Who Was the First Left-Handed Major Championship Winner?

The four major championships of men's professional golf are The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and British Open. And none of them was won by a left-handed golfer until 1963. The lefty who finally broke through in a major was the same one who had, just several months earlier, become the first-ever lefty winner on the PGA Tour.

The golfer who won that 1963 British Open, becoming the first lefty major champion? Bob Charles of New Zealand. At the time, Charles was 27 years old. He would go on to win 80 titles around the world, be voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and even be knighted, becoming Sir Bob Charles.

But entering 1963, Charles had won only a handful of times in New Zealand and in Europe. Then, in April, he won the PGA Tour's Houston Open — the first victory by a left-handed golfer on the PGA Tour.

In July, at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England, Charles was five strokes off the lead at the midway point of the Open Championship. A 66 in Round 3 gave him a one-stroke lead over Peter Thomson, two strokes over Jack Nicklaus and Phil Rodgers.

In the fourth round, Charles had a 71, Rodgers a 69, tying at 277. (Nicklaus was solo third, one behind; Thomson fell to fifth). So Charles and Rodgers returned the next day for a 36-hole playoff. Charles shot 69-71—140, Rodgers 72-76—148, and golf had its first-ever left-handed winner of a major championship.

Many newspapers and magazine articles pointed out Charles' achievement (he was also the first New Zealander to win a major), but not all. The Associated Press article about Charles' win, for example, failed to mention at all his left-handedness. Yet, it really was a big deal — left-handed golfers at any level, but especially at the highest competitive levels, were very rare at the time. It was estimated that only around 1.5-percent of golfers at the time played lefty.

Sports Illustrated's article about his Open Championship victory referred to Charles as "by far the finest left-handed golfer ever." There really was no one else even in the conversation at that time.

Ironically, for being the first lefty major winner, Charles is actually a natural right-hander. He only plays golf left-handed. Why? He took up the game when he was five, swinging cut-down clubs handed down from his parents ... who were both lefties.

First Lefty Winners at All 4 Majors

  • First left-handed British Open winner: Bob Charles, 1963
  • First left-handed Masters winner: Mike Weir, 2003
  • First left-handed PGA Championship winner: Phil Mickelson, 2005
  • First left-handed U.S. Open winner: None
That's right, the U.S. Open is still waiting for its first lefty winner. Mickelson has finished second a record six times in that major.

Related article: First left-handed winner on the LPGA Tour

Popular posts from this blog

Ryder Cup Captains: The Full List