My four all-time greatest golfers
Let me start out by saying up front that I am old-school and I hold my favorite athletes in any sport to a very high (drug-free) standard. I judge them first by true athletic ability and what they accomplished in their sport over their career. Second, what did they do to make their sport more enjoyable and exiting to watch and third, did they have a 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 who were once on my list are 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 years ago (even though he won the Masters this year), and that would be Tiger Woods. I followed all of his tournament play on TV for years, like most avid golf fans did, but when the scandal broke about his off-the-course antics, I was disgusted by his behavior. To me he will be a Hall of Famer golfer in name only.
My four all-time greatest golfers:
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.
Jack Nicklaus, also known at 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.
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 worldwide.” 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.
Lee Trevino enjoyed his nickname Super Mex throughout his entire 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.
• As a youth, Palmer got his start helping his father Milfred work on the course at Latrobe Country Club, PA. His father was head greenskeeper and head professional.
• 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.
• Trevino’s middle name is Buck and he had two nicknames: The Merry Mex and Super Mex. He entered the Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.
• After Lee Trevino’s father deserted the family, he was raised by his grandfather, a poor Mexican gravedigger. Trevino never won the Masters.