Fred Herd: Golfer Won First 72-Hole U.S. Open

golfer Fred Herd
Fred Herd is one of the least tournament-experienced winners in major championships: He played in only four of them. But he won one of those, and that U.S. Open win gives Herd his place in the game's history.

Full name: Frederick Herd

Date of birth: November 26, 1873

Place of birth: St. Andrews, Scotland

Date and place of death: March 14, 1954 in Welwyn, England

Fred Herd in the U.S. Open

Fred Herd was the fourth-ever U.S. Open winner, his victory happening in the 1898 U.S. Open. But he was the first golfer to win a 72-hole U.S. Open, because the three played prior to 1898 were only 36 holes each.

In 1898, the U.S. Open took place at Myopia Hunt Club, in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. At that time, Myopia was only a 9-hole golf course, so the golfers played it eight times for 72 holes.

Herd was six strokes off the lead at the midway point. But he carded a 75 in the third round (two trips around the course), which was the best score by anyone in the tournament (and one of just two sub-80 scores in the tournament). When he scored 84 in the final round, Herd still won by seven strokes over runner-up Alex Smith. Herd's winning total was 328, second-highest in U.S. Open history.

In an 1898 magazine article, Herd attributed his victory to "consistently good putting."

Fred Herd was an unknown golfer to most American golf fans at the time of his win. For example, these are the opening lines of a poem about the 1898 U.S. Open that appeared in Golf magazine (no relation to today's Golf magazine):

All hail to Champion Freddie Herd, from Caledonia's soil,
Who came to Freedom's sunny land our Golfers' game to foil.
Their vaunted swing and faultless style before his skill must bow.
You wer'na known twa weeks ago, but, man, you've done it now.

(You can see the full poem on our page about the 1898 U.S. Open.)

The 1898 tournament was the first U.S. Open Fred Herd played, and one of only four entries he made into the tournament. In his title defense in the 1899 U.S. Open, Herd tied for 25th place. He tied for 16th in 1900, didn't play in 1901, and finished 24th in 1902. And that was it — he never played the U.S. Open again (and he also never played in the other major that existed at the time, the British Open).

More About Fred Herd

A story is told about Fred Herd's love of alcohol that goes like this: After winning that 1898 U.S. Open, the USGA, having heard stories about Herd's drinking, was reluctant to let him take the championship trophy. They required him to leave a deposit for it because USGA officials were afraid he might pawn it to buy booze.

Either the tales told to the USGA were exaggerated, or Herd later got his drinking under control, because he lived to the ripe old age of 80.

Herd was born in St. Andrews. He had four brothers, all of whom also became professional golfers, one of whom was also a major championship winner. Sandy Herd won the 1902 British Open. (Many years later, a nephew of Fred's, Bruce Herd, was named the PGA Pro of the Year for 1961 while he was serving at Flossmoor Country Club near Chicago.)

At age 15 Fred began an 8-year apprenticeship at R. Forgan & Sons, one of the most-famous clubmaking houses in Scotland. At age 23, in 1898, he sailed for America.

Herd made the journey to the United States on the same sailing ship as Alex Smith, the golfer who finished runner-up to him a few months later in the U.S. Open. (Smith went on to win two U.S. Opens.) Herd and Smith both headed to Chicago, where they shared professional duties at Washington Park Club, a golf club that was gone by 1907.

During Harry Vardon's tour of the United States in 1900, Herd took part in some of the dozens and dozens of exhibitions played by the early golf giant. On July 11, 1900, at Midlothian Country Club in Chicago, Herd partnered Vardon to a 3 and 2 victory over Willie Smith and David Bell. On July 20, at Chicago Golf Club, Herd and 1896 U.S. Open winner James Foulis played their better ball against Vardon and won, 6 and 4.

But Herd's history in competitive golf was already nearly over. In the early 1900s, he returned to the U.K., settling in England. Herd became the professional at Knebworth Golf Club in Knebworth, Hertfordshire, and remained in that position for most of the rest of his life.

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