A former caddie, Francis Ouimet shocked the golf world by winning the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline. More stunning was the way in which the 20-year-old won, taking down British stars Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff on the very course where he used to carry club members' golf bags. Instead, Ouimet had 10-year-old Eddie Lowery (pictured, to Ouimet's right) looping for him. The unlikely plot remains one of sport's all-time inspiring underdog stories and was chronicled in Mark Frost's book, "The Greatest Game Ever Played," which was later adapted for a 2007 Disney movie by the same title.
Opening The Door (1920)
In the early days of golf in America, professionals were looked on as second-class citizens and not allowed in the clubhouse when they played in tournaments. The dapper and proud pro Walter Hagen is largely credited as spearheading a change in attitude, but Inverness Club founder S.P. Germain played a major role. When the 1920 U.S. Open came to his Toledo club, Germain announced that pros would be welcome in the clubhouse and locker room. Throughout the 1920s a pro tour gradually developed and grew. The pros didn't forget the club's role. When the U.S. Open returned in 1931, they presented Inverness with a cathedral clock, still standing in the clubhouse today.
Grand Achievement (1930)
With an 8-and-7 victory over Eugene Homans in the final of the U.S. Amateur at Merion GC near Philadelphia, Bobby Jones wrapped up what no golfer had done, or would ever do again. The 28-year-old Georgia gentleman had won the Grand Slam -- at the time, calendar-year victories in the British Open and Amateur along with the U.S. Open and Amateur -- to re-establish the notion of what was possible in golf. The unprecedented sweep gave him 13 major amateur and professional titles, a total eclipsed by only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Jones did it with fire and grace and, after reaching a sports summit thought unreachable, retired on top as few athletes ever have.
Era Of Steel
The 1931 U.S. Open at Inverness Club is known for the marathon 72-hole playoff won by Billy Burke (left) after 72 extra holes. But Burke's feat is historically significant because it was the first U.S. Open won with steel shafts. The USGA had deemed steel shafts legal in 1924, and by the end of the decade they were common on tour. After Burke's win, the transition accelerated as more golfers sought steel's benefits. Techniques changed too. With steel instead of hickory, Byron Nelson had to work on taking the club straight back and using his legs and feet to power straight through on the downswing. It proved to be a more compact, consistent motion that eventually served as a template for the modern swing.
Taking Flight (1935)
The inaugural Masters of 1934 grabbed the attention of the public thanks to fascination with tournament host Bobby Jones and his return to competition. The next year was highlighted by "the shot heard 'round the world," a holed 4-wood for double eagle on No. 15 in the final round by Gene Sarazen. Considering the circumstances -- it lifted Sarazen into a tie for the lead from three behind on a single swing, and he defeated Craig Wood in a playoff the next day -- it still ranks as probably the greatest shot in golf history. The shot further boosted the fledgling event's prestige and was early evidence that Augusta National provided the ideal stage for back-nine drama, the club having fortuitously switched the order of the nines between 1934 and 1935.
Byron's Big Year (1945)
If golf has an unbreakable record to rival Cy Young's 511 career wins and Wilt Chamberlain's single-season 50.4 points-per-game scoring average, it's Byron Nelson's 11 straight wins in 1945. Even more than Jones' Grand Slam, Hogan's Triple or the Tiger Slam, Nelson's string, which came amid an 18-victory season, nails the argument for the highest sustained level of golf ever played. In the nine stroke-play tournaments during his streak, Nelson's margins of victory were playoff, eight, five, nine, 10, two, seven, 11 and four. The PGA Championship, which Nelson won at match play, was the only major played in 1945, or golf's most incredible year would have been even better.
Women's Movement (1950)
Of the 115 starters in the Tampa Women's Open, only seven were professionals. Yet that round played Jan. 19, 1950 marked the beginning of what would become the LPGA. Polly Riley, an amateur from Fort Worth, won with a 72-hole score of 295, five strokes ahead of Louise Suggs (left), who earned the $1,000 top prize for a pro. In fact, there were so few pros in the field that in its Jan. 25, 1950 edition, Golf World denoted them with a (p) in the scoreboard. But now, it is a global tour that plays in 13 countries outside the United States. With four of the 13 founders still around to watch -- including Suggs and Marilynn Smith, who played in that first event -- the LPGA, 63 years later, is the oldest women's pro sports organization in the world.
Hogan's Return (1950)
When Valerie Hogan tucked her husband Ben into bed at a hotel near Merion GC, she thought there was no way he would make the 18-hole playoff against Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio for the U.S. Open title the next day, June 11, 1950. Just 16 months after a car crash left Hogan with damaged legs, he limped his way through the 36-hole final day, finishing with the 1-iron to the 72nd green caught in the famous Hy Peskin photo and two-putted from 40 feet to tie Mangrum and Fazio, both of whom had finished. Hogan not only played, he won, shooting a 69 -- a 33 coming in -- to 73 by Mangrum and 75 by Fazio. That began an incredible streak by Hogan in which he would win six of the next eight majors he played through the 1953 British Open and 10 of 15 events overall.
Driving Force (1960)
In 1960 Arnold Palmer became the King. Rarely in golf does a coronation happen with a single shot but, if ever it did, it was when Palmer drove the par-4 first green at Cherry Hills CC. Having already won five times that season, including finishing birdie-birdie at Augusta National for his second Masters title, Palmer was the player to beat in the U.S. Open. After he two-putted for birdie and exploded with six birdies in his first seven holes. In a tournament that saw the intersection of three golf immortals -- the waning Ben Hogan, Palmer in full flight and the amateur Jack Nicklaus elbowing his way onto the stage -- Palmer had seized Cherry Hills by the throat, defined his own legend and, in the process, launched the dream of a modern Grand Slam.
Removing A Stain (1961)
Adopted in 1943, the PGA of America's Caucasian-only clause is perhaps the greatest historical stain on the game of golf. That it existed at all was bad enough, but the time it took to repeal was even worse. Prominent black sports figures such as Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson took active stands against the PGA's policy. Charlie Sifford (left) drew more attention when he won the 1957 Long Beach Open, becoming the first black golfer to defeat a full field of mostly white pros. Finally, in 1960 California attorney general Stanley Mosk threatened to block the PGA from playing tournaments in the state unless it eliminated "this obnoxious restriction" and encouraged other state attorneys general to join him. The PGA finally relented to the pressure in 1961.
Jack's Great Round (1965)
This was the Golden Bear's Secretariat moment, when his golf became clearly bigger and better than any ever seen. Tied after two rounds of the 1965 Masters with fellow Big Three members Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Nicklaus seemingly miniaturized Augusta National the next day with an awesome display of power. Three of his drives went at least 320 yards. He effectively hit 18 greens -- just missing the 11th in the right fringe -- and three par 5s in two with no more than a 3-iron. He had no bogeys and no 5s. His longest holed putt was 25 feet. After Nicklaus won by nine, Bobby Jones called it a level of golf with which he was unfamiliar. The man himself now calls his 64 at age 25 his finest round in a record major career.
Breaking Away (1968)
For decades, from the founding of the PGA of America in 1916, club pros and tour pros -- often the same entity in pro golf's formative years -- were under the same tent. But after World War II, those on the circuit began to feel they had different issues from their teaching- and equipment-selling brethren. The tour pros' angst turned to action in 1968. The American Professional Golfers (APG) was created, but at the last minute the PGA created the separate Tournament Players Division with Joe Dey, longtime USGA leader, as commissioner. Dey (left) transitioned the breakaway masterfully and prepared the TPD for full independence, handing over the reins to Deane Beman in 1974. The following year, the fully independent PGA Tour came into being.
Golden Oldies (1979)
Four men, six playoff holes, one important side effect. That sums up the 1979 Legends of Golf, the captivating senior tournament in Austin, Texas, that was the springboard, a year later, for the launch of the Senior PGA Tour. The nostalgic excellence at Onion Creek CC that fateful Sunday, April 29, was so entertaining -- the nationally televised broadcast bumped the NBC Nightly News -- as the better-ball teams of Julius Boros-Robert De Vicenzo (left) and Tommy Bolt-Art Wall traded wonderful shots and birdies in the Legends second playing that it crystalized the potential for regular 50-and-over competition. Not only could the old guys (none of the playoff participants was younger than 55) still play, they could play well.
Turning Point (1985)
In his autobiography Out of Bounds, Sam Torrance recalled the party that ensued after he sank the winning putt on Sept. 15, 1985 to give Europe its first Ryder Cup victory in 28 years. "I meant to go home to London the day after the matches," Torrance wrote, "but instead we drank six bottles of champagne and ended up partying for three more nights." The Euros' celebration at The Belfry really hasn't stopped since. The 16½-11½ rout kickstarted a cascade of Ryder Cup success. Beginning with that pivotal result in 1985, Europe has gone 9-4-1 against the U.S., the event heating up to must-see status during the period.
Golf, 24/7 (1995)
When the red light first went on in its Orlando studio Jan. 17, 1995, did you give Golf Channel much chance of lasting a year, let alone 18 and counting? A 24-hour network devoted to golf? What knucklehead is going to watch a taped European Tour event at 3:30 a.m.? Over time, though, we've come to appreciate something: That knucklehead is us. Evolving from its infomercial-laden self (The Perfect Club, anyone?) to a blend of tournament coverage, studio analysis and reality fare, Golf Channel has become something we didn't know we needed until we got it -- and now can't imagine how we ever lived without it. Plus, on a sleepless night, it's good to know you can turn on your TV and be that knucklehead again.
A Masterful Masters (1997)
Although the black-and-white photo of Ben Hogan playing his approach to the 18th green at Merion GC may be the most famous single golf photo ever taken, one of the sweetest is the color snapshot of an exhausted 21-year-old Tiger Woods asleep in his bed in a rented house in Augusta, Ga., with his arms wrapped around a green jacket. It was the end of a week that ushered in an era of one man's domination of the game the likes of which hadn't been seen since Bobby Jones was the emperor. The first man of color to win a major championship did it at Jones' course in the bastion of the old South and he did it by a whopping 12 shots. Woods became not just the finest golfer of his time but arguably the most famous athlete in the world.
Dream Ball (2000)
The distance of a two-piece rock with the greenside control and spin of a balata ball. That was the goal of designers seeking nirvana with the creation of the multilayer, urethane-covered golf ball. Although the Top-Flite Strata and Nike Tour Accuracy were among the first such balls to market, it was the Titleist Pro V1 that provided the tipping point -- specifically at the 2000 Invensys Classic in Las Vegas when the ball was introduced to tour pros and 47 immediately switched, including Billy Andrade, who won the event. Andrade's victory in Vegas, the stampede to solid-core was on. By March 2001 nearly 90 percent of the tour was using solid-core balls, a number that became 100 percent by the end of 2002.
Punctuation Mark (2001)
Having won the previous three majors -- blowouts at the U.S. and British Opens and a tense playoff verdict over underdog Bob May at the PGA Championship -- Tiger Woods, already a trailblazer, arrived at the 2001 Masters expected to produce more golf history. It would not be a Grand Slam, a calendar-year sweep of the events that matter most, but when he held off David Duval by two strokes and Phil Mickelson by three on April 8, the "Tiger Slam" crowned Woods as the best of his era and an icon for all time. By winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive professional major title when the opportunity was there, Tiger punctuated the point that there has never been a better pressure player. In a way, everything since has been an encore.