Who Was the First Golfer to Finish Under Par in a U.S. Open?

John McDermott, the first golfer to win the US Open under par
The U.S. Open is one of the four major championships of men's professional golf, and is considered the toughest of them all. The USGA, which runs the tournament, is notorious for setting up harsh golf course conditions in an effort, in their words, to "defend par."

So you might think that no golfer finished under par in a U.S. Open until the second half of the tournament's more than 120-year history.

But it actually happened for the first time in 1912, and the golfer who first achieved this feat was Johnny McDermott.

The 1912 U.S. Open was played at the Country Club of Buffalo, to which the USGA gave a par of 74. Par for 72 holes, therefore, was 296.

McDermott carded rounds of 74, 75, 74 and 71 to finish at 294 — two strokes below par and two strokes ahead of runner-up Tom McNamara. So McDermott, who one year earlier had become the first American-born golfer to win the U.S. Open, in 1912 earned the distinction of being the first golfer ever to finish under par in a U.S. Open.

The idea of giving golf courses a par rating was a very new one at that time in golf history. In fact, the USGA had adopted par only one year earlier, defining it as "perfect play without flukes and under ordinary weather conditions, always allowing two strokes on each putting green."

By the way, you can play the golf course where McDermott won and finished under par. Although the Country Club of Buffalo still exists, it uses a different golf course today. That golf course from 1912 is today called the Grover Cleveland Golf Course and is a public golf course in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y.

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