Golfer Fred Wampler: Purdue Great, PGA Tour Winner

Fred Wampler was a professional golfer whose PGA Tour playing career took place mostly in the 1950s. He won one tour event and had several other near-misses, but, before that, he was a record-setting college golfer.

Full name: Frederick L. Wampler Jr.

Date of birth: October 17, 1923

Place of birth: Bedford, Indiana

Date and place of death: April 27, 1985 in Indianapolis, Indiana

Nickname: Little Hogan

His Biggest Wins

  • 1950 NCAA Championship
  • 1954 Los Angeles Open
Fred Wampler also won numerous college, amateur and state-level tournaments. Those include the Big 10 Championship in 1948-50; the Indiana Amateur in 1947 and 1949; the Indiana Open in 1950; and PGA (but not PGA Tour) tournaments including the 1952 Long Island Open, 1953 Manchester Open, 1962 St. Clair Open, and the Colorado PGA Championship in 1966, 1968, 1973 and 1974. In senior golf, Wampler won the 1983 Indiana Senior Open.

Wampler in the Majors

Wampler never played in The Masters or the British Open, but he qualified a combined 24 times for the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. He first played in the 1951 U.S. Open and last in the 1978 PGA Championship. His best finish in a major was a tie for 28th in the 1959 U.S. Open.

More About Fred Wampler

In the words of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, Fred Wampler "combined the rare talents of a superb player and astute teacher with the acumen of a personable and gentleman club professional."

He was an Indiana boy who attended an Indiana university, Purdue. But before he got to Purdue, Wampler served three years flying combat missions in the Pacific Theater during World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps.

Back home in Indiana, Wampler started winning tournaments and setting school records at Purdue. He won the Big 10 Championship three consecutive years, 1948 through 1950, the first golfer (and still one of only two) to win that title three years running. He culminated his college career by winning the NCAA Championship in 1950.

Wampler's 64 in the final round of the 1950 Big 10 Championship tournament remains (through 2021) the Purdue school record for the final round, and the Big 10 Conference championship tournament record for final round. He also carded a 63 during a tournament at Purdue, a school record that wasn't matched until the early 2000s (and still, as of 2021, remains unbeaten).

He played other tournaments during college, too. Wampler was runner-up in the Indiana State Amateur Championship in 1946, winner in 1947, runner-up in 1948, and winner again in 1949.

When he graduated from Purdue in 1950, on the heels of winning the NCAA title and (playing as an amateur) the Indiana Open, Wampler turned pro and joined the staff at Fresh Meadow on Long Island, where he won the 1952 Long Island Open.

Much like Gardner Dickinson did more successfully a little bit later, Wampler modeled his pro game after Ben Hogan's, earning the nickname on tour of "Little Hogan." Wampler's first year making a good number of PGA Tour starts was 1951. In 1952, he played a full schedule and notched his first Top 10 at the Texas Open.

1954 was his best year on the PGA Tour. He won the first tournament he entered that season, the Los Angeles Open, and late in the year finished third in the Rubber City Open. He had six other Top 20 finishes in 1954 en route to his highest money list finish, 31st.

One of Wampler's near-misses was at the 1956 Greater Greensboro Open, where he lost in a playoff to Sam Snead. (That was one of a record eight times Snead won that tournament.) Earlier in the year, Wampler had tied for second in the Imperial Valley Open, an unofficial money event.

For most of the early and mid-1950s, Wampler played full or close to full schedules, making as many as 30 starts in a year. From the late '50s until 1969, he continued making starts every year, but usually only a handful. He made only four starts after 1969, all of them U.S. Opens or PGA Championships that he played his way into through qualifying.

In 165 career starts on the PGA Tour, Wampler made 142 cuts. His last PGA Tour appearance was in 1978, when he was 54 years old. He had 14 top 10 finishes.

When Wampler turned 50, the Champions Tour was still seven years away from formation. There were few tournaments for senior golfers at that time and only one big national tournament, the Senior PGA Championship. Wampler twice finished runner-up in that event. In 1975, he lost a playoff to Charlie Sifford; in 1976 he was second to Pete Cooper. Wampler had three other Top 10 finishes in the Senior PGA, last a tie for fourth in 1980.

Wampler's last win was in the Indiana Golf Association's PGA Senior Open in 1983.

In addition to Fresh Meadow, Wampler also served as a pro at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway golf course, at clubs in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and St. Louis, Mo., and, for the last three years of his career, at French Lick Springs Golf & Tennis Resort in French Lick, Indiana.

His longest stint, however, began in 1965: 17 years as the head pro at Denver Country Club in Colorado. During that time he won the Colorado PGA section tournament four times, and was named Colorado Golf Professional of the Year in 1974.

During the late 1960s Wampler was diagnosed with leukemia, a time when treatments were less effective than they are today. But he continued working and even winning tournaments until the disease finally did him in. He was only 61 years old when he died in 1985.

Wampler is a member of the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame (inducted in 1972), the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame (1997) and the Purdue Sports Hall of Fame (1997).

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