The Only Golfers Who Won the U.S. Open in Their First Try

Have any golfers won the U.S. Open the very first time they played the tournament? Yes, it has happened five times. But it's been more than 100 years since the last time it happened.

These are the five golfers who won the U.S. Open in their first attempt at that major championship title:

  • Horace Rawlins, 1895 U.S. Open: The 1895 tournament was the first time the U.S. Open was ever played, so maybe the fact that Horace Rawlins is included in this list deserves an asterisk. After all, it didn't matter who the winner was: They were all playing the tournament for the first time. But Rawlins was, in fact, the golfer who won it.

  • Fred Herd, 1898 U.S. Open: Fred Herd's win came in another tournament first — it was the first time the U.S. Open was 72 holes in duration (the first three years it was only 36 holes). Factoid: Herd was such a notorious drinker that the USGA required him to pay a deposit before giving him the trophy. They were concerned he might pawn it for liquor money.

  • Harry Vardon, 1900 U.S. Open: Vardon was the greatest player of his era. He was 30 years old when he made his U.S. Open debut in 1900, but was already a three-time British Open winner. And he won the British Open another three times after this. But international travel was so time-consuming and expensive at the time that it was rare for British golfers to travel to America, unless they were coming for club jobs.

  • George Sargent, 1909 U.S. Open: Another Brit (as were Rawlins and Herd in addition to Vardon), Sargent trailed by two strokes entering the final round but wound up winning by four.

  • Francis Ouimet, 1913 U.S. Open: Not just a first-time U.S. Open participant in 1913, also an amateur. The victory by the former caddie and American Ouimet, over Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff, is often credited with causing an explosion in Americans' participation in the sport.
That's it. Those are the only five golfers who won the U.S. Open the first time they played the tournament. And none of them ever won it a second time. We can say with certainty that Vardon would have had he played it more often, but Vardon entered only twice more. In 1913, Vardon was solo second, and in 1920, at age 50, he tied for second. Ouimet remained an amateur throughout his competitive days, winning two U.S. Amateurs and also finishing third in the U.S. Open in 1925.

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