Who Was the First American Golfer to Win the British Open?

The British Open was first played in 1860, and for more than 60 years there were no American golfers among its winners. Then, in the early 1920s, two golfers won the tournament who both have a claim to the title of "first American winner." Let's explain:
  • In the 1921 British Open, the winner was Jock Hutchison, a naturalized American citizen.
  • In the 1922 British Open, the winner was Walter Hagen, born in the United States.
Both golfers were Americans at the time of their Open Championship victories, but only Hagen was born in the United States.

First American Citizen to Win the Open Championship

Jock Hutchison is the golfer who has the distinction of being the first citizen of the United States to win the Open Championship, doing so in 1921.

Hutchison was a Scotsman by birth; in fact, he was born in St. Andrews. But he gained American citizenship in 1920. The next year, the Open was played at The Old Course at St. Andrews, and Hutchison returned to his native home to play it.

Good decision! Hutchison won that Open in a playoff over amateur Roger Wethered. Odd twist to the story: Wethered, an amateur but also a keen cricketer, almost skipped the playoff for a cricket match — he had to be talked into showing up for it.

First USA-Born Winner of the British Open

Just one year after Hutchison's victory, "The Haig," Walter Hagen, won the 1922 British Open to become the first native-born American winner of the Open Championship. Hagen beat his rival Jim Barnes — they battled frequently in PGA Championships — by one stroke at Royal St. George's Golf Club.

Hagen was born in Rochester, New York. So although he was the first American-born winner, he was also the second consecutive American to win the Open!

In fact, after Arthur Havers' victory in 1923, the next 10 Open champions were all Americans. They included USA-born golfers Hagen, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Denny Shute; and golfers who had acquired American citizenship, Barnes and Tommy Armour.

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