Golfers Who Won the British Open in First Appearance

Ben Hogan had a parade after winning the 1953 British Open

Have any golfers won the British Open the very first time they played that major championship? Yes, it has happened multiple times — 10 times, in fact, including the very first* and the 2021 Open Championship. (*Of course the winner of the first Open is on this list. He'd have to be: Everyone who played in 1860 was playing the Open Championship for the first time.)

These are the golfers, in chronological order, who won in their British Open debuts:

  • Willie Park Sr., 1860 British Open, Prestwick: There were only eight golfers in the field in the very first Open, and Willie Park Sr. emerged the champion by two strokes over Old Tom Morris. Both Park and Morris went on to win four Opens.

  • Tom Kidd, 1873 British Open, St. Andrews: Tom Kidd was a caddie at St. Andrews, and that's why he entered — no need to travel when they are staging the tournament at your home course. He won by a stroke over Jamie Anderson, and played the Open only four more times.

  • Mungo Park, 1874 British Open, Musselburgh: Back-to-back debut champions in 1873 and 1874, and Mungo Park was Willie's brother, so the Park family has two debut winners. Mungo won by two over Young Tom Morris. He was third the next year and had three more Top 10 finishes.

  • Jock Hutchison, 1921 British Open, St. Andrews: Hutchison was born in St. Andrews, but like many Scottish golfers in the late 1800s/early 1900s, he had emigrated to America. So he was already a major winner (1920 PGA Championship) before making his Open debut. Hutchison faced Roger Wethered in a 36-hole playoff in the 1921 Open and won it by nine strokes.

  • Denny Shute, 1933 British Open, St. Andrews: It was rare for American golfers to travel to play the Open in these days, but Shute was in-country because the 1933 Ryder Cup had been played a few weeks earlier. He stayed over to play the Open. Good decision! Shute won a 36-hole playoff against fellow American Ryder Cupper, Craig Wood. It was the first of Shute's three career major championship wins.

  • Ben Hogan, 1953 British Open, Carnoustie: Hogan (in photo at top) played the British Open just once, and this was it: He won it by four strokes. In 1953, Hogan won all three majors he entered. He did not play the PGA Championship because the dates for the Open and the PGA overlapped this year (and some others during this period).

  • Tony Lema, 1964 British Open, St. Andrews: Joking with the press corps before his first Open appearance, Lema told them that if he won he'd serve them all champagne. He did win — beating runner-up Jack Nicklaus by five — and followed through on his promise. Thereafter, he was known as "Champagne Tony." He was killed in a plane crash two years later.

  • Tom Watson, 1975 British Open, Carnoustie: Watson's reputation before this was that he was a choker. He had blown some great opportunities in majors and regular PGA Tour events. After this? He became one of golf's giants. Watson ultimately won five Open Championships and eight majors overall. At the 1975 Open, Watson defeated Jack Newton in an 18-hole playoff.

  • Ben Curtis, 2003 British Open, Royal St. George's: Curtis, ranked No. 396 in the world coming into this tournament, didn't just win in his British Open debut. He won in the first major he ever played — one of just six in golf history to achieve that feat. (Willie Park Sr. is also on that list, since the 1860 Open was the first major ever played.)

  • Collin Morikawa, 2021 British Open, Royal St. George's: Morikawa won the 2021 Open by two strokes over Jordan Spieth, with a score of 265 — second-lowest in Open history at the time. Less than a year earlier, Morikawa had won the 2020 PGA Championship, winning that major on his first try, too.

Photo: Ben Hogan received a parade down Broadway in New York City after winning three majors in 1953. Credit: New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: DeMarsico, Dick, photographer. / Public domain

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