Willie Anderson (golfer)

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Willie Anderson
Anderson at the 1909 Western Open
Personal information
Full nameWilliam Law Anderson
Born(1879-10-21)21 October 1879
North Berwick, Scotland, U.K.
Died25 October 1910(1910-10-25) (aged 31)
Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Sporting nationality Scotland
SpouseAgnes Beakley
Turned professional1896
Professional wins9
Best results in major championships
(wins: 4)
U.S. OpenWon: 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame1975 (member page)

William Law Anderson (21 October 1879 – 25 October 1910) was a Scottish immigrant to the United States who became the first golfer to win four U.S. Opens, with victories in 1901, 1903, 1904, and 1905. He is still the only man to win three consecutive titles, and only Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, and Jack Nicklaus have equalled his total of four championships. He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Born in North Berwick, in East Lothian, Scotland, Anderson was educated at the public school in North Berwick and was a licensed caddie on the West Links at the age of 11. Upon leaving school, he apprenticed as a club maker under Alex Aitken in Gullane.

At age 18, Anderson emigrated from Scotland to the United States in March 1896—sailing aboard the S.S. Poseidon from Glasgow—along with his father, Thomas Anderson, and his brother Tom, landing at Ellis Island.[1] He played in the U.S. Open the following year, finishing in second place by one stroke, after Joe Lloyd eagled the final hole.

Golf career[edit]

His first significant win came in 1899 at the Southern California Open, before he started his run at the U.S. Open. In the 14 straight Opens that he played, Anderson won four, was second once, third once, fourth twice, fifth three times, 11th twice and 15th once. He won titles with both the old gutta-percha golf ball, and the rubber-cored ball which came into use in 1902. Anderson also won the Western Open in 1902, 1904, 1908, and 1909; this tournament, the second-oldest in the U.S.,[2] was classified as a PGA Tour event for most of its more than 100 years of operation, and is classified by some golf historians as a major championship during Anderson's era.

Anderson's accuracy with all clubs, combined with his concentration under pressure, made him a formidable and highly respected competitor. Anderson made his living as a golf professional, working at ten different clubs in fourteen years. He listed the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York as his home course from 1901 through 1906.[3] He played many exhibition challenge matches for stakes, in addition to tournaments.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Anderson died at age 31, officially from epilepsy[1] in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had played competitive matches in Pennsylvania right up to a few days before his death. However, golf historian Robert Sommers wrote in 1995 that Anderson 'drank himself to death'.[4] Anderson is buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.[5]

Anderson was an original member of the PGA Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975.

Willie Anderson (left) with Alex Smith, whom he beat in a playoff to win in 1901
Willie Anderson, c. 1905

Major championships[edit]

Wins (4)[edit]

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1901 U.S. Open 1 shot deficit 84-83-83-81=331 Playoff 1 Scotland Alex Smith
1903 U.S. Open (2) 6 shot lead 73-76-76-82=307 Playoff 2 Scotland David Brown
1904 U.S. Open (3) 2 shot deficit 75-78-78-72=303 5 strokes United States Gilbert Nicholls
1905 U.S. Open (4) 1 shot deficit 81-80-76-77=314 2 strokes Scotland Alex Smith

1 Defeated Alex Smith in an 18-hole playoff: Anderson (85), Smith (86)
2 Defeated David Brown in an 18-hole playoff: Anderson (82), Brown (84)

Results timeline[edit]

Among the majors, Anderson played in only the U.S. Open.

Tournament 1897 1898 1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910
U.S. Open 2 3 5 T11 1 T5[6] 1 1 1 5 15 4 T4 11

"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10.

Other victories[edit]

(Note: this list may be incomplete)

  • 1899 Southern California Open
  • 1902 Western Open
  • 1904 Western Open
  • 1908 Western Open
  • 1909 Western Open

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gold, Jeff (2015). Golf's Forgotten Legends & Unforgettable Controversies. New York: Morgan James Publishing. pp. 20–28. ISBN 978-1-63047-303-7. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  2. ^ Golf Courses of the PGA Tour, by George Peper, 1986, chapter on Western Open
  3. ^ "The Chicago Daily News Almanac: For Harvard College". The Chicago Daily News. 1918. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  4. ^ a b The U.S. Open: Golf's Ultimate Challenge, second edition, by Robert Sommers, 1995.
  5. ^ Seaton, Douglas (2007). "Willie Anderson". Retrieved 15 June 2007.
  6. ^ "Open Golf Champion". The Saint Paul Globe. Minnesota. 12 October 1902. Retrieved 26 August 2015.

External links[edit]