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Cary Middlecoff

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Cary Middlecoff

Cary Middlecoff works on his swing during a practice session prior to the 1953 Ryder Cup.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Cary Middlecoff is one of only 10 golfers to win at least 40 PGA Tour tournaments. Among those victories, earned mostly in the late 1940s through the 1950s, are three major championships.

Date of birth: Jan. 6, 1921
Place of birth: Halls, Tennessee
Date of death: Sept. 1, 1998
Nickname: Doc

Tour Victories:

40

Major Championships:

3

Awards and Honors:

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • Member, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
  • Vardon Trophy (low scoring average) winner, 1956
  • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1953, 1955, 1959

Quote, Unquote:

  • Cary Middlecoff: "Nobody wins the (U.S.) Open. It wins you."
  • Cary Middlecoff: "Anyone who hasn't been nervous, or hasn't choked somewhere down the line, is an idiot."
  • Bobby Jones on Middlecoff: "I'd give the world to have a swing like that."

Trivia:

Middlecoff shares the PGA Tour for longest sudden-death playoff with Lloyd Mangrum. Middlecoff and Mangrum played 11 playoff holes at the 1949 Motor City Open, neither player able to beat the other on any of the holes and bring the playoff to an end. A tie was declared and the two shared the victory.

Cary Middlecoff Biography:

Cary Middlecoff was the greatest golfing dentist who ever lived. Before he joined the PGA Tour, Middlecoff earned a degree in dental surgery in 1944, and served in the U.S. Army Dental Corps in World War II.

But following success as an amateur in a few big tournaments - winning the North and South Open in 1945, for example, playing in the final group with Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen - he decided to trade in filling cavities for filling cups.

And fill cups Cary Middlecoff did, winning 40 times on the PGA Tour. Middlecoff is one of only 10 golfers in history to win 40 or more PGA Tour events. Among those 40 wins are two U.S. Opens and one Masters championship. Middlecoff claimed his first victory as a pro in 1947, and won at least one event every year until he retired in 1961. He led the tour in wins three seasons, winning seven times in 1949, six in 1951 and six in 1955.

He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1986.

Middlecoff was known for two things on tour: big drives and an agonizingly slow pace of play. In fact, his slow play might have cost him another major, in a roundabout way. Quoting from the World Golf Hall of Fame profile of Middlecoff:

"At the 1957 U.S. Open, Middlecoff shot back-to-back 68s to make up eight strokes and force a playoff with Dick Mayer, but it was memorable for other reasons. Mayer showed up for the playoff with a camping stool, an unsubtle comment on Middlecoff's slow play, which stemmed from an unnatural fastidiousness about his alignment. ... How much Mayer's stunt perturbed Middlecoff is unknown, but he shot a woeful 79 to lose the Open by seven strokes."

Middlecoff's swing was also deliberate, and he came to a visible stop at the top of the backswing.

After leaving the PGA Tour, Middlecoff did some broadcasting and wrote what is regarded as an exceptional instructional book, The Golf Swing.

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