Golfer Bob Hamilton: PGA Champion, Age-Shooter Record-Holder

Bob Hamilton was a PGA pro known as a great wedge player and whose greatest success was winning a PGA Championship in the 1940s. Decades later, he became the youngest golfer ever to shoot his age.

Full name: Robert Tennyson Hamilton

Date and place of birth: January 10, 1916, in Evansville, Indiana

Date and place of death: December 6, 1990, in Evansville, Indiana

Tournament Wins by Bob Hamilton

Hamilton won five times on the PGA Tour: In addition, Hamilton won multiple tournaments in his native Indiana, beginning with the 1936 Indiana Amateur. He won the Indiana Open three times, first in 1938 and last in 1966, plus the Indiana PGA Championship twice (1943-44).

golfer Bob Hamilton

Hamilton In the Majors

Hamilton's first appearance in a major was when he finished 45th in the 1941 U.S. Open. His last was a 59th-place finish at the 1968 PGA Championship. Most years between were barren of major championship starts for Hamilton, first because of World War II and then due to injury and a preference for the club pro life.

In addition to his victory in the 1944 PGA Championship, Hamilton reached the semifinals of the PGA in 1952. He finished third in 1946 Masters and 1953 Masters. Those were his only Top 10s in majors.

PGA Championship Win

The PGA was the only major played in 1944 due to World War II. And many top PGA Tour players were absent due to wartime service. Hamilton was serving in the military himself, but as the head pro of the golf course at Fort Lewis in Washington state. He got to play the PGA only because it was held in Spokane, Wash., closed enough for Hamilton.

From the first round through the semifinals, Hamilton defeated Gene Kunes, Harry Bassler, Jug McSpaden and George Schneiter. That produced the championship match against Byron Nelson. They were all square through 18 holes, Hamilton was 2-up after the 29th, Nelson squared the match again on the 33rd.

But Hamilton went 1-up on the 34th hole, then held on for the victory.

Youngest Man to Shoot His Age

In addition to being a PGA champion, Hamilton's biggest other claim-to-fame is this: He holds the record as the youngest golfer ever to shoot his age.

In 1975, at the age of 59, Hamilton carded a round of 59 at Hamilton Golf Club in Evansville, Ind. Evansville is Hamilton's hometown, Hamilton Golf Club was his home course — in fact, he owned the course.

To this day, Hamilton remains the only known golfer to score a 59 at age 59.

More Notes About Bob Hamilton

Hamilton played for Team USA in the 1949 Ryder Cup, but lost both matches he played (including a singles loss to Dai Rees). ... At the 1967 Senior PGA Championship, Hamilton finished runner-up to winner Sam Snead. ... He was inducted into the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame in 1965 as part of that hall's second-ever induction class.

According to Peter Alliss' The Who's Who of Golf, Hamilton's career was impeded "by burnt hands sustained in a light plane crash." ... Coincidentally, Skip Alexander — a teammate of Hamilton's in the 1949 Ryder Cup — was severely injured in a plane crash in Evansville, Ind., Hamilton's hometown, in 1950. Hamilton was at Alexander's bedside in the hospital and handled many things for him during the recovery process.

Hamilton lived most of his life in Evansville and ran the Hamilton Golf Course there. The course still exists but today is named Thunderbolt Pass. ... Marcia Hamilton, a niece of Bob, lost in the championship match of the 1959 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship. ... Jim Hamilton, Bob's son, is a longtime golf pro and head coach of the men's and women's golf teams at the University of Evansville.

Photo credit: Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Golfer Bob Hamilton. (1946). Retrieved from; license CC BY-NC 4.0

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