Profile of Golfer Jerome 'Jerry' Travers

Golfer Jerome Travers after winning the 1915 US Open

Jerry Travers was one of the giants of the American golf scene in the first two decades of the 1900s. He won the U.S. Amateur championship four times, but also added a victory in the U.S. Open. His rivalry with Walter Travis was legendary in its time, and, in earlier times, Travers was often considered among the best-ever putters.

Full name: Jerome Dunstan Travers

Date of birth: May 19, 1887

Place of birth: New York, New York

Date and place of death: March 29, 1951 in East Hartford, Connecticut

Also known as: In print, during most of his lifetime, he was called Jerome or Jerome D. Travers, sometimes J.D. Travers. To friends and fellow golfers, he was Jerry.

List of Tournament Wins

  • 1904 Nassau Invitational
  • 1906 Metropolitan Amateur
  • 1906 Eastern Scholastic
  • 1906 Lynnewood Hall Cup
  • 1907 U.S. Amateur
  • 1907 Metropolitan Amateur
  • 1907 New Jersey Amateur
  • 1908 U.S. Amateur
  • 1908 New Jersey Amateur
  • 1908 Morris County Invitation Tournament
  • 1908 Lynnewood Hall Cup
  • 1910 Montclair Golf Club Invitational
  • 1911 Metropolitan Amateur
  • 1911 New Jersey Amateur
  • 1912 U.S. Amateur
  • 1912 Metropolitan Amateur
  • 1913 U.S. Amateur
  • 1913 Metropolitan Amateur
  • 1913 New Jersey Amateur
  • 1914 Prince of Wales Medal
  • 1915 U.S. Open
  • 1915 Lynnewood Hall Cup

Travers' U.S. Amateur Victories

How Travers won his four U.S. Amateur championships:
  • 1907: Travers captured his first U.S. Amateur crown at age 20 by beating Archibald Graham, 6 and 5, in the championship match. Along the way he handled Fred Herreshoff, a 2-time finalist, in the second round; and in the semifinals dispatched defending championship Eben Byers, 6 and 5.
  • 1908: For his first pair of back-to-back wins, Travers won the final match over Max Behr, 8 and 7. He won his quarterfinal over future U.S. Amateur champ W.C. Fownes. In the semifinals, Travers beat his great rival, the then-46-year-old Walter Travis, 8 and 7.
  • 1912: Travers' run to his third title was highlighted by another win over Travis, this time in the second round by a 2-and-1 score. In the championship match, Travers won over Chick Evans, a future winner of both this tournmanent and the U.S. Open, by a 7-and-6 score.
  • 1913: Travers finished dead last among the stroke-play qualifiers, but that didn't stop him from completing his second pair of back-to-back wins. Travers beat Francis Ouimet (in the same year Ouimet won the U.S. Open) in the second round and Herreshoff in the semifinals. In the championship match, he won over John Anderson, 5 and 4.
Travers did not enter the tournament in 1909, forgoing a shot at the threepeat. But going for three consecutive wins in 1914, Travers advanced to the championship match before losing to Ouimet, 6 and 5. In the first round in 1915, Travers defeated George Crump 14 and 13, a record-large margin of victory (since tied) for a 36-hole U.S. Amateur match.

He played in a total of 12 U.S. Amateur tournaments, with those four wins and one runner-up finish. Travers also reached the quarterfinals in 1906 and 1911.

With his third win in 1912, Travers tied Travis with three U.S. Amateur wins. His fourth victory in 1913 set a tournament record that stood until Bobby Jones won his fifth in 1930. To this day, only Jones and Travers have won four or more U.S. Amateur titles. Travers' five times reaching the championship match is tied with Chick Evans for second-most in U.S. Amateur history, Jones holding the record with seven.

His U.S. Open Win and More About Jerry Travers

The crowning glory of Jerome Travers' golf career was winning the biggest tournament of them all in America: The U.S. Open. He didn't just beat the country's best amateurs there in the 1915 U.S. Open, he bettered all the best pros, too.

Travers was five off the lead after a 76 to open, but a second-round 72 pulled him to within two strokes. Travers went into the lead by one stroke after a 73 in Round 3.

Past and future major winners Walter Hagen (the defending champion), Jim Barnes and Fred McLeod were among those chasing in the final round. In tough scoring conditions, Travers' 76 was good enough to produce a one-stroke victory over runner-up Tom McNamara. Travers closed it out by birdying the 15th hole and then parring the final three holes.

Travers was just the second golfer (after Ouimet) to win both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open trophies.

Travers grew up on Long Island in New York, where he started playing golf at age 9. From age 15, he worked on his game with Alex Smith — a future 2-time U.S. Open champ — at Nassau Country Club.

He first qualified for match play in the U.S. Amateur in 1903, when he was 16. Walter Travis, who won three U.S. Amateurs and one British Amateur in his career, was the legend of the amateur game at that time. Travis, who was 25 years older than Travers, and Travers first met in the championship match of the 1904 Nassau Invitational, where Travers showed up with Travis' signature club, the center-shafted Schenectady putter. Travers won that championship match for his first big title, beating Travis on the third extra hole. Travers was 17, Travis was 42.

In the 1906 U.S. Amateur, Travers, 19, faced Travis, whose nickname was "the old man of golf," in the quarterfinals. Travers won, 3 and 2, which can be thought of as a changing-of-the-guard outcome. Travis was competitive well into his 50s (in fact, he continued winning tournaments for as long as Travers did), but from this point forward it was clear that Travers had supplanted Travis as the best amateur golfer in America.

Travers won his first Metropolitan Amateur in 1906 (beating Eben Byers in the final), and his first New Jersey Amateur in 1907. He eventually won those tournaments five and four times, respectively. His Metropolitan victories were in 1906, 1907, 1911, 1912 and 1913, and he also reached the championship match in 1908 and 1910. His New Jersey wins were in 1907, 1908, 1911 and 1913. Travers made the championship match of the New Jersey Amateur every year from 1907 through 1913, except when he didn't enter in 1909.

Travers was the first golfer to win the Met Amateur five times and the first to win the New Jersey Amateur four times, just as he was the first to win the U.S. Amateur four times.

Perhaps one of the reasons Travers was so successful as a match player was a cold, inscrutable personality that probably contributed to an intimidation factor. According to the World Golf Hall of Fame, Chick Evans once called Travers "the coldest, hardest golfer I ever knew," and his teacher Alex Smith referred to him as "the greatest competitor I have ever known."

Not long after winning the 1915 U.S. Open, Travers retired from competitive golf. He was only 28 years old, but left the game after losing to his old rival Travis in the 1915 Metropolitan Amateur. Travers felt it was too difficult to maintain the level of his golf game while working to earn an income. He did play publicly shortly thereafter, though, in exhibition matches in 1917 to raise money for the War Relief Fund as World War I raged.

He wrote or co-authored several books during and after his playing career: Travers' Golf Book (affiliate links used for books) arrived first, in 1913; The Winning Shot followed in 1915; and in 1926, The Fifth Estate: 30 Years of Golf was published.

Travers went into the brokerage business and also designed a putter that he attempted to market. But he suffered severe financial setbacks during the Great Depression.

In 1932, he resigned as president of the New Jersey State Golf Association and turned pro in order to earn an income from golf lessons and exhibitions. But golf as a vocation, rather than avocation, never worked that well for him. For the last 10 years of his life, Travers worked as an aircraft engine inspector for the Pratt & Whitney aviation company. He also taught golf to his fellow employees.

At his best, Travers was only a mediocre driver and he often preferred to play a cleek (equivalent to a driving iron) from the tee. His iron play from the fairway was good, but putting and shots around the green were his strengths. At one time, when there were still many people around with memories of Travers' early 20th-century exploits, it was common for his name to come up in discussions of the all-time greatest putters. When Travers died at age 64 in 1951, the New York Times included "famed as putter" in the headline on his obituary.

For decades after his career ended, Travers was remembered as one of the giants of American golf. This is clear in the fact that he was one of the golfers included in the very first national golf Hall of Fame induction in 1940. An Encyclopedia of Golf published in 1958 included biographical sketches in a section titled "Immortal Golfers of the World," and Travers was one of just 23 golfers chosen for inclusion. When the modern World Golf Hall of Fame was first established, Travers was an early inductee there, too, elected in 1976. He is also a member of the New Jersey Golf Hall of Fame.

Today, the New Jersey State Golf Association writes of Travers that he "is considered not only the first great New Jersey amateur golfer, but was also considered the finest American amateur golfer in the days before Bobby Jones."

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