The Best Birth Years for Golfers
Throughout the history of the game, the greatest players have been united by their immense ability and considerable success, but it may come as a surprise when you look closer and notice how many of them shared an age.
Purely coincidental, but it's striking the number of legendary golfers who were born in the same year. Here are some of the most notable examples.
Literary scholars will know that Charles Dickens died in 1870, but for golf, it was a significant time marking the birth of several future legends. Harry Vardon and James Braid were born during this year, with the third member of the Great Triumvirate John Henry Taylor entering the world several months later in 1871.
Vardon and Braid combined for 11 Open Championships, but they weren't alone in being born in this year. Freddie Tait was a two-time winner of the Amateur Championship, amazed galleries at St Andrews by massively surpassing the driving distances of his day, but lost his life in action during the Second Boer War.
Two of golf's timeless names, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen were born in 1902. From Atlanta, Jones was the finest amateur the game has known, winning four U.S. Opens, three Opens, four U.S. Amateurs and one Amateur Championship, completing the Grand Slam by securing all four in 1930. He then retired at the age of 28 to pursue alternative ventures, including establishing Augusta National Golf Club and founding the Masters Tournament.
Sarazen's achievements continue to resonate, a month older that Jones, The Squire won 39 PGA Tour events, including seven professional major championships, perhaps most notably the 1935 Masters.
Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson are regarded as being the greatest players of their generation, but remarkably they were all born in 1912. Combined, the three won an extraordinary 198 PGA Tour events.
Incredibly, Hogan overcame a life-threatening car accident to set new standards for greatness, Snead continues to hold the record for most victories on the circuit and amazed with his longevity, while Nelson is best known for winning 18 tournaments, including 11 consecutively, in 1945, before stepping away from the regular tour at a young age.
Both Arnold Palmer and Peter Thomson would have turned 90 during 2019. The swashbuckling American transformed the popularity of the game, winning seven major championships and standing as the most enduringly popular figure in golf, while the cerebral Australian, Thomson, who passed away in 2018, won five Open Championships during the 1950 and 60s, including three-in-a-row between 1954 and 1956. Both will forever be held as legends of golf.
Additionally, when you consider that the likes of major winners Dow Finsterwald and Bob Goalby were born in 1929, it wasn't a bad year for introducing new golfers to the world.
Turning 84 in 2019, Gary Player and Mickey Wright are two of the most successful players in history. The South African, Player, defied geography and his small stature to win an estimated 163 professional titles, including nine major championships, while Wright is arguably the best female golfer of all time, winning 13 majors in a career that included a total of 82 LPGA Tour victories, despite retiring from full-time play at the age of 34.
Four-time major runner-up, Australia's Bruce Crampton was also born in 1935, a winner of 44 professional titles.
Celebrating their 80th years in 2019, the charismatic and gifted Lee Trevino won six majors across a career that crossed boundaries, while no one has won more times on the LPGA Tour than another Texan, Kathy Whitworth. A seven-time player of the year on the circuit, her 88 wins is likely to forever stand as a record.
Another LPGA icon born in 1939, JoAnne Carner won 43 times, including two U.S. Women's Open, and at 65 became the oldest player to make a cut in 2004.
There was a hugely significant group of golfers born in 1949, headed by the great Tom Watson, winner of eight majors, including five Open Championships. Compatriot Tom Kite was among the most consistent players on the PGA Tour for decades, while Lanny Wadkins is considered one of the fiercest competitors in the history of the Ryder Cup.
Bernard Gallacher and Isao Aoki are also among this impressive vintage who have turned 70 during 2019.
When it comes to great years for future stars, 1957 is hard to beat. Major winners Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Nancy Lopez, Payne Stewart, Nick Price, Mark O'Meara, and Bernhard Langer were all born during these 12 months, each enjoying sparkling careers. For those adding up, that's a combined 24 championship victories.
The most successful player in the history of the Ladies European Tour, four-time major winner and Solheim Cup stalwart Laura Davies was born in 1963, but she isn't the only significant name to have entered the world at that time. Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, eight-time Order of Merit leader on the European Tour and Ryder Cup hero, was born several months earlier, while three-time major champion Vijay Singh is the oldest of the three.
Golfers who have turned 50 in 2019 and will bring an international freshness to the senior game include the likes of Retief Goosen, Paul Lawrie, Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera, Michael Campbell and Shaun Micheel, all major winners born in a historic year for the world that was dominated by the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.
Just a year later, 1970 turned out to be a significant one for golf. The legendary Annika Sorenstam - for many the greatest female player in history - was born as the new decade came round, a winner of ten majors and 72 LPGA Tour events. Just a few months earlier, Phil Mickelson made his way into the world, later securing three Masters Tournaments and an Open Championship among a glittering career.
Renowned names like Jim Furyk, Mike Weir, KJ Choi and Rich Beem were also born in 1970.
For the current generation on tour, 1980 was a notable year for golfers. Former world number ones Justin Rose and Adam Scott were born at the beginning of an iconic decade, joined by European Ryder Cup legend Sergio Garcia and past FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker, all players who may yet have major success to come in future.
The new breed of tour player could be linked back to 1993. During these 12 months, three-time major champion Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were born, as was rising American star Xander Schauffele. On the LPGA Tour, the likes of Jessica Korda, Sei Young Kim and former U.S. Women's Open champion Sung Hyun Park turn 26 in 2019.
So, there you have it. Great players are born all the time, but sometimes in certain years they have come together as a package. Which year has the most impressive group for you?
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