Dave Ragan: Bio of the PGA Tour Winner

Dave Ragan was a PGA Tour golfer who won several tournament in the 1950s and 1960s, and also challenged Jack Nicklaus at a PGA Championship. He then spent many years as a highly regarded golf instructor.

Full name: David William Ragan Jr.

Date of birth: August 7, 1935

Place of birth: Daytona Beach, Florida

Date and place of death: March 13, 2018 in Birmingham, Alabama

His Biggest Wins

Ragan had three wins on the PGA Tour: In addition, Ragan won multiple other professional tournaments that were not official PGA Tour events:
  • 1956 Florida Open (playing as an amateur)
  • 1957 Waterloo Open Golf Classic
  • 1961 Haig & Haig Scotch Foursome (team event, partnered with Mickey Wright)
  • 1962 Florida PGA Championship
  • 1963 Haig & Haig Scotch Foursome (team event, partnered with Mickey Wright)
  • 1963 Senior Service Tournament

Ragan In the Majors

Dave Ragan is best-remembered today as the runner-up to Jack Nicklaus in the 1963 PGA Championship. The tournament was played in searing heat at Dallas Athletic Club in Texas; for Nicklaus it was his second title in a major, his seventh overall PGA Tour win.

Ragan was tied for fifth at the end of the third round, five strokes off Bruce Crampton's lead and one behind Nicklaus. Ragan carded a 69, one of the few sub-70 scores, in the final round. And he was within one stroke of Nicklaus' lead with two holes to play, but made bogey on the 17th hole. Nicklaus shot 68 and beat Ragan by two strokes.

Ragan never played the British Open, and he had no Top 10 finishes in the U.S. Open or Masters. His first major championship appearance was in the 1958 Masters, and his last in the 1982 PGA Championship. He played in 20 majors total. Other than the 1963 PGA, his best finishes were a tie for seventh in the 1962 PGA Championship and a tie for 12th in the 1963 U.S. Open.

More About Dave Ragan

Dave Ragan learned golf playing at a municipal course in Daytona Beach, and while in high school had already developed a reputation as someone very interested in and knowledgeable about golf swing mechanics. He attended the University of Florida and played on the golf team in 1954-56. While there, he won the 1956 Florida Open playing as an amateur.

He also won the Southern Intercollegiate tournament and, in 1956 (a season for which he was named All-America), the Southeastern Conference championship tournament.

Ragan turned pro in 1956, and soon established himself as a tournament presence, if not a big winner. He was once called by the PGA Tour "a steady, consistent presence on the leaderboards in the 1950s and 1960s."

His best years were from 1959-63, during which time he earned all his PGA Tour wins plus the bulk of his eight career runner-up finishes on tour. Tour win No. 1 was the 1959 Eastern Open Invitational, but Ragan was also runner-up that year at the San Diego Open, Portland Centennial Open and Mobile Sertoma Open.

He was runner-up at the 1960 Los Angeles Open, and two more tournaments in 1961 including the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am. Then, in 1962, after another runner-up at the Buick Open, Ragan got his second and third tour wins within the space of a month at the Beaumont Open and West Palm Beach Open.

Ragan finished a career-high eighth on the PGA Tour money list in 1962, and the strength of that season earned him a spot on the American team in the 1963 Ryder Cup. He went 2-1-1 in Team USA's win, teaming with Billy Casper for a foursomes victory and beating Neil Coles in singles.

While in the U.K. for the Ryder Cup, Ragan also won the 1963 Senior Service Tournament in Scotland. The highlights of his other non-Tour victories were wins in the 1961 and 1963 Haig & Haig Scotch Foursome (better remembered today as the JCPenney Classic) partnered both times by the LPGA legend Mickey Wright.

Ragan also appeared in two episodes of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf (affiliate link): in 1962 vs. Celestino Tugot in the Philippines, and in 1964 vs. Bob Charles in Hawaii.

This short video clip of an early 1960s exhibition includes several swings by Ragan, including in slow-motion:

Ragan's tour showings began to fall off beginning in 1964, and 1967 was the last year he played a full schedule on the PGA Tour. He dropped off the tour after 1970, except for a handful of starts in 1982-83.

In 316 career PGA Tour starts, Ragan had three wins, eight seconds, four thirds and 54 Top 10 finishes. During his best years, which encompassed 278 starts, he missed only six cuts.

Ragan started turning his attention to teaching after tour life ended. It was something he was already known for: In Golf Magazine's Winning Pointers from the Pros (affiliate link) book, published in the mid-1960s, Ragan authored the chapter on the follow-through.

Ragan served for many years as the director of golf and teaching pro at Dubsdread Golf Club in Winter Park, Fla., then at two clubs in the Birmingham, Ala., area: Pine Tree Country Club and Inverness Country Club. He also spent some time coaching college golf teams at Louisiana Lafayette and Tennessee Temple universities.

Ragan was 82 years old when he died in 2018. Today he is a member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, and is remembered every year at Pine Tree Country Club's club championship, now named the Dave Ragan Cup.

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