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Opinion & Analysis

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 19th Hole Episode 97: The one with Butch Harmon

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The great Butch Harmon is was honored at the 2019 Houston Open, and he shares his experiences from a lifetime of golf with host Michael Williams, including what’s in the bag for the greatest teacher ever. Also features PGA Tour winner Troy Merritt talking about wining despite adversity and his work with Galvin Green golf apparel.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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On Spec

On Spec Special Edition: Houston Open winner Lanto Griffin talks equipment

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In this special edition of On Spec, Ryan has the chance to interview recent PGA Tour winner Lanto Griffin. Lanto talks about what it’s like to stand over an event winning putt, finding the right wedges, and how testing gear sometimes happens right out of another player’s bag.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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