Gene Sarazen burst onto the golf scene by winning majors in the early 1920s, when he was in his 20s, the start of a long and fruitful career. He later became one of golf's elder statesmen.
Date of birth: Feb. 27, 1902
Place of birth: New York City
Died: May 13, 1999
Nickname: The Squire
• Masters: 1935
• U.S. Open: 1922, 1932
• British Open: 1932
• PGA Championship: 1922, 1923, 1933
Awards and Honors:
• Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
• Recipient, PGA Distinguished Service Award
• Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937
Gene Sarazen: "I don't care what you say about me. Just spell the name right."
• "Gene Sarazen" was not Gene Sarazen's real name. He was born Eugenio Saraceni.
Gene Sarazen Biography:
Gene Sarazen was the first golfer to win the career grand slam (victories in each of golf's four professional majors), and was among the first class of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
But as much as he's known for his accomplishments on the course, Sarazen is also famous for an off-course accomplishment: he is generally credited with inventing the modern sand wedge. Sand wedges had been used in competition before (notably by Horton Smith and Bobby Jones), but those sand wedges had concave faces and were eventually banned by the USGA and R&A. The modern sand wedge was given form by Sarazen, according to the World Golf Hall of Fame, after Sarazen noticed how an airplane's tail adjusted during flight while receiving a flying lesson from Howard Hughes in 1931.
Sarazen's innovations also included a weighted practice club. He argued unsuccessfully for enlarging the hole size, believing more made putts would increase the popularity of the sport.
Sarazen turned pro in 1920, while still a teenager, and started winning majors - the 1922 U.S. Open and 1922 PGA Championship - at the age of 20. He won three majors in 1922-23, and four more in 1932-35. His "Shot Heard 'Round the World" at the 1935 Masters - a final-round hole-out from 225 yards with a 4-wood for a double-eagle on No. 15 - is one of the most famous shots in golf history. It helped Sarazen get into a playoff with Craig Wood, which Sarazen won to complete his career grand slam.
Sarazen's public profile remained high after his competitive days on the PGA Tour came to a close. In the 1960s, Sarazen teamed with Jimmy Demaret to form a colorful commentary team for broadcasts of "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf." And he remained a successful golfer well after his PGA Tour career ended, winning the Senior PGA Championship twice. He scored a hole-in-one in the 1973 British Open at age 71 (it came on the famed "Postage Stamp" hole at Royal Troon).
Sarazen was always a popular interview subject, too, as a connection to one of golf's "golden eras" and stars such as Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Beginning in 1984, Sarazen became one of The Masters' honorary starters, a role he served in until the year of his death.
At the time of his death in 1999, Sarazen was the oldest and longest-serving member of the PGA of America. He was 97 when he died.