Vic Ghezzi, Jersey Golfer and PGA Champion

Golfer Vic Ghezzi
Vic Ghezzi was a winner on the PGA Tour in the 1930s and 1940s, including one major championship, and is still considered by many today the best male golfer out of New Jersey.

Full name: Victor J. Ghezzi

Date of birth: October 19, 1910

Place of birth: Rumson, New Jersey

Date and place of death: May 30, 1976 in Miami Beach, Florida

Wins By Vic Ghezzi

Ghezzi is credited with 11 PGA Tour victories:
  • 1935 Los Angeles Open
  • 1935 Calvert Open
  • 1936 Hollywood Open
  • 1936 New Jersey PGA Championship
  • 1937 Lake Placid Open
  • 1938 North and South Open
  • 1938 Inverness Invitational Four-Ball (partnered by Sam Snead)
  • 1938 Hershey Four-Ball (partnered by Ben Hogan)
  • 1941 PGA Championship
  • 1947 Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1948 Dapper Dan Tournament
Among the non-Tour pro wins for Ghezzi were the Maryland Open in 1935, plus multiple wins in the New Jersey State Open (1937, 1943, 1944) and New Jersey PGA Championship (1939, 1949).

Ghezzi In the Majors

Ghezzi's biggest win, of course, was the 1941 PGA Championship (more on that below), his lone major championship victory. He also fell in a three-way playoff for the 1946 U.S. Open title.

Ghezzi first played in a major at the 1932 U.S. Open, and he last entered a major at the 1973 PGA Championship. He had four Top 10 finishes in The Masters, and was sixth in the 1947 U.S. Open. In addition to winning the 1941 PGA Championship, Ghezzi reached the quarterfinals in 1945 and the semifinals in 1947.

His PGA Championship Win and U.S. Open Playoff Loss

Vic Ghezzi already had eight tour wins by the time of his 1941 PGA Championship win, but how he felt about his place in golf is clear in this quote he gave about the man he defeated in the championship match, Byron Nelson: "I won against one of the finest golf players we've ever had. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning."

To reach the final, Ghezzi defeated Joe Pezzullo, August Nordone, Jack Grout, Jimmy Hines and Lloyd Mangrum. There he found Nelson, the defending champ, waiting.

Nelson was 1-up after the morning 18, and 3-up after the 27th hole. Then Ghezzi won three consecutive holes to square it, and, after 36 holes, they were all square. On the first extra hole, they matched pars. But Ghezzi won it when Nelson bogeyed the 38th hole.

Nelson and Ghezzi met in another playoff at the 1946 U.S. Open. But there, it was the third man — Lloyd Mangrum — who won it. Ghezzi was the co-leader after the second round and in second place, one behind Nelson, after the third.

After the three golfers finished 72 holes tied at 284, they came back the next day for a 36-hole playoff. And the playoff was tight throughout, the players trading the lead frequently. All three shot 72 in the morning 18. Mangrum did again in the afternoon 18, but Nelson and Ghezzi carded 73s.

Ghezzi had led by two with five holes to play, but bogeyed two in a row. On the final green — with a front moving in, a light rain had started and lightning was flashing — Ghezzi left his 8-footer for par inches short, then Mangrum made a similar putt for the win.

Vic Ghezzi with Babe Zaharias

More About Vic Ghezzi

At 6-foot-4, Vic Ghezzi was one of the tallest pro golfers of his era. But he wasn't a long hitter. His game was more about control, and he had a deft touch on the greens. Chick Harbert, who beat Ghezzi in the PGA Championship semifinals in 1947, said this about him:
"Vic was never a long hitter off the tee, but he was one of the most superb short-iron players the game has ever known."
Ghezzi was born and raised in New Jersey and spent his entire professional career in the state. He worked at numerous clubs there, including as the longtime head professional at Deal Golf and Country Club. He also worked at Rumson Country Club and Englewood Golf Club in New Jersey, Inwood Country Club on Long Island, and spent some time at New York's Westchester Country Club. (At Westchester he met the then-owner of the New York Yankees, which, among other things, led to Ghezzi playing golf with Babe Ruth and, years later, giving lessons to Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.)

Ghezzi joined the PGA Tour in 1932 and his first win was the prestigious Los Angeles Open in 1935, when he was 23 years old.

The two four-ball titles Ghezzi won in 1938 were 2-man team tournaments. At the Inverness, his partner was Sam Snead. At the Hershey, his partner was Ben Hogan. Snead was already a major champ at that point, but neither Ghezzi nor Hogan was a star at that point. Hogan was originally assigned Tommy Armour (who was a star) as his partner, but after Armour withdrew due to injury, Ghezzi was given's Armour's place and his partner.

Their win was Ghezzi's eighth on tour, but it was Hogan's very first PGA Tour victory.

Ghezzi was selected for the United States Ryder Cup teams in 1939, 1941 and 1943, but none of them were played due to World War II. So Ghezzi never actually played in a Ryder Cup. (He did serve stateside in the U.S. Army during the war.)

Ghezzi made good stock market investments with his winnings over the years, and when he retired to Florida in 1960 he never worked again. He did serve on committees at the club he joined near Miami Beach, Indian Creek Country Club, and also had the title of consultant to Wilson Sporting Goods.

He was only 65 years old when he died of cancer in 1976.

Ghezzi is a member of the PGA of America's Hall of Fame, elected in 1965, and is also a member of the New Jersey State Golf Association Hall of Fame.

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