright PGA Tour. Doubleday. p. 264. ISBN 0-385-26145-4. 

External links[edit]