Golfer Art Wall Jr.: Masters Champ, Hole-in-One Artist

Golfer Art Wall Jr in the 1950s
Art Wall was a good, consistent PGA Tour player and winner through much of the 1950s. He had one great year during which he won The Masters, and he continued winning into the 1960s and even the 1970s. For many years, Wall was regarded as the world record-holder for most lifetime holes-in-one. Wall also took part in the tournament that helped launch the PGA Champions Tour.

Full name: Arthur Jonathan Wall Jr.

Date of birth: November 25, 1923

Place of birth: Honesdale, Pennsylvania

Date and place of death: October 31, 2001 in Scranton, Pennsylvania

His Masters Win and Other Majors

Like many American golfers of his era, Art Wall never traveled to the U.K. to play The Open Championship. But he played a combined 58 times in the other three majors (U.S. Open, Masters, PGA Championship), and he won one of them.

Wall's one major championship victory was in the 1959 Masters. And he earned it: Wall birdied five of the last six holes, shooting 66 in the final round to pip runner-up Cary Middlecoff by one stroke.

Wall was six strokes off the lead at the end of the third round, tied for 13th place. He was still five strokes off the lead with just seven holes to play before he reeled off birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 15. After a par on the 16th, Wall added birdies at the 17th and 18th to win.

That victory came one year after his first Top 10 finish in a major, a tie for sixth place in the 1958 Masters. Wall had only three other Top 10s: tied for fifth in the 1961 PGA Championship, tied for eighth in the 1963 PGA Championship, and tied for ninth in the 1967 U.S. Open.

Wall's first appearance in a major was the 1952 U.S. Open. As a former Masters champion, he continued playing in that tournament long past his competitive days, last appearing in the 1988 Masters. The last time he made the cut in a major was in the 1980 Masters.

Art Wall's Holes-in-One Record

Wall was a prolific maker of holes-in-one over his lifetime, claiming, by his final count, 45 aces. He was famous in his time for it: If Wall was in contention or won a tournament, somewhere in the article he was likely to be described as a "hole-in-one artist" or "prolific acer."

Many newspaper and magazine articles over the last half of his life cited Wall as the world record-holder for most career aces (again, his final claimed number was 45). A 1954 article put his number then at 32, so we know that most of his aces happened before he became a famous pro.

That's because quite a few of them happened on one hole at one golf course, the 9-hole Honesdale Golf Club course he grew up playing in Pennsylvania.

After Wall made a hole-in-one during the PGA Tour's 1973 Jackie Gleason Inverrary Golf Classic (an ace called his 40th, leading Golf Digest to name him the "all-time hole-in-one champion in golf"), the UPI news service gave this accounting of Wall's claimed year-by-year aces: 1938, 7 aces; 1939, 5; 1940, 1; 1941, 4; 1942, 5; 1946, 1; 1947, 2; 1948, 1; 1949, 2; 1950, 2; 1954, 1; 1955, 2; 1959, 1; 1965, 1; 1967, 1; 1972, 1; 1973, 1.

Going by that list, Wall made 12 aces when he was 14-15 years old. But that list is either incomplete (since it only adds up to 36, and the newspaper article in which it appeared gave him 40), or reporters had trouble keeping track of Wall's claims.

One of Wall's holes-in-one that got a lot of attention happened during a practice round prior to the 1965 Masters. (He made a splash that year prior to the first round, also winning the 1965 Masters Par-3 Contest with a 20, which remained the scoring record until 2016.) And five of them happened in PGA Tour or Senior Tour tournaments: 1950 PGA Tour Texas Open; 1959 PGA Tour San Diego Open Invitational; 1973 PGA Tour Kaiser International Open; 1973 PGA Tour Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic; and 1986 Senior PGA Tour Roundup.

Wall's total of 45 is no longer tops in the world of hole-in-one claims. But that total remains to this day more than any other pro tour player has made. (Wall is not close to holding the record for aces made in PGA Tour play, however, with four such holes-in-one.)

More About Art Wall Jr.

Art Wall got into golfing around age 10 when he started caddying for his parents and older brother Dewey at Honesdale Golf Club.

A profile of Wall that ran in the Pocono Record newspaper late in his life noted that it was Dewey Wall whom the local residents considered the better golfer of the two brothers. Art, however, was the one who worked the hardest.

Art and Dewey both served in World War II, but Dewey didn't make it back home. Art survived the war, and after returning home headed off to college at Duke University. In 1947, he won the first of his two titles in the Pennsylvania Amateur Championship, winning it again in 1949.

During his time at Duke, Wall helped the 1947 team finish second in the national championship tournament, and helped the 1948 team to a third-place finished. He captained the 1949 team that won its conference championship. Wall graduated from Duke in 1949 with a business degree. He turned pro that year and joined the PGA Tour. He was 26 years old.

The hallmarks of Wall's game? He was a good iron player and an excellent putter. And he used the baseball grip (also called the 10-finger grip) throughout his golf career. (He discusses his grip at one point in the video posted below.)

"I'm very pleased that I was able to accomplish what I accomplished. I'm very fortunate. I didn't have the greatest swing or the greatest ability, but I worked hard with what I had, and I made it into something that worked." — Art Wall
Wall earned his first PGA Tour win four years later in the 1953 Fort Wayne Open (all of his pro wins are listed at bottom). He announced his talent by winning with what was then a very low score, 23-under 265, and he beat Cary Middlecoff in an in 18-hole playoff, 70 to 72.

That victory came shortly after Wall had lost an 18-hole playoff at the 1953 Greater Greensboro Open. He finished 20th on the PGA Tour money list that year, the first of six years in his career he was inside the Top 20.

Wall won the Tournament of Champions in 1954 and repeated as Fort Wayne champ in 1956. He finished seventh on the money list in 1957 and, in 1958, when he recorded two PGA Tour wins, Wall was fifth in earnings.

Then came his glory year, 1959. Wall won four PGA Tour titles, including The Masters. First, though, early in the year, was a win in the prestigious Bing Crosby National Pro-Am.

His victory in The Masters wouldn't have been a big surprise, either: After all, he won the week before at the Azalea Open. (Wall is one of only a handful of PGA Tour golfers who've won a major the week after winning a "regular" tour event.) Wall's fourth win of 1959 was the Buick Invitational in July, where he defeated Dow Finsterwald in an 18-hole playoff. Wall finished second at four other tournaments that year.

At the end of 1959, Wall won the Vardon Trophy as the tour's leading scorer. He was No. 1 on the money list. And he won the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award.

Wall had a big win in 1960 at the Canadian Open, and finished 11th on the money list that year. But he had no more Top 20 money list finishes after that (although he was 21st in 1967). He finished in the Top 60 (then the cut-off to avoid stringent weekly qualifying criteria) from 1952-64, 1966-68, 1971 and 1975.

Five of Wall's 14 career PGA Tour wins happened via playoffs. In addition to the 1953 Fort Wayne Open and 1959 Buick Open, Wall won playoffs at the 1956 Fort Wayne Open (over Gardner Dickinson and Bill Trombley); 1958 Rubber City Open Invitational (over Finsterwald) and 1958 Eastern Open Invitational (over Jack Burke Jr. and Bob Rosburg).

Wall also lost in PGA Tour playoffs five times, including three big ones: the 1960 Western Open, 1967 Canadian Open (18 holes, shot 69 to Billy Casper's 65) and 1971 Canadian Open (lost to Lee Trevino on first sudden-death hole).

During his best years, Wall made the United States Ryder Cup team three times in 1957, 1959 and 1961. He had a 4-2-0 overall record and won both singles matches he played. In the 1959 Ryder Cup, Wall defeated Christy O'Connor, 7 and 6. In the 1961 Ryder Cup, Wall beat Harry Weetman, 1-up.

In the 1960s Wall began cooling off on the PGA Tour but heated up again when he started playing the Caribbean Tour. The year 1964 was the last big one for Wall: He won on the PGA Tour at the San Diego Open, won twice in Mexico including the Mexican Open, and won three times on the Caribbean Tour including the Puerto Rico Open.

Wall won the 1966 Insurance City Open Invitational at the age of 42, which was considered an advanced age for a PGA Tour winner at that time. It would not have been unreasonable for anyone, including Wall, to think that probably was his last victory.

And for nine years it was. Then, in 1975, Wall, age 51, won his final PGA Tour tournament, the Greater Milwaukee Open. It was an unexpected bonus to his tour career: Wall hadn't broken 70 in his 35 previous PGA Tour rounds. But he started the GMO 67-67-67, then shot 70 in the final round to beat runner-up Gary McCord by one stroke. At age 51 years, 7 months, Wall was the second-oldest PGA Tour winner ever (trailing only Sam Snead).

In his long PGA Tour career, Wall made 601 career starts, first in 1949 and last in 1988. He made the cut in 518 of them and had 148 Top 10 finishes. In addition to his 14 wins, Wall finished second 27 times and third 11 times.

Some of those 27 runner-up finishes were near-misses in big tournaments: the 1959 Tournament of Champions, 1959 Canadian Open, 1960 Buick Open, 1961 Los Angeles Open, 1963 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, 1967 Canadian Open, 1967 Doral Open.

There was no Senior Tour when Wall reached his 50s. But he did win the 1978 U.S. National Senior Open (not to be confused with today's U.S. Senior Open, which didn't exist until 1980). He finished third in the Senior PGA Championship three times (1981, 1982, 1984).

In 1979 Wall paired with Tommy Bolt in a seniors tournament called the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. Wall and Bolt got into a playoff against Julius Boros and Roberto De Vicenzo that went six holes before Boros and De Vicenzo pulled out the win.

The television ratings were good enough that then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman got behind the creation of a Senior PGA Tour. One can say that Wall, therefore, had a small part in moving along the creation of today's Champions Tour. The next year, Wall and Bolt won the tournament.

Wall was already 56 years old when the the Senior PGA Tour was founded, and he recorded no victories there. But he did finish fifth on the money list in 1981 and won the unofficial-money Energy Capital Classic in 1982. Wall played 161 Champions Tour events, last in 1995, and recorded one second-place finish and 27 Top 10s.

Art Wall Jr. was 77 years old when he died in 2001. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Duke University Sports Hall of Fame, Philadelphia PGA Hall of Fame, and Luzerne County (Pa.) Sports Hall of Fame.

Art Wall's Pro Wins

PGA Tour Wins

Wall is credited with 14 victories in official PGA Tour tournaments:
  • 1953 Fort Wayne Open
  • 1954 Tournament of Champions
  • 1956 Fort Wayne Open
  • 1957 Pensacola Open
  • 1958 Rubber City Open Invitational
  • 1958 Eastern Open Invitational
  • 1959 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am
  • 1959 Azalea Open Invitational
  • 1959 Masters Tournament
  • 1959 Buick Open Invitational
  • 1960 Canadian Open
  • 1964 San Diego Open Invitational
  • 1966 Insurance City Open Invitational
  • 1975 Greater Milwaukee Open

Non-Tour Wins

Wall won seven times on the Caribbean Tour, a loosely organized winter tour played by many PGA Tours and other pros in the 1950s and 1960s:
  • 1963 Caracas Open
  • 1964 Maracaibo Open Invitational
  • 1964 Puerto Rico Open
  • 1964 Los Lagartos Open
  • 1965 Panama Open
  • 1965 Maracaibo Open Invitational
  • 1966 Maracaibo Open Invitational
Other pro wins by Wall:
  • 1956 Philadelphia PGA Championship
  • 1962 Philadelphia PGA Championship
  • 1963 Philadelphia PGA Championship
  • 1964 Ciudad Baranquilla Open
  • 1964 Mexican Open
  • 1965 Philadelphia PGA Championship
  • 1966 Caracas Open
  • 1971 Philadelphia PGA Championship
  • 1978 U.S. National Senior Open
  • 1980 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (partnered by Tommy Bolt)
  • 1982 Energy Capital Classic

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