Now that J.B. Holmes has finally finished and the overblown Matt Kuchar/caddie kerfuffle has been put to rest, let’s take a moment to appreciate Gene Littler.
“The Machine” passed away last Friday in San Diego at 88, slipping away quietly while leaving behind an extraordinary record that included 29 PGA Tour victories including the 1961 U.S. Open.
Unless you’ve followed golf since the 1970s, Littler’s name might not mean much to you. We live in a society where if it didn’t happen in the last two weeks, it probably wasn’t important.
All you need to know about Littler is that the great Mickey Wright called him her hero.
Littler’s golf swing was a thing of beauty, as graceful as Fred Astaire and with a rhythm Bruno Mars would envy. Littler played at a time when the game wasn’t built around power and, like Sam Snead, he had a natural grace that couldn’t be taught but was universally admired.
“I loved to watch him practice,” Lanny Wadkins said. “He had such great tempo in his swing and his putting stroke was so good. Plus, he was one of the true gentlemen who ever played.”
Only 18 players have won more PGA Tour events than Littler. He won more than Gary Player or Johnny Miller or Raymond Floyd. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have won 25 Tour events combined. Littler also played on seven Ryder Cup teams, the most of anyone at that time.
Gene Littler after the second round of the 1954 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Newsprint attached to back of photo reads: "Leads With...
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