Golfer Sandy Herd, Open Champ and Innovator

golfer Sandy Herd

If you compiled a list of important golfers who've been largely forgotten today, Sandy Herd would be on it. He ushered the modern golf ball into the game's top levels, and he was the popularizer of waggling the golf club during setup. And, oh yeah, he was a British Open winner.

Full name: Alexander Herd

Date and place of birth: April 28, 1868, in St. Andrews, Scotland

Date and place of death: February 18, 1944, in London, England

Tournament Wins by Sandy Herd

1895 Irish Championship Meeting Professional Tournament
1896 Irish Championship Meeting Professional Tournament
1901 Irish Championship Meeting Professional Tournament
1902 British Open
1904 Leeds Cup
1905 Leeds Cup
1906 News of the World Match Play
1911 Sphere and Tatler Foursomes Tournament (partnered by James Bradbeer)
1923 Roehampton Invitation
1925 Hertfordshire Open Championship
1926 News of the World Match Play

Herd In the Majors

Herd had one win in a major:

The Open Championship is the only major that Herd played. The U.S. Open was the only other major that existed for the bulk of Herd's career, and her never traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to play it (nor did most other top British golfers of the era).

Herd was runner-up four times in the Open, and posted 20 Top 10 finishes.

Notable Notes about Sandy Herd

Born into a golfing family in St. Andrews, Alexander "Sandy" Herd tried a few other professions first. From age 14, he spent four years apprenticed to a baker, then five more apprenticed to a plasterer. Finally, at age 23, he accepted the golf professional position at Huddersfield Golf Club in England, a position Herd held from 1892 to 1911.

Four key things stand out about Herd's golf career:

  • His Open Championship record: We've already read about his one win, his runner-up finishes and all those Top 10s. Herd's Top 10s spanned from 1888 to 1927, his appearances from 1885 to 1933. His last runner-up was at age 52, a record until Tom Watson broke it in 2009. His last Top 10 was at age 58.

  • His "old-age" record: In addition to Herd's performances in his 50s at the Open, he won the News of the World Match Play in 1926 at age 58. No golfer since has won such a prestigious title on a major world golf tour (aside from senior tours, of course) at that age or older.

  • Herd ushered in the modern golf ball: The so-called Haskell ball is considered the first modern golf ball because it was the first with a rubber core. British amateur giant John Ball convinced Herd to try the Haskell early in 1902, and he immediately hit what he called his longest drive ever. At the British Open that year, Herd's victory was the first in a major golf tournament using the Haskell. Every other golfer in the field played with a gutty, but gutties went the way of featheries soon after Herd's win with the Haskell.

  • He waggled: Herd wasn't the inventor of the waggle, the little back-and-forth movement of the club during the setup, just before initiating the swing. But he was the golfer who made waggling famous. In his book The Who's Who of Golf, Peter Alliss wrote that Herd "helped to convince the golfing world that to-and-fro movements of the club before hitting prepare and loosen the muscles for the action to come." Alas, Herd's waggling sometimes got out of hand. An English tobacco card of the time (similar to American baseball cards) reported that Herd had been known to "address the ball twenty-four times before making up his mind to hit it."

Here is some rare footage of Herd that shows his waggle:

What else can we tell you about Herd? His brother Fred Herd won the 1898 U.S. Open. ... Long before the Ryder Cup existed, Sandy represented Scotland 10 times in the England-Scotland Professional Match. ... Herd was the most prolific acer of his era among pros, credited with 17 holes-in-one.

In the latter stages of his playing career and life, he was a golf instructor who taught patience and positivity such as this:

"You must not begin the downward swing as if you were anxious to get it over. Haste spells disaster and disaster is disheartening. I am always on the look-out against a pupil becoming downhearted."

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