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Major Champions at The Olympic Club

By: | Mon 31 May 2021 | Comments


Dating back to 1860 and considered the oldest athletic club in the United States, The Olympic Club in San Francisco reaches another milestone in its lengthy history when it hosts the 2021 US Women's Open.

Through its vast facilities and programmes, Olympic Club offers its members the chance to play 16 different sports, including golf, with a number of its best known figures having won medals at the Olympic Games and other significant events.

In 1918, the club took over a nearby golf course, transforming the venue with two new layouts, the Lake and Ocean, with the former having first hosted the men's US Open Championship in 1955, the first of several majors that remain imprinted on the memory. 

1955 US Open

Presenting a typically bruising challenge, the first US Open at Olympic Club was unforgettable. 42-year-old Ben Hogan was in search of a record-breaking fifth victory and led after 54 holes from a chasing group that included Sam Snead, Julius Boros, Tommy Bolt and Bob Rosburg.

However, it was little-known Jack Fleck who shocked them all with a stunning final round of 67, tying Hogan. Returning for an 18-hole playoff against the revered Texan, Fleck (using clubs manufactured by Hogan's company) defeated the great man by three shots to cause one of the biggest upsets in golf.

Ben Hogan never did win that fifth US Open.

1966 US Open

Just over a decade later, the US Open returned to Olympic, and the drama was repeated. Arnold Palmer led Billy Casper by three shots after 54 holes, an advantage that the game's most popular figure extended to seven with nine holes remaining. However, as Palmer struggled home, his playing partner Casper surged with three birdies on the back-nine to tie.

Back on Monday for a playoff, Palmer again moved ahead with nine holes to play, but he dropped five shots on the second nine, which opened the door for Billy Casper to take full advantage and claim his second US Open title.

It was another painful defeat for Arnold Palmer.

1987 US Open

We had to wait 21 years for the next US Open at Olympic Club, and it was momentous for Scott Simpson. Beginning the final round one stroke back of former champion Tom Watson, the American shot a final round of 68 to finish one ahead of the eight-time major winner, whose birdie putt on the 18th narrowly missed.

Seve Ballesteros was third, his best result in a US Open, with the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Bernhard Langer, Larry Mize and Curtis Strange also posting top ten finishes in the national championship.

It was Simpson's only major, but he later lost a playoff against Payne Stewart at the US Open in 1991.

1998 US Open

Payne Stewart had raced ahead of the field after 54 holes, but on a dramatic Sunday, it was 1993 winner Lee Janzen who triumphed for a second time, shooting a 68 to Stewart's 74, beating the 1991 champion by one shot on the Lake Course.

Bob Tway, Nick Price, Steve Stricker, David Duval and Lee Westwood were among the top ten finishers, as were Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson and Stewart Cink. 58-year-old Jack Nicklaus made the cut for a final time in the US Open.

12 months later, Payne Stewart redeemed this defeat in a thrilling duel with Mickelson at Pinehurst.

2012 US Open

The most recent US Open at Olympic Club, the 2012 championship was a congested and battling affair. 26-year-old Webb Simpson held on to fend off the challenge of Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson by a shot, with the likes of Jason Dufner, Padraig Harrington, David Toms and Ernie Els contending to the end, alongside 54-hole leader Jim Furyk, who ultimately finished two back of Simpson.

The Future

In addition to the US Opens, Olympic Club has welcomed the U.S. Amateur on three occasions, won by Colt Knost (2007), Nathaniel Crosby (1981), and Charles Coe (1958), with Jim Gallagher Jr and Mark McCumber winning Tour Championships here in the 1990s.

Looking ahead, the PGA of America has confirmed that Olympic Club will host the 2028 PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup in 1932 - ensuring that the venue's rich legacy within the game shall continue into future decades.

But first, it's time for the US Women's Open to etch its own chapter.


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