My four all-time greatest golfers

July 17, 2014

Let me start out by saying that I am old school and I hold my favorite athletes in any sport to a very high (drug free) standard. I first judge them by true athletic ability and what they accomplished in their sport over their career.

Secondly, I judge them by what they have done to make their sport more enjoyable and exiting to watch. Lastly, do they have the moral compass to be a true gentleman on or off the course, field, court, etc.

To give you a few examples of how some of my heroes were eliminated in the past, you can look at major league baseball and the drug scandal. Right off the bat (no pun intended), Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, A-Rod, Clements and Palmeiro. All were once on my list and are now banished forever.

Throw out Pete Rose, another of my baseball favorites, who admitted to gambling on baseball games, and I have to fall back on my all-time baseball favorite, Robin Roberts, who pitched for the Phillies, Orioles and Cubs during a Hall of Fame career on and off the field.

Today, when we talk about golf, there is one player I marked off my list a couple of years ago: Tiger Woods. Like most avid golf fans, I followed his tournament play on TV for years. But when the scandal broke about his off the course antics, I was disgusted with his behavior. To me, he will be a Hall of Fame golfer in name only.

Another one of my favorite golfers, Phil Mickelson, is what I call “on the bubble” and may still fall from grace. I will reserve judgment, until all the facts are in about the insider trading scandal and his relationship with a Las Vegas bookie, both of which currently haunt him in the media.

My four all-time greatest golfers:

1. Arnold Palmer, whose nickname is The King, arrived on the scene in 1955, and took the golf world by storm. A true gentleman on and off the course, Arnie became a superstar who not only made golf popular on TV, but also changed the image of golf from a wealthy sport to a sport for the middle class. The son of the head greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club, he went on to amass 95 professional wins over his 50-year career; including four Master’s wins, one U.S. Open and one Open Championship. He was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

2. Jack Nicklaus, known also as The Golden Bear, turned pro in 1962 and immediately won his first of four U.S. Open Championships. He finished his career with 18 major wins, still the most all-time and a record six Master’s Championships. He was also inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974; the inaugural class.

3. Gary Player, whose nickname was The Black Knight (he always wore black clothes on the course), was born in South Africa and became an international golf star. During his Hall of Fame career, he was dubbed the “international ambassador of golf world-wide.” His final stats include: three Master’s wins, three British Open wins, two PGA Championships and one U.S. Open title. Along with Palmer and Nicklaus, he was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

4. Lee Trevino enjoyed his nickname, Super Mex, throughout his hall of fame career. Born in El Paso, Texas, he brought not only true golf skill to the game, but also a flare, personality and humor to the television audiences. In 1968, he won his first of two U.S. Open Championships and finished his career with 89 tournament wins, including two PGA and two Open Championships. He was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.


19th Hole trivia

• Starting in the 1960s through today, Palmer, Nicklaus and Player were known as the Big Three of golf

• From 1960 to 1963, Palmer won 29 PGA Tour events

• Along with 18 major championships, Jack Nicklaus finished second nineteen times in other major tournaments

• Gary Player once donated his entire $25,000 prize money from his 1965 U.S. Open win to charity

• After Lee Trevino’s father deserted the family, he was raised by his grandfather, a poor grave digger from Mexico. Trevino never won the Masters