Harry Vardon, Jersey and Britain's most successful golfer of all time, won the Open Championship on a record six occasions, and also the US Open. He had a long career, first winning the Open in 1896, and again in 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911 and 1914. His US Open win came in 1900, and he was still considered good enough to represent the United Kingdom against the USA in 1921.
Vardon was born in Grouville on 9 May 1870. Inspired by his brother, Tom, he took up golf in his teens and by age 20 he was so good that he turned professional. He was the first professional golfer to play in Knickerbockers - the "proper" Englishman dressed in an uncomfortable shirt and tie with a buttoned jacket. Within a few years he became golf's first superstar since the days of Young Tom Morris.
In 1896 Vardon won the first of his record six Open Championships. In 1900 he became golf's first international celebrity when he toured the United States, playing in more than 80 matches and capping it off with a victory in the US Open. He was the joint runner-up of the 1913 US Open, an event portrayed in the film The Greatest Game Ever Played. At the age of 50 Vardon was the runner-up at the 1920 US Open.
During his career, Vardon won 62 golf tournaments, including one run of 14 in a row, still a record to this day. He popularized the grip that bears his name, one still used by over 90 percent of golfers. In his later years he became a golf course architect, designing several courses in Britain. He struggled with health problems for years, but turned to coaching and writing golf instruction and inspirational books.
During his peak years, Vardon was known for his exceptional accuracy and control with all clubs, the greatest ever seen to that stage. However, after his comeback to the game following a prelonged absence during which he suffered from tuberculosis, he suffered serious problems with his short-range putting, and several commentators claim that he could have added to his list of majors had this disability not afflicted him.
Vardon died in 1937 in Totteridge, Hertfordshire. After his death, the PGA of America created the Vardon Trophy. It is awarded annually to the player on the PGA Tour with the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Hall of Fame
In 1974 Vardon was chosen as one of the initial group of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His most prestigious medals, including those from his six British Open Championships, are on display in a tribute to him at the Jersey Museum. In the annals of golf, he is considered one of the greats of the game. In 2000, Vardon was ranked as the 13th best golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.
Vardon is often called "Mr Golf" and "The Icon of Golfing". He famously advised fellow golfers:'Don't play too much golf. Two rounds a day is plenty'.
Vardon left England for America in 1900 and helped popularize the game during his 20,000-mile exhibition tour. Ironically, the appearance in the United States Open for which he is probably best known is not his victory in 1900, but his defeat in a three-way play-off 13 years later.
In 1913, Francis Ouimet defeated Vardon and his fellow Jerseyman Ted Ray in a play-off to win the championship. Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur and former caddie at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where the championship was played, tied Vardon and Ray at the end of four rounds, aided by a critical birdie on the 71st hole. Expected to wilt under the pressure of the play-off the following day, Ouimet played his best golf of the championship in driving rain, shooting 72 against Vardon’s 77 and Ray’s 78. His startling victory placed golf on the front page of many American newspapers for the first time and inspired a new generation to take up the game. To this day Ouimet’s victory is celebrated among the greatest moments in US championship history.
Vardon was the longest hitter of his era, thanks to a more open stance and overlapping his hands on the club, which gave birth to the "Vardon Grip", or overlapping grip, the grip most popular among professional golfers. In the Vardon grip, one places the little finger of the hand placed lower on the club - right hand for a right-handed player - in between the index and middle finger on the hand that is higher on the club. The lead-hand thumb should fit in the lifeline of the trailing hand.
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