Sports

US Open countdown: Ralph Guldahl sets winning record, looks good doing it

41st U.S. Open | June 10-12, 1937

Oakland Hills Country Club South Course,

Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Leaderboard

Ralph Guldahl, United States 71 - 69 - 72 - 69 281
Sam Snead, United States 69 - 73 - 70 - 71 283
Bobby Cruickshank, Scotland 73 - 73 - 67 - 72 285
Harry Cooper, England 72 - 70 - 73 - 71 286
Ed Dudley, United States 70 - 70 - 71 - 76 287

Very few were as good-natured, easygoing — and well-groomed — as Ralph Guldahl, a self-taught Texan who won the first of three major championships during a five-year stretch.

Right out of Wilson High School in Dallas, Guldahl turned professional in 1931 — and won the Santa Monica Open as a 20-year-old to become the youngest winner on the PGA Tour.

At 21, he lost his bid to win the U.S. Open in 1933 when he bogeyed the finishing hole, handing the title to amateur Johnny Goodman.

But this time around, he would not be denied.

As the two-time defending Western Open champion, Guldahl — who often paused on every hole to comb his wavy black hair — surged up the leaderboard in the final round with a 65-foot eagle putt on the eighth hole, and a 25-footer for birdie on the ninth.

Sam Snead, a long hitter from Virginia, also had a good final round. In fact, after Ed Dudley, the third-round leader, faltered, Snead was so confident he had won the U.S. Open in his debut appearance that he began talking to reporters about winning while Guldahl was still on the course.

When Guldahl holed out of a greenside bunker for birdie at the 15th hole, Snead stopped talking altogether.

Maintaining that two-stroke lead, Guldahl — who played in front of little fanfare — knew he was going to win. As he approached the 18th green, he straightened his tie and combed his hair one final time, explaining later, “I wanted to look good when the photographers took pictures of me with the trophy. I was always proud of my head of hair.”

His 281 total became the new U.S. Open scoring record, breaking the year-old record of Tony Manero.

Guldahl defended his U.S. Open title the next year, and won the Masters in 1939 before abruptly stepping way from tour golf. He settled into being a club professional at Braemar Country Club in California for nearly 50 years before his death in 1987.

The 1937 U.S. Open was the first national open played on a layout of more than 7,000 yards. It measured 7,037 yards that week.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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