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Bob Charles

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Bob Charles

Bob Charles in 1963, the year he became the first lefthanded golfer to win a major.

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bob Charles was the first left-handed golfer to win a major championship, and the first left-handed golfer to become an international star in the game.

Date of birth: March 14, 1936
Place of birth: Carterton, New Zealand

Tour Victories:

• PGA Tour: 6
• European Tour: 8
• Champions Tour: 23

Major Championships:

1
• British Open: 1963

Awards and Honors:

• Champions Tour money leader, 1988-90
• Champions Tour scoring leader, 1988-89, 1993
• Recipient, Order of the British Empire, 1972
• Recipient, Commander of the British Empire, 1992
• Recipient, Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, 1999
• Recipient, European Seniors Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, 2002

Trivia:

• Charles is a knight, so call him Sir Bob. He was knighted in New Zealand in 1999.

• Charles has the distinction of being the first left-handed golfer to win a major championship.

• Charles is believed to be the oldest golfer to make a cut on one of the world's major golf tours.

• Charles also is believed to hold the record for most strokes below age in a tour round. At the 2012 Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open on the European Senior Tour, Charles, then 76, carded a round of 66, 10 strokes below his age.

Bob Charles Biography:

An irony about Sir Bob Charles is that while he was one of the first left-handed golfers to reach the very top rungs of professional golf, he's actually right-handed. According to PGATour.com, Charles does everything right-handed except "games requiring two hands."

Charles is a native New Zealander and lifelong resident of the Kiwi country. He developed a very strong game in his teens, and first made news in the world of golf when he won, as an 18-year-old amateur, the 1954 New Zealand Open.

Charles was working as a bank teller at the time, and continued to work in banking for six more years - working on his golf game in his spare time - until finally turning pro in 1960.

Left-handed golfers were exceedingly rare in significant professional golf tournaments at the time, in part because the market for left-handed golf clubs was so small and equipment manufacturers didn't put much effort into making top-notch equipment for lefties.

A lack of top-notch equipment options has sometimes been cited as impeding Charles' career, but it didn't stop him from making his mark. He won the New Zealand PGA Championship in 1961, and the Swiss Open in 1962.

But 1963 was his big breakout year. Charles won for the first time on the U.S. PGA Tour that year, at the Houston Classic. Then, at the British Open, Charles became the first left-handed golfer to win a major championship. He defeated Phil Rodgers in a 36-hole playoff, 140 to 148, for the Claret Jug.

The next win by a lefty in a major didn't happen until 2003, although Charles himself came close a couple times with runner-up finishes in the British Open in 1968 and '69 and at the PGA Championship in 1968; and third-place finishes in the U.S. Open in 1964 and 1970.

Charles went on to win four more times on the PGA Tour, his last victory coming at the 1974 Greater Greensboro Open. But he kept winning around the world, amassing more than 75 professional victories.

And he was a major force on the Champions Tour in the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning three times in his rookie year of 1987, five times each in 1988 and 1989, and posting several more multi-win seasons after that. His last win on the Champions Tour was the 1996 Hyatt Regency Maui Kaanapali Classic.

Charles also won the Senior British Open in 1989 and 1993, and continued being competitive on senior tours into his 70s.

In 2007, at age 71, he finished second in a European Senior Tour tournament. And he finished 23rd in the New Zealand Open, cosponsored by the European Tour and Australasian Tour. By making the cut in that event, Charles is believed to be the oldest golfer to make a cut in any of the world's major non-senior golf tours. In 2012, at the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open on the European Senior Tour, Charles, then 76, shot a round of 66, 10 strokes better than his age - and that is believed to be a record for most strokes below age in a tour event.

Charles co-authored an instructional book called The Left-Hander's Golf Book, and was in an instructional video for lefties called Golf From the Other Side.

He has owned a farm in New Zealand for decades, and has also worked in golf course design.

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