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When you’re the first golfer to win the career grand slam, then you must be considered one of the great golfers of all time. But Gene Sarazen’s accomplishments on the golf course are only one part of the story. Gene Sarazen is the man behind the creation of the modern sand wedge.
While sand wedges had been used in competitive golf at this time, they were much different clubs, usually with a concave face which were eventually banned by the PGA rules committee. Gene Sarazen came up with the idea for the modern sand wedge when he was given a flying lesson by Howard Hughes in 1931. Gene noticed how the plane’s tail adjusted to the wind and air around it and he worked on honing a club that would accommodate sand.
Gene Sarazen also petitioned the PGA to widen the hole size of the cups on greens. His argument was that a larger hole would improve scoring and make the game more appealing to the general public. He was right. He is also credited with creating the weighted practice club, which is still used by millions of golfers around the world.
Gene Sarazen, though, also won a "few" tournaments during his career. He won 39 PGA tour tournaments in total, including 7 majors. He turned pro when he was a teenager, in 1920, and went on to win his first major, the 1922 U.S. Open at the age of 20. As though that accomplishment wasn’t enough, he went on to win the PGA Championship later that same year.
Here's a list of all of his tournament wins:
- 1922 (3) Southern (Spring) Open, U.S. Open, PGA Championship
- 1923 (1) PGA Championship
- 1925 (1) Metropolitan Open
- 1926 (1) Miami Open
- 1927 (3) Long Island Open, Miami Open, Metropolitan PGA
- 1928 (4) Miami Beach Open, Miami Open, Nassau Bahamas Open, Metropolitan PGA
- 1929 (2) Miami Open, Miami Beach Open
- 1930 (8) Miami Open, Agua Caliente Open, Florida West Coast Open, Concord Country Club Open, United States Pro Invitational, Western Open, Lannin Memorial Tournament, Middle Atlantic Open
- 1931 (3) Florida West Coast Open, La Gorce Open, Lannin Memorial Tournament
- 1932 (4) True Temper Open, Coral Gables Open, U.S. Open, British Open
- 1933 (1) PGA Championship
- 1935 (3) Masters Tournament, Massachusetts Open, Long Island Open
- 1937 (2) Florida West Coast Open, Chicago Open
- 1938 (1) Lake Placid Open
- 1941 (1) Miami Biltmore International Four-Ball (with Ben Hogan)
During the 1935 Master’s Tournament, Gene Sarazen hit the ‘Shot Heard ‘Round the World’ when he holed out a 225- yard 4-wood for a double eagle on the final round on hole number 15 to help him get into a playoff with Craig Wood. Gene Sarazen won the playoff and claimed his career grand slam.
His golf prowess didn’t end when his PGA Tour career ended, though. He won two PGA Seniors Championships and made a hole-in-one at the British Open in 1971. At the Master’s, between 1984 and 1999, he was one of former champions who alternated hitting the ceremonial opening tee shot, sharing that honor with Sam Snead and Byron Nelson.
Gene Sarazen had an easy demeanor and was not concerned with how the media portrayed him. He once stated, “I don’t care what you say about me. Just spell my name right.” Gene Sarazen is one of the true legends of golf.
Here's a great video of his swing