Why David Graham Is in the World Golf Hall of Fame

David Graham plays a shot during the 2020 Senior PGA Championship at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio.
David Graham plays a shot during the 2020 Senior PGA Championship at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio.

Scott Halleran / Getty Images

David Graham is a major-championship-winning pro golfer from Australia whose career took him to America and eventually into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Graham was friends with many of his era's biggest stars—Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Arnold Palmer—yet he was known to the public and many of his peers as an intense player with a personality often described as dour or flinty.

Fast Facts: David Graham

  • Known For: Professional golf career that resulted in election to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
  • Born: May 23, 1946 in Windsor, New South Wales, Australia
  • Key Accomplishments: Winner, 1979 PGA Championship; winner, 1981 U.S. Open; winner of eight PGA Tour tournaments total.
  • Fun Facts: Graham was the first male Australian golfer to win two different majors. In 1988, Graham was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

After beginning golf by playing left-handed (his mother had lefty clubs), Graham decided at age 14 to switch to his natural right-handedness. He quit school and focused entirely on golf, a decision that broke, forever, his relationship with his father.

Graham turned pro in 1962 at age 16. The Queensland PGA Championship in 1967 was his first significant pro win. By the early 1970s, Graham was winning around the world, including on the U.S. PGA Tour. The 1972 Cleveland Open was the first of his eight wins on the world's top tour.

Major Championship Wins

Graham's major breakthrough happened in the 1979 PGA Championship. He entered the final round four off the lead, then proceeded to have one of the all-time great final rounds in major championship history ... until the last hole.

With Ben Crenshaw in the clubhouse at 8-under 272, Graham needed only a bogey on the final hole to win the tournament. He double-bogeyed. Despite that 72nd-hole double bogey, Graham still carded a 65 in the round and tied Crenshaw at 272.

On the first sudden-death playoff hole, Crenshaw sank a 50-foot par putt. Graham then made his own 25-footer for par. On the second extra hole, Crenshaw sank a mid-range birdie putt. Graham than made his own 10-footer for birdie. Graham won the trophy with a birdie on the third extra hole.

It was Graham's fourth PGA Tour win. No. 5 was another big one, although not a major: Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in 1980.

Then, major win No. 2 happened at the 1981 U.S. Open. No playoff was necessary this time, as Graham shot 67 in the final round and won by three strokes. That win made Graham the first Australian winner of a U.S. Open.

Presidents Cup Captaincy and Controversy

Graham was honored by the PGA Tour when he was named captain of the International team for the first Presidents Cup in 1994.

Retrospectively, Graham is credited with doing a great organizing job to prepare for that first Cup and help ensure the event's success. But he hadn't communicated his efforts to the players on the team, many of whom arrived knowing little of what was expected of them for the new tournament.

Some of the players found Graham aloof, and his intensity rubbed some the wrong way.

When the PGA Tour reappointed Graham as Team International captain for the 1996 Presidents Cup, it did so without consulting any of the star golfers (such as Greg Norman, Steve Elkington, and Ernie Els).

The week of the 1996 British Open, 10 players from the International team held an hours-long meeting, after which nine of them (one abstained) voted to oust Graham as captain. Players even threatened to boycott if Graham wasn't removed.

Graham resigned a few days later. The publicly stated reason for Graham's removal, according to Sports Illustrated, was "that he had failed to communicate with the players and was unable to bring them together as a team."

Champions Tour Career Ended by Heart Problems

When Graham turned 50 in 1996, he joined the Champions Tour. In 1997, he won three senior tournaments; he added one more each in 1998 and 1999. Graham's tournament victory days were over at the point, but he continued playing the senior circuit, occasionally posting good finishes.

But his life as a pro tour golfer ended on the eighth green of the 2004 Bank of America Championship. Graham had been dealing with a cough through much of that summer. In the final round, his caddie urged him to leave the course, concerned by Graham's appearance.

After trying to putt out on the eighth hole, Graham collapsed and was rushed to a hospital. He spent five days undergoing tests and observations, and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

"That was the end of me as a golfer," Graham later told Golf Digest. "It was almost the end of me, period."

Tour Wins By David Graham

Graham won eight tournaments on the PGA Tour:

  • 1972 Cleveland Open
  • 1976 American Express Westchester Classic
  • 1976 American Golf Classic
  • 1979 PGA Championship
  • 1980 Memorial Tournament
  • 1981 Phoenix Open
  • 1981 U.S. Open
  • 1983 Houston Coca-Cola Open

He recorded nine victories on the Australasian Tour:

  • 1967 Queensland PGA Championship
  • 1970 Tasmanian Open
  • 1970 Victorian Open
  • 1975 Wills Masters
  • 1977 Australian Open
  • 1979 CBA West Lakes Classic
  • 1979 Air New Zealand Shell Open
  • 1985 Queensland Open
  • 1987 Queensland Open

Graham also posted one win on the European Tour (1982 Trophee Lancome) and one on the Japan Tour (1976 Chunichi Crowns). Graham's other victories around the world include the Thailand Open and French Open in 1970, the Piccadilly World Match Play Championship in 1976, the Mexican Open and Brazilian Classic in 1980, and the Trophee Lancome in 1981 (before it became a European Tour event).

After turning 50, Graham played several seasons on the Champions Tour and posted five victories:

  • 1997 GTE Classic
  • 1997 Southwestern Bell Dominion
  • 1997 Comfort Classic
  • 1998 Royal Caribbean Classic
  • 1999 Raley's Gold Rush Classic