Golfer Tony Manero: From Caddie to U.S. Open Champ

Pro golfer Tony Manero
Tony Manero was a PGA professional who won Tour events in the 1930s. But he is best-known as the champion of the 1936 U.S. Open.

Full name: Anthony T. Manero

Date and place of birth: April 4, 1905, in New York City

Date and place of death: October 22, 1989, in Greenwich, Connecticut

Significant Wins by Tony Manero

Manero won eight times in tournaments that today are counted as PGA Tour events:

  • 1929 Catalina Open
  • 1930 Glens Falls Open
  • 1930 Catalina Open
  • 1930 Pasadena Open
  • 1932 Westchester Open
  • 1935 General Brock Hotel Open
  • 1936 U.S. Open
  • 1938 Glens Falls Open
He also won the Carolinas Open, a PGA Section championship, in 1934 and 1937; plus the New Hampshire Open in 1937, 1939 and 1941. His final professional tournament win was the 1948 Westchester Open, a tournament that was once a PGA Tour event (he won it in 1932) but was no longer at the time of Manero's 1948 win.

Manero in the Majors

Manero played in 10 PGA Championships, 14 Masters, and 20 U.S. Opens. And he won one of those, the 1936 U.S. Open.

At that tournament, played on the Upper Course at Baltusrol in New Jersey, Manero was paired in the final round with his boyhood idol and fellow Italian-American Gene Sarazen. Sarazen, by all accounts, acted as a calming influence on Manero during the fourth round, offering encouragement and steadying Manero's nerves.

Still, it appeared as if Lighthorse Harry Cooper would be the winner when Cooper got into the clubhouse with a new tournament record of 284. But Manero, who began the round much later than Cooper, still had a large chunk of his final round to go.

And all Manero did was shoot a then-course record of 67 to break Cooper's brand-new record with an even newer tournament record of 282.

Manero's first appearance in a major was in 1927. He last played the U.S. Open in 1954, but continued playing the Masters into the 1960s.

Outside of his U.S. Open victory, Manero's best finishes in majors include reaching the semifinals of the 1937 PGA Championship, and making it to the quarterfinals of the PGA in 1929 and 1936.

Facts and Figures About Tony Manero

Here's a quote about Manero from Brooklyn Daily Eagle sports writer Ralph Trost in 1936:

"The Manero on the golf links is a businesslike worker. His long, lean face presents a strong contrast to his chunky, long-bodied form. His motions, birdlike in their quickness, belie the pugnacity of his youth which almost put him in the prize ring and not on the golf course."

Manero was born in the Bronx, the "son of an Italian gardner," according to one 1930s newspaper article. He got into golf through caddying, beginning to loop at Elmsford Country Club in Elmsford, N.Y., "when he was about the height of a golf bag."

He also caddied at Fairview Country Club near Westchester, N.Y., as a youth. Manero continued caddying, working in the golf shop and repairing clubs until he was 21.

Then, in 1926, he became a PGA pro and started dipping his clubs into the tournament circuit. His first win of note was at the 1929 Catalina Open.

Manero eventually headed south, becoming the head professional at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was still working there when he won the 1936 U.S. Open.

Manero's victory was treated as a major surprise, but he wasn't a nobody: He had six PGA Tour wins by that point, and was regarded as one of the best putters on tour.

Manero's tournament-record score of 282 only stood for one year; Ralph Guldahl lowered it by a stroke in winning the 1937 U.S. Open.

Manero played in the 1937 Ryder Cup for Team USA, posting a 1-1 record. ... He also left Sedgefield CC that year to take the head pro job at Salem Country Club near Boston, a post he held for a couple decades to come.

While Manero didn't win much after his U.S. Open triumph, he remained a familiar face in pro golf for another couple decades. He continued playing in The Masters on the invitation of Bobby Jones until the early 1960s.

The August 1, 1959, issue of the USGA's Through the Green publication included this blurb about another Manero feat:

"Tony Manero looked like the Open Champion of old recently when he scored 2-3-1, an eagle, a birdie and an ace, on consecutive holes at the High Ridge Country Club, Poundridge, N.Y. An eagle 2 on the eighth hole was followed by a birdie on the par-4 ninth and a hole-in-one on the 145 yard tenth."

There's another famous New Yorker named Tony Manero: the character played by John Travolta in the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever. But as far as we can tell, the movie name was not inspired by the golfer; it's just coincidence.

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