Gene Sarazen: Famous Golfer's Path to Hall of Fame

Gene Sarazen in 1926
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Gene Sarazen burst onto the golf scene by winning majors in the early 1920s, when he was in his early 20s, the start of a long, fruitful and trailblazing career. He later became one of golf's elder statesmen, living (and playing golf) almost to the age of 100.

Fast Facts: Gene Sarazen

  • Birth name: Eugenio Saraceni
  • Nickname: The Squire
  • Born: February 27, 1902 in Harrison, New York
  • Died: May 13, 1999 in Naples, Florida
  • Key Accomplishments: Winner of 38 PGA Tour titles, including seven major championships. First golfer to win the "career Grand Slam" in the four professional majors.
  • Spouse: Mary Sarazen (died 1986)
  • Children: Mary Ann and Gene Jr.
  • Famous Quote: "I don't care what you say about me, just spell the name right."
  • Fun Fact: Sarazen is credited as the inventor of the modern sand wedge.

His Numbers of Wins and Majors

Gene Sarazen is credited with 38 PGA Tour wins by the tour today. The list of those wins appears below. His first PGA Tour victory was in 1922, his last in 1941.

Of those 38 wins, seven were in major championships:

  • Sarazen won The Masters in 1935;
  • He won the U.S. Open in 1922 and 1932;
  • He won the 1932 British Open;
  • and he won the PGA Championship in 1922, 1923 and 1933.

Awards and Honors for Sarazen

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, 1932
  • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937
  • Recipient, PGA Distinguished Service Award
  • Recipient, USGA Bob Jones Award
  • Recipient, PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award

Gene Sarazen Biography

Sarazen was the first golfer to win the career grand slam (victories in each of golf's four professional majors) and was among the first class of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

But as much as he's known for his accomplishments on the course, Sarazen is also famous for an off-course accomplishment: He is generally credited with inventing the modern sand wedge. Sand wedges had been used in competition before (notably by Horton Smith and Bobby Jones), but those sand wedges had concave faces and were eventually banned by the USGA and R&A. The modern sand wedge was given form by Sarazen, according to the World Golf Hall of Fame, after Sarazen noticed how an airplane's tail adjusted during flight while receiving a flying lesson from Howard Hughes in 1931.

Sarazen's innovations also included a weighted practice club. He argued unsuccessfully for enlarging the hole size, believing more made putts would increase the popularity of the sport.

Sarazen turned pro in 1920, while still a teenager, and started winning majors — the 1922 U.S. Open and 1922 PGA Championship — at the age of 20. He won three majors in 1922-23, and four more in 1932-35. His "Shot Heard 'Round the World" at the 1935 Masters — a final-round hole-out from 225 yards with a 4-wood for a double-eagle on No. 15 — is one of the most famous shots in golf history. It helped Sarazen get into a playoff with Craig Wood, which Sarazen won to complete his career grand slam.

Sarazen's public profile remained high after his competitive days on the PGA Tour came to a close. In the 1960s, Sarazen teamed with Jimmy Demaret to form a colorful commentary team for broadcasts of "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf." And he remained a successful golfer well after his PGA Tour career ended, winning the Senior PGA Championship twice. He scored a hole-in-one in the 1973 British Open at age 71 (it came on the famed "Postage Stamp" hole at Royal Troon).

Sarazen was always a popular interview subject, too, as a connection to one of golf's "golden eras" and stars such as Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Beginning in 1984, Sarazen became one of The Masters' honorary starters, a role he served in until the year of his death. From 1984-99, Sarazen, along with Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, teed off The Masters each year.

At the time of his death in 1999, Sarazen was the oldest and longest-serving member of the PGA of America. He was 97 when he died.

List of Sarazen's Pro Tour Wins

Sarazen is credited today by the PGA Tour with 38 wins in official tour events:

  • 1922 Southern Spring Open
  • 1922 U.S. Open
  • 1922 PGA Championship
  • 1923 PGA Championship
  • 1925 Metropolitan Open
  • 1926 Miami Open
  • 1927 Long Island Open
  • 1927 Miami Beach Open
  • 1927 Metropolitan PGA
  • 1928 Miami Beach Open
  • 1928 Miami Open
  • 1928 Nassau Bahamas Open
  • 1928 Metropolitan PGA
  • 1929 Miami Open
  • 1929 Miami Beach Open
  • 1930 Miami Open
  • 1930 Agua Caliente Open
  • 1930 Florida West Coast Open
  • 1930 Concord Country Club Open
  • 1930 United States Pro Invitational
  • 1930 Western Open
  • 1930 Lannin Memorial Tournament
  • 1930 Middle Atlantic Open
  • 1931 Florida West Coast Open
  • 1931 La Gorce Open
  • 1931 Lannin Memorial Tournament
  • 1932 True Temper Open
  • 1932 Coral Gables Open
  • 1932 U.S. Open
  • 1932 The Open Championship
  • 1933 PGA Championship
  • 1935 Masters Tournament
  • 1935 Massachusetts Open
  • 1935 Long Island Open
  • 1937 Florida West Coast Open
  • 1937 Chicago Open
  • 1938 Lake Placid Open
  • 1941 Miami Biltmore International Four-Ball (team tournament, partnered by Ben Hogan)

In addition, Sarazen posted one win on the Australian Tour, the 1936 Australian Open. In senior (50-and-over) golf, Sarazen won the Senior PGA Championship in 1954 and 1958, and the World Senior Championship in 1954.