Hale Irwin Biography

Hale Irwin on the PGA Tour in 1981.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hale Irwin was a gritty PGA Tour player known for playing well on tough courses - he won three times in the U.S. Open. Later, he became the most dominant player in Champions Tour history.

Career Profile

Date of birth: June 3, 1945
Place of birth: Joplin, Missouri

Tour Victories:

  • PGA Tour: 20
  • Champions Tour: 45

Major Championships: 3

  • 1974 U.S. Open
  • 1979 U.S. Open
  • 1990 U.S. Open

Awards and Honors:

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • Member, University of Colorado All-Century Football Team
  • Champions Tour awards and honors too numerous to mention: money titles, scoring titles, Senior majors, Player of the Year awards ...
  • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1991
  • Captain, U.S. Presidents Cup team, 1994

Quote, Unquote:

  • Hale Irwin: "Take the 20th player on the money list. He may not have won a tournament, but he has won a lot of money. He thinks he's a great player. The fans think he's a great player. I don't see it. Don't show me the money; show me what you've won."
  • Ken Venturi: "Aesthetically and technically, Hale stands at the ball as well as any player I've ever seen."


  • Bernhard Langer famously missed a 6-foot putt on the final hole of the final match of the 1991 Ryder Cup, giving the Americans the win in what has come to be known as "The War By the Shore." Hale Irwin was Langer's opponent, and Irwin's half-point secured the victory for the U.S.
  • During 1975-78, Irwin made 86 consecutive cuts - the fourth-best such string ever (behind Tiger Woods, Byron Nelson, and Jack Nicklaus).

Hale Irwin Biography

Hale Irwin's fierce determination to win, a single-minded pursuit of victory, helped push him to three U.S. Open championships, the first in 1974 and the last in 1990.

Irwin's first and last U.S. Open titles each produced defining moments. The 1974 U.S. Open has come to be known as "The Massacre at Winged Foot" for the incredibly tough conditions and high scores. Irwin survived, winning at 7-over-par after hitting a famous 2-iron approach to the No. 18 green.

At the 1990 U.S. Open, it was the 45-year-old Irwin's victory lap around the 18th green - a seemingly out-of-character display of emotion that included high-fiving spectators - that fans most remember. The run followed a 45-foot birdie putt that got him into an 18-hole playoff against Mike Donald, a playoff that Irwin needed one more hole (19 holes total) to win.

Irwin started golfing at age four and first broke 70 at age 14. He attended the University of Colorado, where he won the 1967 NCAA Championship. But Irwin was also a terrific football player, named All-Big Eight Conference as a defensive back in two seasons. He was also an Academic All-American.

Irwin turned pro in 1968 and got his first PGA Tour win in 1971. In addition to his three U.S. Open wins - he also won in 1979 - Irwin twice won the World Match Play Championship. He also compiled a terrific 13-5-2 record in five Ryder Cup appearances.

Hale Irwin's great iron play and determined efforts helped earn him the reputation as a top player on tough courses and under tough conditions. His final PGA Tour win came in 1994 at the age of 48. Two years later, he joined the Champions Tour, where he became the most dominant player in that tour's history, setting numerous records for scoring, money, and victories.

Irwin won at least once in each of his first 11 years on the Champions Tour, wracking up 44 victories in that time space (he wound up with 45, the all-time tour record by 16 over second-place Lee Trevino). In 2005, Irwin went winless for the first time as a Champions Tour member, but he came back at age 61 to win the first event of the 2006 season.

Outside of competition, Irwin owns a golf course design company.

Hale Irwin was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.