Biography of Golfer Willie Goggin

Willie Goggin never won on the PGA Tour. But he was a tour player for many years in the 1930s and 1940s and racked up a good number of second-place finishes. Among those was finishing runner-up in the PGA Championship when that tournament was match-play. He was the second golfer to make an ace in The Masters, and had one great year as a senior golfer long before the Champions Tour existed.

Full name: William Ambrose Goggin

Date of birth: February 18, 1906

Place of birth: Chinese Camp, California

Date and place of death: August 2, 1979, in San Jose, California

His Biggest Wins

Goggin did not win on the PGA Tour. He did win several regional tournament and senior tournaments:
  • 1935 Northern California Open
  • 1936 Northern California Open
  • 1944 Metropolitan PGA Championship
  • 1958 National Senior Open
  • 1959 PGA Seniors' Championship
  • 1959 World Senior Championship
  • 1959 National Senior Open

In the Majors

Willie Goggin never won a major, but he had Top 10 finishes in all four of them and reached the championship match of the PGA Championship.

In the 1933 PGA Championship, Goggin made it to the final against Gene Sarazen. He reached that final with an impressive list of vanquished foes: Leo Diegel, Al Espinosa, Paul Runyan and, in the semifinals, Jimmy Hines.

Goggin led Sarazen 1-up after the morning 18. In the afternoon 18, though, Goggin faded a bit while Sarazen blazed on. Sarazen won three of the first five holes of the afternoon 18, taking a lead he never gave back. Sarazen defeated Goggin by a 5-and-4 score. It was Sarazen's third PGA Championship and the seventh of his eight career wins in majors.

That tournament was only Goggin's second appearance in a major, the first coming in the 1929 U.S. Open. After reaching the final in the 1933 PGA, he then finished in the Top 10 at the 1933 U.S. Open. Goggin had eight Top 10 finishes overall in major championships.

Next-best for him was a tie for fourth place in the 1940 Masters. He also tied ninth in the 1941 Masters. Goggin reached the quarterfinals of the 1944 PGA Championship, losing to eventual champ Byron Nelson. And in the 1952 British Open, Goggin, then 46 years old, was the highest-finishing American with a tie for ninth place.

Goggin also has the distinction of making just the second hole-in-one in Masters Tournament history. He aced the 16th hole in the second Masters in 1935.

More About Willie Goggin

Willie Goggin got into golf as a caddie at Ingleside Country Club in San Francisco. He was only 16 years when he turned pro in 1922 and began earning money giving lessons.

By 1929, Goggin made his major championship debut, and in the early 1930s he started challenging on the pro tour. In 1933, Goggin looked like a golfer ready to break out: He was second to Gene Sarazen in the PGA Championship and ninth in the U.S. Open.

That breakout never happened — Goggin never won an official PGA Tour event. His two wins in the Northern California Open, back-to-back in 1935-36, were notable at the time, though. And he won the 1944 Metropolitan PGA Championship, another big regional tournament, in an 18-hole playoff over Herman Barron and Frank Strazza. Goggin was also runner-up in the Met PGA in 1950.

If first place was unfamiliar to Goggin on the PGA Tour, second place he knew quite well. He frequently almost won a tour event.

He was second in the 1934 Columbus Open, the 1935 Agua Caliente Open (behind Henry Picard), the 1935 Western Open (to Johnny Revolta), and the 1935 Southern California Open. Goggin was runner-up in the 1937 Pennsylvania Open and, by one stroke to Sam Snead, in the 1937 St. Paul Open. In fact, he was second three times, by one stroke each time, in the St. Paul Open, also finishing runner-up in 1938 and 1940.

In match-play PGA Tour tournaments, Goggin twice reached the championship match of the San Francisco National Match Play Open. In 1936, he lost to Willie Hunter, 4 and 2; and in 1940 he was beaten by Jimmy Demart, 2 and 1. And with partner Ben Hogan, Goggin reached the championship match of 1938 Miami International Four-Ball before losing to Ky Laffoon/Dick Metz.

So although Goggin didn't post any PGA Tour wins, he was a familiar name and face on tour with a solid career.

In his 1989 The History of the PGA Tour (affiliate link), golf journalist Al Barkow developed a point system to produce season-by-season player rankings. Despite never winning on tour, Goggin was a consistent-enough performer that he ranked in Barkow's Top 25 for multiple PGA Tour seasons: 22nd in 1934, 24th in 1937, 18th in 1938, 19th in 1940, 16th in 1942, eighth in 1943, ninth in 1944, 25th in 1945.

Goggin reached age 50 in 1956. At the time, the biggest tournament for senior (50-and-over) golfers was the PGA Seniors' Championship, today known as the Senior PGA Championship.

Goggin tied for third in that tournament in 1957, and also finished in the Top 10 in 1960. But in 1959, Goggin won it while having what, at the time, was about as good a senior season as it was possible for a golfer to have.

At the 1959 Senior PGA, Goggin won despite playing with a borrowed set of woods. His 284 total was one stroke better than a trio to runners-up that included major winners Paul Runyan and Denny Shute.

Goggin also won the 1959 U.S. National Senior Open (not to be confused with today's U.S. Senior Open, which was first played in 1980) in a playoff against Olin Dutra and Smiley Quick. It was his second-consecutive win in that event, which was probably second only to the Senior PGA in prestige at the time.

And as Senior PGA champ, Goggin got to head to England for what was essentially an exhibition match, albeit one that was called a "world championship." The World Senior Championship pitted the winner of the PGA Seniors' Championship against the winner of the British PGA Seniors Championship. And Goggin won the 1959 event, 5 and 3 over Arthur Lees.

Goggin closed out the year by making his final appearance in a major championship at the 1959 British Open.

Throughout his career as a tour player, Goggin also worked as a club professional. At the time of his 1933 PGA Championship run, Goggin was head professional at Sharp's Park Golf Course in San Mateo, California. In the 1940s he went to Century Country Club in Harrison, New York. In 1951 it was on to Upper Montclair (N.J.) Country Club, and, a few years later, back to California at Riverside Country Club in Coyote.

In 1960, Goggin was named head professional was what today is known as the French Lick Resort in Indiana. In 1960 the 36-hole facility was known as the French Lick Sheraton Hotel courses. Goggin remained there until his retirement 10 years later.

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Barkow, Al. The History of the PGA Tour, 1989, Doubleday.
Brenner, Morgan. The Majors of Golf, Volume 2, 2009, McFarland and Company.
French Lick Resort. "1924 PGA Championship,"
Gianelli, Frank. "Robust Willie Still Hungry," Arizona Republic, November 20, 1963.
Gibson, Nevin H. The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1964, A.S. Barnes and Company.
PGA of America. Senior PGA Championship Media Guide, 2018.
San Mateo (Calif.) Times. "San Matean's P.G.A. Quest Ends in Final," August 14, 1933.
Scharff, Robert. Golf Magazine's The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1970, Harper and Row.

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