Stewart Gardner Bio: Obscure Golfer Holds Two U.S. Open Records

golfer Stewart Gardner around 1915
Stewart Gardner was a Scotsman who immigrated to the United States around the turn of the 20th century, and later became an American citizen. Although Gardner never won a big golf tournament, he still holds two tournament records in the U.S. Open set in the first few years of the 1900s.

Full name: Stewart Orr Gardner

Date of birth: October 31, 1878

Place of birth: Troon, Scotland

Date and place of death: April 12, 1931 in Highland Park, Illinois

Gardner's U.S. Open Records

Stewart Gardner first played the U.S. Open in 1900 and finished ninth. In the six years after that, Gardner never finished lower than seventh — a run of seven consecutive Top 10 finishes in the U.S. Open. Today, that remains tied for the all-time U.S. Open tournament record for consecutive Top 10s:

Most Top 10 Finishes in a Row in the U.S. Open
7 — Stewart Gardner (1900-06)
7 — Bobby Jones (1920-26)
7 — Ben Hogan (1950-56)

That's pretty good company! Unfortunately for Gardner, he never won a U.S. Open, unlike Jones and Hogan who won it four times each. Gardner's finishes from 1900-06 were, in order, ninth, fourth, tied second, third, tied sixth, fifth and seventh. He played the tournament only one more time, finishing 21st in 1907.

Gardner's highest finish of tied for second (with Walter Travis) in the 1902 U.S. Open is actually a bit misleading, given that he finished six strokes behind the winner, Laurie Auchterlonie. His best chance at winning actually happened the year before, in the 1901 U.S. Open. There, Gardner led by one stroke after the third round. But he wound up finishing three behind the winner, Willie Anderson.

It was in the 1901 U.S. Open that Gardner set another tournament record that he still holds today, and that will never be broken. It was the highest-scoring U.S. Open ever, and Gardner's scores in the first three rounds (86, 82, 81) produced the third-round lead. His total at that point was 249, and 249 is the highest score ever to lead a U.S. Open after 54 holes. In the final round, Gardner scored 85 while Anderson had an 81. (Anderson defeated Alex Smith in the tournament's first playoff.)

More About Stewart Gardner

Stewart Gardner was born in Troon, Scotland, where he received golf instruction from 1883 British Open winner Willie Fernie. He immigrated to the United States in 1899, part of a wave of Scottish golf professionals heading to America around that time as American golf clubs sought instructors and professionals for their members.

Gardner was a tall man for his era. We know this despite not having his exact height, because reference was often made to his height. For example, a 1901 issue of Golf and Lawn Tennis magazine referred to Gardner as "the tallest professional in the country."

As a tournament player, Gardner's peak was probably the first five years of the 1900s. He won several minor tournaments during that period, although none of the big tournaments then being played. For example, he won the Westbrook Medal tournament in 1901 with a 157 score, and the Deal (N.J.) Golf Club Medal Tournament in 1904 with a 158, beating runner-up Willie Anderson by three.

In the 1903 Brooklawn Free For all, Gardner and Anderson finished 36 holes tied at 143, then Anderson won the 9-hole playoff 37 to 38. Gardner lost another playoff after tying David Brown and Alex Smith at 156 in the 1903 Apawamis Medal tournament.

His last chance at winning a big tournament slipped away in 1909, when he finished a distant second to Anderson at the Western Open. Gardner was also know for taking part in many four-ball exhibitions and challenge matches with Walter Travis as his partner.

The club jobs Gardner worked included Garden City Golf Club on Long Island, New York, and 10 years at Exmoor Country Club in Chicago. He also worked at Lenox (Mass.) Club and Old Elm Club in Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

In 1921, while in Chicago, Gardner developed a tool for use in raking in topdressing on putting greens that was featured in the journal of the USGA's Green Section. In 1924 he served as vice president at large of the PGA of America.

Gardner was only 52 years old when he died in 1931.

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