Profile of Buck White, PGA Tour Winner

Buck White was a golf professional who played PGA Tour events in the 1940s and 1950s, and even won three of them. He also set a senior golf record that stood for more than 50 years.

Full name: Emmett O'Neal White

Date of birth: February 7, 1911

Place of birth: Memphis, Tennessee

Date and place of death: January 23, 1982 in Gulfport, Mississippi

Also known as: He always went by his nickname, Buck. His given first name, Emmett, he almost never used, so if his nickname wasn't used in print, he was usually called O'Neal White.

His Biggest Wins

White is credited with three PGA Tour victories:
  • 1946 Memphis Invitational
  • 1951 Sioux City Open
  • 1951 Empire State Open
In addition, he won multiple events that were not PGA Tour tournaments, including:
  • 1944 Kentucky Open
  • 1947 Michigan Open
  • 1950 Sam Ellis Golf Tournament

White In the Majors

Buck White's best finish in a major was a tie for sixth place in the 1949 U.S. Open. After opening with a 74, White carded a second-round 68 that vaulted him into a tie for second place. A third-round 70 left him in solo second, one off Cary Middlecoff's lead. But in the final round, White shot 78 and fell to sixth, four strokes off Middlecoff's winning total.

White played in 21 majors, first at the 1938 U.S. Open, last at the 1962 PGA Championship. He had no other Top 10 finishes.

More About Buck White

Born in Tennessee, Buck White went to work as a club pro at Indianola Country Club in Mississippi in 1929, when he was only 18 years old. He spent the next several decades with that state as his home base. In 1940, he laid out a 9-hole golf course that still exists at Amory Golf Club in Amory, Mississippi.

White's first brush with national prominence was in the 1943 All American Open at Tam O'Shanter Country Club near Chicago. There, he finished tied for first place with Jug McSpaden, but lost the 18-hole playoff by one stroke. The New York Times referred to White as the "golfer with the delicate putting touch," but other reporters, noting the wartime absences of many top players, weren't impressed. One even wrote that White "was only able to contend as a result of a noticeable lack of depth in a field that even included heavyweight boxer Joe Louis."

But after a break from golf due to World War II — White served in Gen. George Patton's 20th Armored Division — White had the last laugh, winning the first of his three PGA Tour titles in his hometown at the 1946 Memphis Invitational. That tournament took place in September, and not only was it White's first win, but it was his first finish in the money all year. The Associated Press reporter wrote that White was "putting phenomenally" and described him as "husky, florid-faced." White wound up 33rd on the money list that year.

His best PGA Tour money list finish was 22nd in 1951, when he won his second and third tour events, but posted no other Top 10s.

That year White authored an instructional article for Golf Digest titled "The Five Cardinal Points of a Good Swing." That article was re-analyzed by the magazine and a modern instructor in 2020.

White couldn't carry forward his 1951 momentum, however: He dropped to 76th on the money list in 1952 and was soon off the tour. White continued working as a club pro and also began picking up clients, including some tour pros, as an instructor.

When he turned 50 in 1961, White began playing in the biggest tournament that existed for "senior" golfers, the PGA Senior Championship. And in his debut round, he fired a 63 that not only broke the tournament scoring record, but was four strokes better than anyone else scored in the entire tournament. White wasn't able to follow it up, however, and finished tied for 12th place. His score of 63 stood as the 18-hole Senior PGA Championship record until it was finally bettered in 2012.

White played in the Senior PGA Championship almost every year through 1973. He spent his last 20 years in Florida, concentrating on instruction until his retirement in 1977. But when he died at age 70 in 1982, White was back in Mississippi.

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