Golfer Dick Mayer: From U.S. Open Choker to Champion

Dick Mayer was a winner on the PGA Tour in the 1950s and 1960s who is best-remembered as a U.S. Open champion.

Full name: Alvin Richard Mayer

Date of birth: August 28, 1924

Place of birth: Stamford, Connecticut

Date and place of death: June 2, 1989 in Palm Springs, California

Dick Mayer's PGA Tour Wins

Mayer is credited with seven wins in official PGA Tour tournaments: The Miami Four-Ball was a team tournament; in his victory there, Mayer partnered Tommy Bolt.

Mayer In the Majors

Aside from his U.S. Open win in 1957, Mayer had only four other Top 10 finishes in the four professional majors: third in the 1954 U.S. Open, 10th in the 1955 Masters, fifth in the 1957 PGA Championship and fourth in the 1959 Masters.

Mayer's first appearance in any of the majors was in the 1948 U.S. Open; his last major championship start was in the 1967 Masters. He never played the British Open.

From U.S. Open Collapse to U.S. Open Champion

Before Mayer earned the biggest win of his career in the 1957 U.S. Open, first he badly blew another U.S. Open that he had a great chance to win.

In the 1954 U.S. Open, Mayer trailed leader Ed Furgol by one stroke at the start of the final round. When Mayer reached his final hole, he was in position to win the tournament with a par. Instead, he triple-bogeyed and finished in a tie for third place. (Mayer's troubles started off the tee when a fan yelled during his backswing.)

When asked how he held his nerve to win in '57 after blowing it in '54, Mayer told Sports Illustrated:

"I think that my father put his finger on it best. He said I was able to win because I was 'physically, mentally and humorously prepared.' ... Well, in the (1957) Open I was lucky enough to be in that frame of mind where I was amused rather than upset by my inability to control the uncontrollable."

In 1957, Mayer and Billy Joe Patton tied the then-tournament record for first 36 holes (138). Mayer trailed Jimmy Demaret by one following the third round.

Mayer reached the final hole needing a par to tie to Demaret, the clubhouse leader. He struck a crisp approach to nine feet and made the birdie to take the lead.

One hour later, defending champ Cary Middlecoff reached the 72nd hole and birdied it to tie Mayer and force an 18-hole playoff.

It was a playoff everyone expected Middlecoff to win, but instead Mayer dominated — although more because Middlecoff was off his game. Mayer shot a steady 72 and won by seven strokes over Middlecoff's 79.

One advantage Mayer had in the playoff: He got to sit a lot. Middlecoff was one of the slowest players in tour history. Mayer showed up for the playoff carrying a camping stool (commissions earned) so he could take a seat while waiting on Middlecoff. In the 100-degree heat in which the playoff was played, perhaps that made a difference. (Or perhaps it unnerved Middlecoff a bit.)

More About Dick Mayer

Mayer grew up in Connecticut and as a young man apprenticed to Claude Harmon at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York.

In 1948, when Mayer was still an amateur, he was spotlighted by Ben Hogan in a newspaper column (the column was published under Hogan's byline from 1947-49). Mayer had recently impressed the pros by playing well during the North and South Open at Pinehurst.

Hogan wasn't at the tournament, but, he said, fellow pros told him about Mayer.

"What impressed the pros most about Mayer's game was his calmness under fire," Hogan wrote. He said Mayer had "a free, easy, unhurried swing" and "hits iron shots with crispness and confidence." And the pros also told him, Hogan said, that Mayer "exudes personal charm" and is "a handsome and likable kid."

Mayer turned pro in 1949 and first won on the tour in 1953. The only year he had multiple titles was in 1957, first at the U.S. Open then at the tour's most lucrative event, the World Championship of Golf. Mayer earned just over $7,000 for winning the major; he got $50,000 for winning the World Championship of Golf.

Not surprisingly, Mayer was the PGA Tour's leading money winner that year, and was also named Player of the Year. The year 1957 was also the only time Mayer made the United States Ryder Cup team.

It was eight years before Mayer won again, and that victory in the 1965 Greater New Orleans Open Invitational was his last PGA Tour win.

Dick Mayer Chesterfield cigarettes ad

In 1958, Mayer's golf instructional book, How to Think and Swing Like a Golf Champion (commissions earned), was published. ... He also appeared in print ads for Chesterfield cigarettes in the aftermath of his U.S. Open win. ... Mayer lived much of his adult life in Florida, and in 1966 was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. ... In 2008, he was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.

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