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The Stubborn Tale of 1924 U.S. Open Champion Cyril Walker

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On June 6th, 1924, Cyril Walker of Manchester, England, won the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club for his sole major title. In the process, he defeated eventual Augusta National Founder Bobby Jones, who happened to be the reigning champion of the event.

At the time, Walker was a club professional at Englewood Golf Club in the New Jersey sector, and he had been playing on the professional tour since 1917. After many attempts, he had finally flourished in a major championship. Many big names were in the field and contesting for the title, including two-time winner Walter Hagen, Leo Diegel, Bobby Cruickshank, and 1922 champion Gene Sarazen.

Fun Fact: The 1924 U. S. Open marked the first time the USGA allowed the use of steel-shafted putters.

The decisive point of the round came at the 16th hole, where a dogleg par-4 with water protecting the green was playing especially difficult. Wind was pushing back toward the players, which made them think twice about getting home in two. Walker’s playing partner, Leo Diegel, went for it and got caught up in the wind before his ball was summoned to the drink. In the scheme of things, Diegel was out of contention and the penalty stroke made no difference to him, but if Walker would share the same fate it could have cost him the tournament.

Walker, known for his slow play, studied the shot meticulously and walked out the yardage over and over again. He kept switching from a mid-iron to a driving iron before settling on the driving iron and sticking one to 8 feet. This shot was awed by spectators as “the finest ever seen in championship play.” There were many other great shots during the final round, but none counted as much as this particular one.

What won the event for Walker was his amazing consistency. He shot three rounds of 74 and a final round of 75 for a 297 total to claim the title. Jones, Melhorn, and Cruickshank all finished with final rounds of 78. This, of course, is just one day of Walker’s life. What happened to him after he won the 1924 U.S. Open is more astonishing than the win.

The 1929 Los Angeles Open

As noted above, Walker was a slow golfer. He studied and over analyzed every shot, which made playing alongside him irritating over 18 holes of golf. This brings us to Cyril Walker’s disqualification from the 1929 Los Angeles Open held at Riviera Country Club.

Walker was usually paired in the last group or with a marker so he didn’t even have the opportunity to hold other players up. By the time he reached No. 5, he was far behind the next group in front of him. Tournament officials requested two police officers to ask Walker to “speed up” pace of play. Walker refused, recanting that he was a major champion and he could play as slow as he wants. Some time passed and Walker looked like he was playing slower than before. Tournament officials did not hesitate any longer.  The next scene was an unusual one for a professional golf tournament, as two police officers forcibly removed Walker for the golf course.

Walker’s Rapid Fall and Decline

Walkers decline did not stop there. His career demised as the years went on, and he faltered in business and was left penniless in 1930 after a bad real-estate investment. In 1937, The Eugene Register reports of him returning to the caddy ranks and working at a driving range at a Florida golf club.

On August 14th, 1931 Walker was accused of beating a minor at Saddle River Golf Club.  John Pagano, 15 at the time, claimed the former U.S. Open Champion struck him with his fists. The case was later dropped when Pagano admitted it was a case of mistaken identity.

On June 15th 1934, Walker’s driver’s license was revoked for two years on a charge of driving a vehicle while intoxicated, and he was fined $262.50 including costs. It should be noted that Walker was arrested on Main Street in the middle of the afternoon. After being fined, he proclaimed that he didn’t have the money, and stayed in a jail cell until it was paid for him.

In 1948, The Toledo Blade reported Walkers death at a local New Jersey prison where he went for shelter. Guards found Walkers body while making their morning rounds.

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Josh is the Editor and Owner of GolfHistoryToday.com, an area of the web dedicated to golfing history involving players, courses, and events from 1800s Scotland to present. Frequent Weekend Caddy...USGA Volunteer.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. ROY

    Jun 14, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Interesting info – thanks

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Flightscope’s Alex Trujillo on why all golfers need shot data technology

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In this episode of the GearDive, Johnny chats with Alex Trujillo Sr. Sales Manager for Flightscope about understanding data, how information can make sense to your average golfer, why everyone should utilize data, and the downside of too much data.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

An ode to Lee Westwood

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Lee Westwood secured his 24th European Tour victory last week in South Africa, ending a winless streak that lasted over three years, and showing once again the resiliency that has proven to be a cornerstone in his potentially Hall of Fame career. The victory brought an emotional Westwood to tears as he proved that perhaps, at 45 years old, he should not be counted out just yet. This was his third time hoisting the Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy, and Westwood surmised that he “still got it, I guess.”

Indeed, he does, beating out a solid field that included the likes of Rory McIlroy, a hot Sergio Garcia, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Westwood’s career is characterized by a sort of blue collar style of golf. Even in his younger days he was never the longest off the tee, he doesn’t have the smoothest or most beautiful swing, his short game is at times questionable, and he has often been plagued by an inconsistent flat stick. Westwood’s strength has been his ball striking. His recognizable and repeatable quick dip into the ball is usually followed by a precisely and purely struck shot executed just as he envisioned it, a move which he has used to claim over 40 professional wins.

After breaking onto the scene with his first European Tour win in 1996, Westwood was a mainstay in the top 25 of the Official World Golf Rankings from ’97 to much of 2001, but after a promising start, he plummeted to as low as 266th in the world in 2003, just when he should have been entering his prime. He rebuilt his game and scaled the world rankings once again, this time joining elite company in reaching the coveted top spot in golf in 2010 and again in 2011, for a total of 22 weeks. This comeback of sorts is rare in golf, as many players who lose their form never quite recapture the magic they once had. The longevity of Westwood’s career speaks to his fighting spirit and belief in himself, even through the disappointment that golf often thrusts upon its participants.

Westwood’s three runner up finishes in majors hardly paints the picture of his 80 attempts on golf’s grandest stage. He has 11 top fives and nine top threes, all of which are made more heartbreaking by the fact that the ultimate goal remained elusive for the Englishman. He barely missed out on two of the most famous playoffs in major championship history: Tiger Woods edging out Rocco Mediate in maybe the most dramatic U.S. Open ever in 2008, and Bubba Watson’s heroic hook shot from the trees at Augusta to beat Oosthuizen in 2010. These two near misses seem to serve as an unfortunate microcosm for Westwood’s major championship career in that he played a lot of great golf, was often in the mix on Sunday, but ultimately failed to grab a piece of history.

Westwood plays most of his golf overseas, and his relative quietness on the PGA Tour likely contributes to his under appreciation in the United States, as he has just two wins to his credit, one in ’98 and another in 2010. While much focus will always be directed toward his missing major victory, Westwood’s resume is world class, including nine Ryder Cups and a superb singles and team record, three European Tour Golfer of the Year awards in ’98, ‘00, and ‘09, and the all time leading money winner on the European Tour.

In Westwood’s case, it is important not to confuse missed opportunities with failure. His career will finish with many “what-ifs,” but that should not take away from the greatness of it. With a quirky swing and at times a balky putter, Westwood is nonetheless absolutely an all-timer and class act who should be a household name in discussing the last two decades of professional golf.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Oak Hollow Golf Club in High Point, North Carolina

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was posted by GolfWRX member thejuice, who submitted Oak Hollow Golf Club in High Point, North Carolina, as his hidden gem of a golf course. In his description, thejuice charts out what exactly he loves about the course, and why the Pete Dye designed track is now going to be his go-to-stop in North Carolina.

“It’s a Pete Dye design that has a lot of the unfair Dye slopes in the greens, with the normal Pete Dye risk/reward setup on several holes.  I played it with some cousins during my family reunion and thought it was fantastic.”

“We normally play Starmount Forest (I’m a ClubCorp member), Grandover, or Bryan Park (both have 36 holes, and both are fine facilities), but I think I want to make Oak Hollow my preferred course when I go to visit my NC fam.  For the price, it just can’t be beaten.  I think we paid $40 on a Saturday morning (8 am tee time) and it was definitely worth more than that with several holes on a large lake and excellent fairways and greens.”

Sounds good, right? Well according to Oak Hollow Golf Club’s website, that Saturday morning rate comes with a cart, and should you want to play during the week, an 18 hole round will set you back just $33. They have plenty of specials listed on their site too, but the one that stands out the most is the 18 hole weekday walking fee, which costs only $17.

@rcausey25

@TeamSC11

@HPCBison_Golf

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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