George Gadd: Profile of English Golf Pro

Golfer George Gadd depicted on cigarette card
George Gadd was an English professional golfer who won tournaments in the 1910s and 1920s. He also was involved in the formative events of the Ryder Cup, including the very first competition.

Full name: Frances George Gadd

Date of birth: 1890

Place of birth: Malvern, Worcestershire, England

Date and place of death: September 25, 1957 in Roehampton, London, England

Gadd's Biggest Wins

  • 1913 Welsh Professional Championship
  • 1922 News of the World Match Play
  • 1924 Northern Professional Championship
  • 1926 Northern Professional Championship
  • 1926 Surrey Open Championship

His Role in Early Ryder Cup History

George Gadd took part in the unofficial Ryder Cup of 1926, and he was on the team for the first official Ryder Cup in 1927. In 1926, Samuel Ryder lent his name to a USA vs. Great Britain match at Wentworth in London. But the trophy — the actual Ryder cup — was not yet ready for presentation. There were also some oddities in team selection that led to multiple members of the USA side being golfers born in Britain.

So that 1926 event is not counted as part of the official Ryder Cup lineage. However, it certainly is part of the event's history, and Gadd was a member of Team Great Britain. He played in one match, partnering Arthur Havers to a defeat of Wild Bill Mehlhorn and Al Watrous.

The 1927 Ryder Cup officially launched the competition. It was scheduled at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts, which required a long ocean ship voyage for Team Great Britain. Unfortunately, Gadd became very seasick, for an extended period, during that trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Once in Massachusetts, still not feeling well, Gadd was unhappy with the state of his game during practice rounds. He went to team captain Ted Ray and suggested that he shouldn't play. So while Gadd was on the British roster for the first Ryder Cup, he did not get into any matches.

More About George Gadd

In the 1920s and 1930s, there were multiple accounts in newspapers in Australia and the United States of Gadd's winning the 1913 Welsh Professional Championship by virtue of a final-hole ace.

A 1926 account told of Gadd reaching the tournament's final hole, a par-3, needing a two to tie. "Go on, now, old man," a spectator told Gadd, according to the newspaper account, "you can make it," meaning the 2 to tie. "Oh, I can do that," replied George, "in fact I can do better — I can get a 1." And then he knocked in the hole-in-one to win.

The Washington Evening Star in 1933 published an account that was slightly different in the conversational details:

"He came up the last hole needing a two to tie, a not impossible feat since the last hole, a shot over water, measured but 150 yards.

'You need a two to tie,' someone told him as he got ready to play.

'I'm not going to get a two,' said Gadd, 'I'm going to get a one.'

He stunned a large gallery by keeping this bold promise. And of course he won the championship."

Did it really happen? Alas, it appears not. Somehow, a story about Gadd making a final-hole ace to win the tournament spread in Australia and the United States during a brief window from about 1925-1935. But back at home, the newspapers reported the 1913 Welsh Professional Championship results differently.

The London Standard newspaper reported Gadd's scores as 73 and 73 for a two-round total of 146, and his margin of victory at four strokes — a margin no come-from-behind, last-hole ace could have produced. The Standard mentioned no hole-in-one, but did report that "the feature of Gadd's play was his fine putting."

Speaking of George Gadd's putting, his technique, as reported on the back of a 1930 sports trading card, was this: "(Gadd) has a peculiar habit of putting with his elbows well out. He also gives the putter one or two quick unpward jerks before striking the ball on the green." His elbows jutted out to the sides of the putter shaft, so that one pointed backwards parallel to the the target line, the other pointed forward down the target line. He wasn't the only prominent pro who putted like that at the time. In America, this technique was known as "Diegeling" after major championship winner Leo Diegel.

Gadd's first professional win was that 1913 Welsh Professional Championship at age 23. A year later, in 1914, he was appointed professional at the Roehampton Club. Gadd held that job until 1956, with the exception of his service in World War I and for the years 1937-45, when he was professional at Malden Golf Club. (Both those clubs are in the London area.)

During World War I, Gadd was a Lieutenant in the Welsh Fusiliers. He was aboard the RMS Leinster when that ship was sunk by German torpedoes, spending hours adrift on a raft in the Irish Sea before rescue. Only around a quarter of the members of Gadd's unit who were on board survived.

But after the war ended, he returned to his position in Roehampton. In 1921 Gadd established the course record there of 63.

His best years as a tournament player were from 1922 through 1926. Gadd made the final of the News of the World Match Play (also known as the British PGA Match Play) Championship three out of four years, at a time when it was arguably the most prestigious event in Britain other than the Open Championship. In 1922, Gadd won it, beating Charles Johns 1-up on the 19th hole in the semifinal, then downing Fred Leach 5 and 4 in the championship match. He lost in the championship match in 1924 (3 and 2 to Ernest Whitcombe) and in 1925 (3 and 1 to Archie Compston).

At the 1926 Northern Professional Championship, Gadd won by three strokes over the trio of runners-up, Wild Bill Mehlhorn, Ernest Whitcombe and Bill Davies. That was two years after he first won that tournament, and Gadd also won the Surrey Open Championship in 1926. He only occasionally traveled abroad to play, such as for the 1929 Center Open in Argentina, where he finished runner-up.

His best finish in a major championship was a tie for ninth in the 1924 British Open.

Gadd continued serving as pro at Roehampton, but his health began failing as he reached his 50s and 60s. In 1957, one year after giving up his club pro job, Gadd committed suicide at the age of 67.

One of George's brothers, Bert Gadd, was also a golf pro and tournament winner. Bert won the French Open in 1933 and Irish Open in 1937.

Photo credit: George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. G. Gadd. Retrieved from https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-45fa-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

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