It is, at first thought, a shock to the system to realize that Ben Crenshaw turns 60 today. But then I go through my memories and recall that I first saw him play (and putt) in person at Pinehurst in the fall of 1973, during the 144-hole World Open, where he finished second to Miller Barber. I had a crew cut; Crenshaw, locks flowing, decidedly did not.
Besides wishing a happy birthday to one of the game's gentlemen, it is also a good occasion to pause and salute the abundant crop of American golfers born around the middle of the 20th century of which the Texan is a member.
Crenshaw, born in 1952, won 19 PGA Tour events highlighted by his two Masters titles, a record that looks even better when you consider his peers.
A total of 21 American males born within three years of 1950 won at least five PGA Tour events, combining for 262 victories including 23 major championships. That averages out to roughly 12 wins per man. (All time, only 84 golfers, the most recent Steve Stricker with his victory Monday in Hawaii, have at least 12 PGA Tour wins.)
The births of Tom Watson (39 victories), Lanny Wadkins (21) and Tom Kite (19) made 1949 the best year of this mini-era, but it stretches from 1947 (Johnny Miller, 25 wins, and Larry Nelson 10) to 1953 (Andy Bean 11, Jay Haas, 9, Craig Stadler 13 and Jerry Pate 8).
Here are the other players, birth year and victory totals: 1948: John Mahaffey, 10; 1950: Bob Gilder, 6; 1951: Danny Edwards, 5; Bruce Lietzke, 13; Roger Maltbie, 5; Mark McCumber, 10; Tom Purtzer, 5; Bill Rogers, 6; Fuzzy Zoeller, 6; 1952: Gary Koch, 6; Wayne Levi 12.
-- Bill Fields