Golfer Labron Harris Jr. Biography

Labron Harris Jr. was a PGA Tour player in the 1960s and 1970s, whose career never quite measured up to expectations. He did win, however, and his pro career followed an amateur golf career that was short but full of accomplishment.

Date of birth: September 27, 1941

Place of birth: Stillwater, Oklahoma

Harris' Biggest Wins

Harris won one U.S. Amateur and won once on the PGA Tour: Another professional win was in the 1963 Oklahoma Open (not a PGA Tour event), which he won while still an amateur.

In the Majors

Harris played in 16 majors, a combination of Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship tournaments, never in the British Open. His career-best finish was tied for 24th place in the 1965 U.S. Open, one of three Top 30 finishes for him in majors. His first major was the 1962 U.S. Open, his last the 1976 PGA Championship.

Harris did twice earn low amateur honors in majors, however: in the 1963 Masters and 1964 U.S. Open. He also won the Masters Par-3 Contest in 1964.

More About Labron Harris Jr.

What turned out to be the biggest win of Labron Harris Jr.'s golf career happened when he was 20 years old, in the 1962 U.S. Amateur Championship. The Sports Illustrated article about the tournament referred to Harris as "an unknown 20-year-old" whose winning strategy was "to stick to the fairways." SI wrote:
"His long, lazy swing was moving the ball straight down the fairways for excellent distance; his chipping and putting could have won him a Marine marksman's medal."
Played on the Pinehurst No. 2 course, the 1962 U.S. Amateur culminated in a championship match between Harris and Downing Gray. Harris was 5-down after the morning 18. But, with President Dwight Eisenhower following the match from a golf cart in the afternoon, Harris sqaured the match by the 26th hole. After a short break following the 33rd hole, during which the players were introduced to Eisenhower, Harris won the match, 1-up.

To reach the championship match, Harris played his way through some heavy hitters. His vanquished opponents included reigning U.S. Publinx champ and future PGA Tour pro R.H. Sikes; future PGA Tour pro Homero Blancas, who one month earlier had recorded a score of 55; and amateur legend Billy Joe Patton.

That same year Harris had graduated from Oklahoma State University at age 20, then entered its graduate program in mathematics, eventually earning a Masters degree in statistics. His father, Labron Harris Sr., was the OSU golf coach for three decades, his teams once winning the conference championship in 25 out of 27 seasons.

Labron Jr.'s first taste of big-tournament success was a 9-and-8 victory in the championship match of the 1960 Western Junior. In 1962, the year of his U.S. Amateur win, Harris also played for Team USA in the Eisenhower Trophy.

Playing for Team USA in the 1963 Walker Cup, Harris won three of his four matches, including two foursomes wins paired with his 1962 U.S. Amateur foe Downing Gray. In singles, Harris notched a win over Team GB&I stalwart Michael Bonallack.

Also in 1963, Harris was on the Americas Cup team, and he reached the championship match in the Western Amateur before falling to Tom Weiskopf.

At the 1963 Masters, Harris earned low amateur honors, and he tied for the same at the 1964 U.S. Open. Also in 1964, he won the Masters Par-3 Contest.

Following the U.S. Open, Harris turned pro in the second half of 1964 and joined the PGA Tour. At 6-foot-4 Harris was tall for his era, and a later PGA Tour Media Guide described his game at that time as "long and strong" and called him a tireless worker.

He was considered a real up-and-comer, a player to watch, one to whom expectations of pro success were attached. It never quite worked out that way, but Harris did pop up in contention on the PGA Tour from time to time.

At the the 1968 Philadelphia Golf Classic, he reached a playoff before falling to Bob Murphy. In the 1970 Dow Jones Classic, then the richest non-major on the PGA Tour, Harris led much of the final round but was pipped when Bobby Nichols holed a putt on the last green to win it. Harris' runner-up check of $34,000 was very nearly as much as he won total in the two previous years combined.

What turned out to be Harris' lone PGA Tour win happened in the 1971 Robinson Open Golf Classic. He faced Bert Yancey in a playoff, and won with a birdie on the third extra hole.

There were a couple more close calls, including runner-up finishes at the 1972 Western Open and 1973 Dean Martin Tucson Open, but no more wins. Harris was in the Top 60 on the PGA Tour money list — the cut-off at that time for being exempt from qualifying — in 1970-72 plus 1975. He finished 33rd on the money list in 1970 and 36th in 1972.

But Harris' game fell off after that; he slid to 162nd in money for the 1976 season. As his competitiveness waned in the late 1970s, Harris started getting involved in PGA Tour administration. In 1976, he was a Player Director on the Tournament Policy Board, for which he served as secretary. In 1978 Harris served as Director of Tournament Administration for the PGA Tour. In the first two years of the Senior Tour's existence, 1980 and 1981, Harris was that tour's Administrator (the "Commissioner" title did not yet exist for the Senior Tour).

Harris still made sporadic PGA Tour appearances in the 1980s, and last appeared in a tour event in 1992. He also made appearances on the renamed Champions Tour in the years 1991-95, although he was never a regular player and finished inside the Top 40 only once.

After fully retiring from golf, Harris became involved in the business of one his favorite hobbies, stamp collecting, starting a business as a stamp dealer.

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