Last year at Bethpage, Lucas Glover was considered an unlikely U.S. Open winner. But his lack of name recognition pales in comparison to some of the most improbable winners of the national championship. Consider the following:
10. Fred Herd (1898)
The 24-year-old Scottish pro, playing his first Open, won by playing the 9-hole course at the Myopia Hunt Club eight times. A notorious drinker, Herd was required to put down a deposit to receive the trophy. He would never finish better than 16th in three subsequent Opens.
In the beginning ...
Willie Dunn Jr. was an overwhelming favorite to win the first U.S. Open in 1895. But because the club at which he worked hosted the event, Newport Country Club assistant pro Horace Rollins entered and won. Rollins, an immigrant from England, shot 91-82 – 173, coming from two strokes down in the final round to prevail by two, winning $150 for his single-day’s work. It was the third tournament for the 21-year-old and his lone victory. The following year at Shinnecock, Rollins shot a much better score (155) but finished second, three strokes behind Scotland’s James Foulis (78-74 – 152).
9. Johnny Goodman (1933)
The last amateur to win the U.S. Open. Goodman was an accomplished player, but instead of pursuing golf, he worked as an insurance salesman. He finally turned professional at age 50.
8. Cyril Walker (1924)
A 118-pound English immigrant and alcoholic, Walker caught lightning in a bottle with his 1924 Open win at Oakland Hills when he beat defending champion Bobby Jones by three strokes. It would be his only top-10 finish in the Open.
7. Steve Jones (1996)
When Jones won the Open by one stroke over much more accomplished players Davis Love III and Tom Lehman, he hadn’t captured a PGA Tour event in seven years and had only gotten into the Open via sectional qualifying.
6. Michael Campbell (2005)
The last Open winner to emerge through the sectionals, Campbell held off Tiger Woods in a lights-out performance at Pinehurst. Since 2005, Campbell has failed to finish in the top 30 in his last 32 PGA Tour events. The Open remains his lone PGA win.
5. Sam Parks Jr. (1935)
A club professional at nearby Southern Hills Country Club, Parks used his knowledge of Oakmont to win for the first and last time on the tour. Parks parlayed his Open success into a spot on the Ryder Cup team.
4. Lee Trevino (1968)
He won 58 events on the PGA and Champions tours, but his first victory came from out of the blue, as a 28-year-old unknown. “Super Mex,” a former Marine, wore a band-aid on his forearm to cover an embarrassing tattoo as he beat Jack Nicklaus by four strokes at Oak Hill.
3. Jack Fleck (1955)
Eleven years after storming the beach at Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion, Fleck toppled icon and four-time Open champion Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff. It was the first PGA win for Fleck, who would go another five years before winning another.
2. Orville Moody (1969)
“Sarge” won the Open after spending 14 years in the Army and surviving local and sectional qualifying — the last Open winner to do so. Moody’s victory would be his only PGA Tour win, but he would go on to capture 11 events on the senior circuit, including the Senior Open 20 years later.
1. Francis Ouimet (1913)
At The Country Club in Brookline, Ouiment was an unknown 20-year-old when he defeated Brits Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, considered the world’s two best golfers, in an 18-hole playoff at the course where he learned to play as a caddy. He was the first amateur to win the Open.