As golf is a sport played widely throughout the entirety of the United States, we try to identify the best golfer from each of the 50 states.
From Hawaii to Florida, just about every state in the USA has a native son or daughter that’s ascended to the highest reaches of the game of golf.
Certainly the Northern states lack the depth of the Floridas and Californias of the world, but all 50 have someone who’s made an indelible mark on the game.
Let’s take an alphabetical look and ratchet up the debate. It’s time to pick the top golfer of all-time from every state throughout the USA.
Tiger gets the nod in California, despite his later years in Florida
Hailing from Fort Payne, Nelson is the owner of three major championships at the 1983 US Open and the 1981 and ’87 PGA Championships. His 42 professional wins (10 on the PGA Tour) give him the edge here in a state lacking in talent compared to several other Southern states. He narrowly edges out multi-winner and major winner, Hubert Green.
Edwards didn’t stick around his native Ketchikan long, and the now 65-year-old played a lot of his amateur in golf in Oklahoma. Nonetheless, He won nine times worldwide, including five times on the PGA Tour. He was also three-time All-American at Oklahoma State and was the low amateur at The Open Championship in 1972, the same year he competed for the US Walker Cup squad.
So many professionals call Arizona home nowadays, but the list is surprisingly short of golfers who originally hail from the Grand Canyon State. For that reason, Mayfair gets the nod on the strength of five PGA Tour wins, including a Tour Championship in ’95 and a rare playoff victory over Tiger Woods in the ’98 Nissan Open. Had he found more success in playoffs (2-5), Mayfair’s stature could have grown even more.
This ranking is primarily performance-based, but being an icon bears some weight in my eyes. No offense to Paul Runyan, who also has two majors from the 1930s and took down Sam Snead in his hay day, but Daly has been a golf fixture for better or worse. His career wasn’t quite so sustained, but he galvanized new fans and had the performance for a period in which he won two majors and 20 worldwide wins (5 PGA Tour). Just don’t tune in to watch him nowadays on the PGA Tour Champions if you want to vintage J.D. golf.
Tiger doesn’t get back to his home state all that often, but the native Californian can credit his days on the West Coast for developing into the player he became. His résumé of 106 worldwide wins and 14 major championships speak for themselves. Even if he doesn’t add to either total, it will take something heroic to unseat Eldrick. Had we considered him as a Floridian, Mickey Wright is incredibly deserving of mention. One of the LPGA Tour’s early members, she won 13 majors and 82 total tournaments and was a pioneer in the women’s game.
Bobby Jones is the best from the Peach State, and one of the great American golfers of all time
Born in Missouri, Irwin moved to Boulder, Colorado, as a child and stayed there to play collegiately for the Buffaloes. At the age of 71, the man is indestructible having carved out 20 years just on the PGA Tour Champions, where he owns the tour record with 45 wins. Before that, he was known as a stalwart on tough courses. He won three US Opens and 17 other top-10s in majors in a career that culminated in 87 wins across the world.
Speaking of iron men, the Fairfield native won the 1968 PGA Championship at the age of 48, which still stands as the oldest player to win a major. That wasn’t his only claim to fame. He won the US Open in ’52 and ’63 to go along with 25 worldwide wins. His offspring hasn’t done too bad, either. Guy Boros was a winner in 1996 at the Greater Vancouver Open.
Ed “Porky” Oliver
I’m sorry, Delawareans, but I can’t say I’ve even heard of your most illustrious golfer until today. That’s not a knock on the state, which has a population south of a million and a limited golf season. Blame it on my youth, because Oliver did have a pretty solid career over half a century ago. He won eight times, including at big tournaments like the Western Open, Phoenix Open and Bing Crosby Open. The short, stocky Wilmington native also hung in at the majors, posting two runner-ups to easily earn the title of best golfer from Delaware.
Known as one of the more popular destinations for professional golfers to settle down, not as many elite golfers hail from the Sunshine State as you may think. If you count Tiger as a Floridian, he obviously gets the nod . Alas, it’s going to David Duval. The Jacksonville native from Duval County had a fairly short prime, but it was an all-timer. Unable to break through for his first win in the mid-’90’s, Duval eventually broke through and rattled off 14 wins in four years to wrestle away the No. 1 spot in the world from Woods. He shot a 59 to win the Bob Hope in ’98 and oddly enough earned his final win and lone major to date at the 2001 Open Championship.
Whether it was his gorgeous swing, his playing résumé or his stewardship for the game, Jones had it all. So confident and satisfied with his career, he retired competitively at the age of 28. Part of that is because he had so much success early on in the days where amateur golf had a much greater significance. At 14, he made the US Amateur quarterfinals and from then on won six of them, which were considered majors in his day.
He won seven other majors and completed the infamous Grand Slam in 1930 for sweeping the year’s major schedule: The Amateur Championship, US Open, The Open Championship and US Amateur. His seven-year run from 1923 to 1930 abruptly ended, with him saying “It [championship golf] is something like a cage. First you are expected to get into it and then you are expected to stay there. But of course, nobody can stay there.”
We may never see another career arc quite like Honolulu’s Michelle Wie
At long last, we can justifiably recognize a female golfer. Without ever touching a club again, Wie will be Hawaii’s shining light in golf for a while (sorry, Tadd Fujikawa). What were you doing at 10 years old? Wie was only qualifying for the 2000 USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.
That first launched the Honolulu into the spotlight that, for a while, looked like it could be her undoing. Dubbed as the “Tiger Woods of women’s golf,” Wie was the youngest at the age of 12 to play in a LPGA Tour event and the youngest to turn professional at 16. At 15, she competed with the men at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open and shot 68 in the second round. 68! At the age of 15! What she did at a young age is almost unfathomable. While it looked like she was close to leaving the game after poor play and pressure, she’s forged a steady LPGA Tour career with a win at the 2014 US Open and two major runner-ups.
By my unofficial research, Hiskey is the only Idahoan to have a win on the PGA Tour. At the least, he is the leader with three victories. Troy Merritt, a Boise State alum, is valued in Idaho, but Merritt is disqualified from the conversation due to his Midwestern amateur upbringing. Hiskey, on the other hand, was a three-time state amateur champion, multiple winner on the PGA Tour and competed well on the Champions Tour. Not a Hall of Fame career, but not a bad résumé from the Boise native, either.
Golf fans and historians all remember Roberto DeVicenzo’s scorecard gaffe at the 1968 Masters. Fewer remember who was on the positive end of that story: Bob Goalby. The Belleville native picked up one of his 11 career PGA Tour wins that day. He also tied for runner-up honors at the ’61 US Open and was a member of the ’63 Ryder Cup. Sandwich those achievements with a pair of Champions Tour wins late in life and a football-playing career in college at the University of Illinois and that’s a complete life right there.
Only one man can lay claim to winning at Augusta National in his first competition. That golfer is none other than Frank Urban “Fuzzy” Zoeller Jr.
The New Albany native beat another Indianan, Billy Kratzert, among others, at the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational in January of 1979 for his first PGA Tour win. That breakthrough landed him in the field at The Masters for his first time as a competitor. There, he got a little help from Ed Sneed’s late-round collapse to land in a playoff with Sneed and Tom Watson. Zoeller stared them both down to win in the second hole of sudden death. It propelled Zoeller to 19 career professional victories, 10 coming on the PGA Tour. That total includes his second major, a US Open win in 1984.
Just as it is rare to find historically great golfers, it might be rarer to find them from Drake University in Des Moines. Johnson, a relatively late bloomer, put his home of Cedar Rapids on the map when he won the 2007 Masters in cool temperatures certainly not foreign to the Midwesterner. Johnson, a vocal Iowa Hawkeyes supporter, has shown success can be had for northern golfers. The bespectacled golfer has won 12 PGA Tour events and two majors, one recently coming at the 2015 Open Championship to spoil the Spieth Slam. When you think of golf in Iowa, it’s hard to put anything or anyone else at the top of that list.
The famous words of “Be the right club today” from Hal Sutton’s win at the 2000 Players Championship will live in infamy
Had 13-time PGA Tour winner, Bruce Lietzke, spent a little more time in Kansas (he moved to Texas at age nine) he would’ve earned the nod here. Alas, we’ll go with the fresher pick in big hitter, Gary Woodland. A gifted athlete, the Topeka native almost pursued a collegiate basketball career before making the switch to golf. It was a good choice. At Kansas University, he won four times and is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, not including a World Cup of Golf win with Matt Kuchar in 2011. He’s struggled in majors (no better than T12 in 19 starts), but has spent dozens of weeks in the top 50 in the world and is a scary player when it all comes together.
Early in his career, Perry missed the PGA Tour via Q School two years in a row. The third time was the charm for the Franklin native, who rallied to become one of the PGA Tour’s more consistent names at the top of the leaderboard for decades. Perry’s won 25 times worldwide, including 14 on the PGA Tour. He’s played on six international teams (four Presidents Cups, two Ryder Cups) that have a 5-0-1 record. Unfortunately, most will remember his dashed attempt at becoming the oldest major winner at the age of 48 back at the 2009 Masters when he squandered a back nine lead to finish runner-up in a playoff to Angel Cabrera.
“Be the right club today!” Few could forget those famous words uttered by Sutton at the 2000 Players Championship as his ball landed feet from the pin to ensure his win at the age of 42 over Tiger Woods. Sutton will live in infamy for captaining the losing 2004 US Ryder Cup team and trying to pair Woods and Phil Mickelson together. Aside from that blemish, his résumé is otherwise pretty solid: 14 PGA tour wins, one major (1983 PGA Championship), Player of the Year (1983), Comeback Player of the Year (1994) and four Ryder Cup appearances as a player.
David Peoples Jr.
This was tough to decide between Peoples and once-dominant Maine amateur, Mark Plummer, who won the Maine Amatuer 13 times among other achievements. Since I’ve valued professional success in this ranking up until now, the same applies here. That gives the nod to Peoples, who has PGA Tour wins at the Buick Southern Open in 1991 and the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic in 1992. The Augusta native peaked at 25th on the PGA Tour money list in 1992 and teed it up in eight major championships.
The Takoma Park native stayed in his home state to play collegiate golf at Maryland. Or at least he thought so until he was cut from the team in his freshman year in 1975. He came back a few years later after a community college stint to rise all the way up to the top spot on the Terrapins’ squad. The stops and starts continued, though, as Funk coached for the Terrapins for several years while his own career started out relatively unsuccessfully through the ’80s. Funk kept his persistence until he cracked the code in the ’90s. He racked up four wins by 1996 and was a constant name on leaderboards. At career’s end, he finished with eight PGA Tour wins, including at age 48 at the 2005 Players Championship.
Missourian Tom Watson played well to fans on both sides of the pond during his lengthy career
Ouimet earns the honor of the most ancient golfer to make the list. The Brookline native is occasionally referred to as the “father of amateur golf” after he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in golf and sports history. Ouimet, then just a 20-year-old, won the 1913 US Open over elite professional golfers of the day, Brits Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. Ouimet lived just blocks from The Country Club in Brookline where the Open was staged. He almost didn’t compete due to work complications, but the five-time Massachusetts Amateur champ teed it up in Brookline, and the rest is history. After reaching a playoff with Vardon and Ray, he came back for the 18-hole Monday playoff and won on his home track by five strokes in a miraculous victory, inspiring the 2005 film, The Greatest Game Ever Played, that reenacted his feat.
The Gratiot Township native was getting it done nearly 100 years ago, capturing 30 PGA Tour wins between 1920 and 1934. He won back-to-back PGA Championships in ’28 and ’29 and was also as much of an international player as they came back in his day. He tied for runner-up honors at the Open Championship in ’30 and played on the first four Ryder Cup teams. Gene Sarazan described Diegel as a devotee to the game: “In all my years of golf, I have never seen anyone whose devotion to the game could match Leo’s. “It was his religion. Between courses at the table, Leo used to get up and practice swings,” Sarazen said of the 2003 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee. “Every night he went to bed dreaming theory and every morning he awakened with some hot idea that was going to revolutionize the game.”
Hailing from the Twin Cities suburb of Alexandria, Lehman owns the distinct honor as the only golfer to be named Player of the Year on the Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour and the PGA Champions. What he’s likely most proud of in a career with 35 worldwide wins (five on the PGA Tour) is his lone major win at the 1996 Open Championship. Lehman, now 57, also reached No.1 in the world for exactly one week and competed on seven international teams (four Ryder Cups). Lehman didn’t win on Tour until 1994 at the age of 35, but his consistency throughout the duration of the ’90s was nearly unmatched.
Polio couldn’t stop the Port Gibson native from achieving his dreams of becoming one of the first African-Americans to play on the PGA Tour. Brown recovered from near paralysis in the 1950s as a teen and turned pro at 19 in ’54 and earned his Tour card in ’63. He won 14 times as a professional, including twice on the PGA Tour. His crowning achievement was becoming the first African-American winner on the PGA Tour when he won the Waco Turner Open in 1964.
Watson’s Midwestern humility and his steely focus allowed his game to translate well across the world, as his five Open Championship wins ties him for second most. That only scrapes the surface of a Hall of Fame career resulting in 39 PGA Tour wins (11th all time), eight majors with three legs of the career grand slam and six Ryder Cup appearances between player (four) and captain (two). Big moments like the 1977 Duel in the Sun at the British Open against Jack Nicklaus, his chip-in at the 71st hole of the 1982 US Open and his near-miss at the 2009 Open Championship at 59 years old are just a few that have built the legend of the Kansas City, Missouri, native.
Like Arnold Palmer, Patty Sheehan was a no-doubt World Golf Hall of Fame selection
The pride of Kalispell forged a 20-year career on the LPGA Tour between the 1970s-’90s. From an early age, she dominated Montana on the junior and amateur circuits before extending her borders. Ritzman worked with Hall of Fame coach Harvey Penick to work toward a career that resulted in almost every achievement possible without winning an event. She had five aces, the record for eagles in a round (three at the 1979 Colgate European Open), over 400 starts and some time in the booth in the ’90s commentating for ESPN.
Mark Calcavecchia is a tempting contemporary choice, but what Goodman did in the game in the 1930s is hard to ignore. So is his personal story. Orphaned at the age of 14, the Omaha native worked as a caddy while quickly learning the game. He won three Nebraska Amateur titles as a teen, as well as three Trans-Mississippi Amateur titles, a then prestigious tournament. In 1929, his name was nationally known after taking down the great Bobby Jones in the first round of match play at the US Amateur. If that isn’t his biggest claim to fame, being the last amateur to win the US Open in 1933 or his 1937 US Amateur win should serve in that role just fine.
“The worst advice in golf is, ‘Keep your head down.’” Those are the words of Patty Sheehan, who had plenty of reason to hold her head high. Born in Vermont, she moved to Reno in her young days where she went on to have one of the finest careers in LPGA history. She won 42 times worldwide (35 LPGA), including six majors. She played in five Solheim Cups and captained twice, once as a player/captain in 2002. She finished inside the top 10 of the LPGA money list each year from 1982 to 1993, but never was first. In 1987, she was one of several Sports Illustrated Sportsmen and Women of the Year.
For over 35 years, Blalock has been a world record holder. From 1969 to 1980, the Portsmouth native made 299 straight professional cuts. On top of that, she was the 1969 LPGA Rookie of the Year and Most Improved in both 1970 and ’71. Always getting better despite back issues for parts of her career, Blalock won 34 times worldwide, 27 on the LPGA Tour. She had a smattering of top-10s in majors, but never broke through to win. In 1983, she became just the seventh women’s professional golfer to join the $1 million club.
Hailing from Rumson, Ghezzi was a golfer whose career was significantly impacted by World War II. Ghezzi was selected to three Ryder Cup teams between 1939-43, all of which were canceled. The 1941 PGA Championship was still on, though, and Ghezzi made the most of his opportunity before enlisting in the army in ’42. The PGA was then a match play finish, and he took down the legend, Byron Nelson, in 38 holes to claim his lone major. He came close to adding a second major by reaching a three-man, 18-hole Monday playoff at the US Open. Nelson again joined Ghezzi in the extra holes, but it was Lloyd Mangrum who came away with the title. Ghezzi finished with 17 worldwide wins, 11 coming on the PGA Tour.
Jack Nicklaus honors his Ohio roots with his involvement with the Memorial Tournament every spring, a staple event on the PGA Tour schedule.
When the LPGA Tour was in its heyday in the 1980s and ’90s, Lopez was near the forefront. Before that, though, Lopez dominated in New Mexico, winning the state’s amateur championship at the age of 12 in 1969. Just nine years later, she won nine times (including five in a row) as an LPGA Tour rookie and made the July 1978 cover of Sports Illustrated. Thirty-nine more wins were on tap in her illustrious career that spanned into the 2000s. Beloved for her charisma and passion, Lopez won three PGA Championships and was agonizingly close to winning other majors, including posting a Phil Mickelson-esque record at the US Open with four runner-ups.
Almost all golf fans know the top two of the all-time major championships record in the men’s game: It’s Jack Nicklaus with 18 and Tiger Woods at 14. It’s not quite as common knowledge of who looms behind Tiger. That would be Hagen, who capped a career with 11 of them in a 13-year span, not including five Western Open titles, which were major-caliber tournaments in the era. The Rochester native was also a key figure in raising the status of professional golfers, pushing for higher purses and showing the way for a professional career to be attainable in an era where amateur golf ruled. Hagen won 45 times times on the PGA Tour (8th all time) in a 75-win career. Golf Digest and Sports Illustrated have each rated him as a top 10 golfer of all time.
Several North Carolinians like Davis Love III and Mark O’ Meara are worthy of attention, but Floyd’s 66 worldwide wins are unmatched, even from a lifetime PGA Tour member like Love. The Fort Bragg native’s prime stretched for decades; his first win came in 1969, his last in 1992. He won 22 times on the PGA Tour and won four majors, finishing runner-up in majors on five other occasions. Armed with a fiery competitiveness and proficiency in every facet of the game, Floyd won the 1976 Masters by eight strokes and is one of a small collection of golfers to shoot 63 in a major at the 1982 PGA Championships at Southern Hills. Floyd also competed on eight Ryder Cup teams and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1989.
Also a bassoon player in her young days, Hanson is far and away the top golf figure from North Dakota. The Fargo native won 19 times in her career (17 LPGA) and won three majors. The major wins came by a combined nine-stroke margin of victory in the 1956 Western Open and the 1958 Titleholders Championship and by a 4&3 romp in the match play finals of the 1955 LPGA Championship. In 1951, Hanson won the Eastern Open in her first professional start. She found success on the amateur circuit, too, winning several marquee events including the 1950 US Amateur.
Not a lot of research was needed to make this pick. Hailing from Upper Arlington, Nicklaus’ presence is still felt in the Buckeye State with his heavy involvement with the Memorial Tournament in Dublin. In his playing career, Nicklaus’ 18 majors are unmatched in the men’s and women’s game. His 73 PGA Tour wins rank third all time, only behind Sam Snead (82) and Tiger Woods (79). He was a natural golfer from the start, posting a 51 in his first nine holes as a 10-year-old. He went on to star at Ohio State in college before beginning his illustrious career in which he affectionately became known as the “Golden Bear” for his blond hair and traditional yellow sweaters. Aside from LeBron James, no other Ohioan has dominated his or her sport in the way Nicklaus did.
Arnold Palmer’s style and substance created a charismatic celebrity that extended beyond the golf course and hometown of Latrobe
Charlie Coe was a phenomenal amateur in the 1940s and Scott Verplank has a similar track record to Tway’s, but Tway gets the nod for his major championship win in 1986. His two-stroke victory at the ’86 PGA Championship was secured in exhilarating fashion with a holed-out bunker shot on the 72nd hole to defeat runner up, Greg Norman. Tway won eight times on the PGA Tour and ended his career with six top-10s in majors. The Oklahoma City native is also known for a blunder: he owns the highest score recorded at the famous island green at TPC Sawgrass. In 2005, he posted a 12 on the par-3 and found the water four times from the tee. Tway’s son, Kevin, has also been a professional since 2011.
The state of Oregon has been put on the map recently for the Oregon Ducks winning the NCAA Championship in 2016. Before the program began to rise, Portland native Peter Jacobson starred there on his way to a productive PGA Tour career. Jacobson won seven times on the PGA Tour and revived his game late in his career to win 2003 Comeback Player of the Year. He never won a major, but recorded six top-10 finishes in a nine-year span in the ’80s. Known for his fun-loving personality and goofiness, “Jake Trout” made the natural transition to the commentator’s booth where he’s been a part of NBC Golf broadcasts for years.
RIP the King. Arnold Palmer’s passing in the summer of 2016 touched millions around the world, but his endearing presence was cultivated in the Keystone state. A native of Latrobe, Palmer learned the game while spending time with his father, a professional and greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club. His passion for golf synched with his skill, which was quickly apparent after a win at the US Amateur in 1954. He was off to the races from there, soon turning professional to get started on his 62 career PGA Tour wins (fifth all time). He was one of the first players to make golf cool, winning with grace and panache in a Hall of Fame career that concluded with seven major championships and six Ryder Cup appearances.
Some players are known for a discernible strong suit in their games. In his day, Brad Faxon was that guy with putting. Hailing from Barrington, Faxon led the PGA Tour in putting in 1996, 1999 and 2000 (a record-setting year of 1.704 putts/greens in regulation). “Believe it or not, I’m not really thinking about anything when I putt,” Faxon said. “I let my instincts take over. When I’m putting well, I feel like I can make everything.” Faxon parlayed his sweet stroke into 21 worldwide wins (eight PGA Tour) and four top-10 finishes in majors. Winner of the Payne Stewart award in 2005, Faxon is also regarded as one of the gentler figures on Tour, namely for his efforts in co-hosting the CVS Charity Classic in Rhode Island with Billy Andrade.
Dustin Johnson is hard-charging to assert himself as the greatest from the Palmetto state, but Beth Daniel still has enough on her side to give her the nod. The Charleston native won 41 tournaments in her career, including 33 on the LPGA Tour. Her illustrious amateur career of two US Amateur wins and two Curtis Cup appearances preceded a Hall of Fame-worthy professional stint. She won Player of the Year honors three times and made eight Solheim Cup teams.
The spirit of “The Hawk” lives on at the Dean & Deluca Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Texas
One of the original 13 founders of the LPGA in 1950, the Eureka native had some game, too. Highlighted by a win at the Women’s PGA Championship in 1958, Hagge won 26 times on Tour and helped pave the way for women in the professional circuit. Marlene’s sister, Alice, was also a co-founder and finished as high as 14th on the money list. Marlene was the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1949, LPGA money winner in 1956 and a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee in 2002.
Middlecoff almost forwent his golf pursuits for a career as a dentist. Instead, he cut his teeth on the PGA Tour, winning as an amateur in 1945 for the first of 40 career wins (10th all time). Of those 40 wins, three were majors: 1949 and 1956 US Open, 1955 Masters. The Halls native won 28 events in the 1950s, more than any other. Since 1986, Middlecoff has been a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and was renowned for his power and accuracy in his ballstriking.
Born within six months of legends Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, Hogan was part of one of the earliest golden ages in golf beginning in the 1930. “The Hawk” got his start in Stephenville, Texas, and turned professional before he was 18. The decision obviously worked out. Hogan is regarded as having one of the best swings of all time, one that’s still emulated nearly 60 years after Hogan’s last of 69 professional wins (64 PGA Tour) in 1959. If his nine major championships (and a Triple Crown in 1953) as part of a Hall of Fame career aren’t enough to impress you, consider his path to revive the latter part of his career. In February of 1949, Hogan and his wife survived a head-on car accident that left him with an array of injuries that carried the diagnoses that he may never walk on. Hogan defied the odds to come back ready for the 1950 season and 11 more wins before hanging it up.
George Von Elm
Based on his early form on the PGA Tour, Tony Finau might take over this helm in a decade or two. For now, it’s Salt Lake City native, Von Elm. He was one of the more dominant players in the 1920s and early ’30s. In an era where amateur status carried significant weight, he was one of the fixtures. Early in his career he won three Utah State Amateurs. Later, after losing twice to Bobby Jones in the US Amateur finals and semifinals in 1924 and ’25, Von Elm got the best of him in ’26 for a major championship in that time. He won five times on the PGA Tour and in majors finished second at the ’31 US Open and third at the ’26 Open Championship. Von Elm was also a course architect in his post-playing days.
Vermont has the right to claim World Golf Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan, who lived her young days in the Green Mountain State. But we won’t. The nod goes to major champion, Keegan Bradley. Perhaps affected by the anchored putter ban, the Woodstock native hasn’t made much of a splash since his last win at the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Championship. Still, it’s hard to diminish his two-year run between ’11 and ’12. He won at the Byron Nelson and PGA Championship to earn ROY honors, and tacked on a WGC win in his sophomore season. At age 30, there’s plenty of time to reestablish himself as an elite player, but even if his career were to end today, he’ll be forever revered by the folks from USA’s second smallest state.
Few had the charisma and skill to galvanize the galleries like Seattle’s own “Boom Boom” could
To rationalize this choice, all you’d have to say is “82 PGA Tour wins” and drop the mic. But an illustrious career deserves more courtesy. “Slammin’ Sammy” had a swing that is still studied and admired several decades after his prime. That sweet swing from the pride of Ashwood won seven majors, and was Phil Mickelson before there was Phil Mickelson with four runner-ups at the US Open, one of the few voids on his résumé. Known as an intelligent, innovative player, Snead’s longevity has been unmatched. He owns a variety of records: oldest player to win a PGA Tour event (52 years, 10 months, 8 days), oldest player to make a cut in a major and in a PGA Tour event (both at over 67 years and two months old) and the only player to place in the top 10 in a major in five decades. Internationally, he played on seven Ryder Cup teams and captained three. He passed away in 2002.
Nicknamed “Boom Boom,” Couples laidback demeanor and sense of cool enamored himself to a large fanbase. Despite back ailments that gave him fits across much of his career, few were as good as Couples when he was on top of his game. The Seattle native was a two-time PGA Tour Player of the year in 1991 and ’92, earning six of his 15 career wins in that span, including the 1991 Masters. Ironically with his injury history, Couples is still enjoying success as he approaches his 60th birthday. He’s won 11 times on the PGA Tour Champions and had a five-year cut streak after turning at Augusta snapped in 2016. With only one major championship, Couples’ induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013 was called into question by golf purists. He had his chances to earn more, finishing with 11 top-fives in majors that didn’t end in victory.
If you play in enough US Amateurs, you’re bound to win one of them, right? At least that might have been the logic of Huntington’s William Campbell. He teed it up 37 times beginning in 1941, finally breaking through in ’64. He played on eight Walker Cup teams (before it was passé to be on the team after your mid 20s), where he was as tough of an out as any, capping his career with a 7-0-1 singles record. In his elder days, two US Senior Amateur titles came along with a runner-up finish at the US Senior Open. A golf lifer, he was also on the USGA’s Executive Committee for several years and was just the third American to hold the position of Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. In today’s era of widespread professionalism in golf, Campbell will stand the test of time as one of the best amateurs.
Two of Andy North’s three career PGA Tour wins are at US Opens, leaving the Monona native with one of golf’s more confounding résumés. He joined the tour in 1972, finding moderate success to keep his card on Tour until his first win came at the 1977 American Express Westchester Classic. A nice feather in his cap, but what came next surely wasn’t expected. He won his country’s top tournament twice, first in 1978 and again in 1985. In between and after that stretch? No wins. Not even on the PGA Tour Champions. Two majors seems to be one of the requisites to make the World Golf Hall of Fame, but a little more meat on the bone is required, too, which North lacks. Nonetheless, two majors his hard to beat among Wisconsites, giving him the nod over Steve Stricker to be the big cheese in the state.
The pride of Sheridan seemed on his way to becoming a fixture on the PGA Tour. He won several times in amateur events around the state in the early 1980s on his way to earning a golf scholarship at Northwestern. There, he helped the Wildcats to a Big 10 Championship and All-American honors in his senior season. His steady linear progression continued to trend upward. He won Rookie of the Year and Order of Merit honors on the Canadian Tour and won in Australia before heading to the PGA Tour. In his first event, he beat out Peter Jacobson to win the 1988 Western Open. It was all happening for Benepe before his promising career was cut short just three years later due to constant back issues. He gave it a go again in the late ’90s on the Web.com Tour and abroad, but couldn’t fully revive the magic against a few high finishes.
Do you agree with our pick for best golfer from your state? Let us know in the comments below!
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