How Many Golfers Won a Major Championship in Their Very First Try?

Keegan Bradley won the first major he ever played

How many golfers in the history of the major championships of men's professional golf have won the very first major they ever played? Not many! The total stands at six, but, really, it's more like four.

Why do we say more like four? Because two of the golfers on the list won a major that was being played for the first time. The first of what we now call the men's major championships was the British Open played in 1860. Obviously, every golfer in the field at that first one was playing in his first major. No matter who won, that winner would be on this list.

The first U.S. Open was played in 1895, at a time when British golfers didn't travel to the U.S. just to play one golf tournament. So that winner was highly likely to be on this list, too.

The List: 6 Golfers Who Won the First Major They Ever Played

Willie Park Sr.

The senior Park won the very first Open Championship ever played, in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. Eight golfers entered. Willie Sr. went on to win the British Open four times; his brother Mungo Park won once, and his son Willie Park Jr. won twice.

Horace Rawlins

And Horace Rawlins won the very first U.S. Open ever played, in 1895, at Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. Eleven players were in the field. Rawlins shot 91-82 and won by two strokes over Willie Dunn (who had actually played in majors previously at the British Open).

Fred Herd

Of all the winners in major championship history, Fred Herd was among the least tournament experienced. He played in only four majors total, the U.S. Open all four times. But he won the first one he played, the 1898 U.S. Open, to get on this list.

Francis Ouimet

The amateur legend Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open as a 20-year-old, coming out of the caddie ranks at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, to win the U.S. Open played there. And he did it in spectacular fashion, beating golf's first international superstar, Harry Vardon, plus another British stalwart, Ted Ray, in a playoff.

Of the golfers on this list, only Willie Park Sr. won additional professional majors. But Ouimet did go on to win the U.S. Amateur in 1914 and 1931. And he tied for third in the 1925 U.S. Open.

Ben Curtis

The four previous golfers on the list were from the early days of tournament golf, three from the 19th century. Curtis is the first modern golfer on the list. He was ranked No. 396 in the world rankings when he won the 2003 British Open by one stroke over Thomas Bjorn and Vijay Singh. Curtis retired from competitive golf following the 2018 season with four career PGA Tour wins.

Keegan Bradley

The last (so far) of the six golfers who won their major debut is Bradley, whose victory in the 2011 PGA Championship came in his first appearance in a major championship. Bradley, nephew of six-time LPGA major winner Pat Bradley, defeated Jason Dufner in a playoff. He tied for third the following year in his title defense.

Photo credit: "Keegan Bradley" by Michael M Stokes is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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