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There Were Many Animals on the Course…Well Before Tiger!

There Were Many Animals on the Course…Well Before Tiger!

Yes, people got so caught up in the ‘Tiger Woods’ fantasy, that he became the face of golf.  Unfortunately, for golf, he wasn’t the face they eventually wanted.  However, whether or not people make bad decisions certainly doesn’t change the fact that they are phenomenal players at their chosen sport.

But, once upon a time, there were other names in the world of golf.  Names that, perhaps now, would not be known and certainly not heralded.  But these names did exist – Old Tom Morris, Young Tom Morris and, of course, the Jack and Arnold of the golfing world.  There were so many who had professional wins, pro-tour victories, and became the Legends of Golf.

A long time ago historic golfers’ scores were much different than the scores of today.  In fact, scores like 54-56-53=163 to win an early British Open were considered ‘out of this world’ fantastic.  That’s not exactly what the scores would be called in today’s world, but the old golfers certainly made up for their scores with outstanding personal histories, skill, talent, and pure and utter class.

When you see the modern-era golfers, there’s a reason why the ‘olden day players’ are among the bottom of “Top 50 lists,” but these truly historic gentlemen deserve all the respect that fans can offer.  Walter Travis is one.  This is a man who was a golfer before professional golf was even a sport.  Coming from Australia to America in 1866, Walter Travis was an amateur.  He won the British Amateur once and the U.S. Amateur four times before 1905.  And, being as that there was no professional circuit at that time in the United States, Travis’ victories were always in amateurs and opens, such as the 1906 Florida Open.

Ernie Els is certainly a name everyone remembers.  Els is a man from The Big Easy who took the golf world by storm and won three major championships; two U.S. Open’s and one British Open, eighteen PGA Tour victories, twenty-five European Tour titles, and sixty-three worldwide shows!  It’s amazing the man ever had a day off considering the fact that his name was on the top of absolutely every golf pro list there was.

Throughout time there have been so many incredible golfers from Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, and Phil Mickelson to the recent ‘heroes’ of the course like Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley.  But out of the hundreds of men who have played the game of golf with spunk, charisma, personality, and dedication, there are five names that seem to crop up on the most lists every made.  And one, is that of Walter Hagen.  This is a man who claims the third most wins of a Major championship, with eleven all his own, while he also won a total of forty-five PGA Tour events. In fact, this first ever American-born player to win the British Open, is someone that other competitors feared – seeing as that they already knew upon entering the championship game that they were not going to go home with the prize.  And, not only did Hagen upset the British with his British Open win, but he also upset them three more times, when he took the title over and over again.

Hagen, being the businessman he was, knew that there was far more money to be made in exhibition golf and soon became the very first man in ANY sport to win a cash prize of over a million dollars.  This man will always be known as the one who had not only the skill, but the absolute undeniable knowledge of the game of golf; and no one can honestly say how many titles and championships Hagen would’ve ‘racked up’ if he hadn’t stepped away from the game.

Arnold Palmer is on everyone’s list, and in most golfer’s hearts.  The golfers of today speak about Arnold Palmer as the man they wish to emulate more than any other in the sport.  Palmer’s PGA Tour wins accumulated to sixty-two, which included winning seven Majors championships.  Being “PGA Tour Player of the Year” twice, Arnold Palmer led the ‘money list’ four times.

Only one golfer in the world can claim the title of  “The King.”  In fact, even Arnold Palmer would have a hard time explaining to anyone how that title came to pass.  In 1960, Sports Illustrated awarded Palmer the title of “Sportsman of the Year,” and as far as anyone was concerned – he earned it!

Bobby Jones had the potential to be the greatest golfer ever.  Oddly enough?  This is one golfer who never won a dime.  Jones never turned professional in his career, so making a living from golf was not something Bobby Jones could ever accomplish.  This is one man who was a true GOLFER, a true SPORTSMAN; he played his sport because he LOVED to play his sport – and that was all.  This was not a man who wanted the roar of the crowd, or a free convertible, or a luxurious life; he wanted to be able to be part of the golfing world.  And, without him, golf would’ve been a much poorer sport.  Thirteen Major championships were won by Jones in his career and he is still – to this day – the only golfer ever to have won the Grand Slam (all four Major championships in a single year).  And…let’s just say that this guy would’ve made Abraham Lincoln proud.  He was not going to cheat in any way, shape or form.  He was headed toward another Major win in 1925, when Jones actually called a penalty on himself.  He saw his ball move, which caused him to lose the tournament by one stroke, but his conscious would always remain clear.  I can only imagine what he would think of the “errors” the golfers of today make.

Jones retired at the age of only twenty-eight, so no one in the golf world will ever know how many Major championships could’ve been won by Bobby Jones, but he is certainly a man to look up to.

There are many pickers, betters, and pros who would tell you that Tiger Woods would’ve gone down in history as the number one golfer of all time.  Goodness knows, there was absolutely no one who could beat the man no matter what course he showed up on.  However, even though this was an incredible golfer, and will continue to be, the Tiger Woods history will become one of gossip and tabloid-fuel  and NOT what he wants to be remembered for.

Tiger Woods has won fourteen Majors – which is second all time – and he has won seventy-one PGA Tournaments, which is third all time.  He is still only a young man with plenty of time to rack up more, but his performance the last two years has been beyond depressing – on and off the course

From headlines about his marriage, his caddy to his ridiculous “manly” mistakes – it would seem that Tiger Woods has slowly lost the support of so many of his die-hard fans.  Now, perhaps, the Tiger Woods time is not over.  Perhaps it is simply on a break, as the world forgets about all the gossip.  Tiger has many years left to pull himself together and put the past behind him, so he may just end up to be the top golfer of all time…if he can keep his nose clean and out of the newspapers.

Jack Nicklaus, however, will always be the man that may just be impossible to pass when it comes to the golfing world.  He has the most Major championship wins with eighteen, and the second most ever PGA Tour wins with seventy-three.  Nicklaus is the Golden Bear, and is still the “best” in everyone’s hearts.  He won the Masters six times, with the last victory earned when he was forty-six years old – making him the oldest to ever win the tournament.

Not only was Nicklaus a fantastic player and a fan favorite, but he also did a great many things for the game of golf.  He was also the leader when it came to the money list on eight separate occasions, and was named “PGA Player of the Year” five times.

Even if Tiger were to get back his pride, or even be able to turn back time and make the past decade disappear, I have a feeling that Nicklaus will always be the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to the world of golf!

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