Golfer E.J. 'Dutch' Harrison Biography

Dutch Harrison had a 19-year span of winning on the PGA Tour that stretched from 1939 to 1958. He won nearly 20 tour titles, nearly 30 pro tournaments total. But Harrison never won a major, and today is usually included high on rankings of golfers without a major championship title. He was famous in his time for his prowess in gambling matches.

Full name: Ernest Joseph Harrison

Date of birth: March 29, 1910

Place of birth: Conway, Arkansas

Date and place of death: June 19, 1982, in St. Louis, Missouri

Nicknames: Dutch, The Arkansas Traveler

His Biggest Wins

Dutch Harrison is credited with 18 official PGA Tour victories: He also won the 1955 White Sulpher Springs Open and 1957 Greenbrier Invitational, two events associated with the tour but not official-money tournaments.

Harrison also won the 1952 Ampol Tournament in Australia and the 1952 Havana Invitational in Cuba. In addition, he had several wins in state PGA tournaments:

  • 1940 Illinois PGA Championship
  • 1942 Illinois PGA Championship
  • 1947 Delaware Open
  • 1950 California State Open
  • 1952 Northern California Open
As a senior golfer, Harrison won the U.S. National Senior Open in 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1966.

In the Majors

Harrison never won a major, and he usually turns up on those "best golfers who never won a major" lists. In fact, his 18 PGA Tour wins are fifth-most for any golfer without a major championship win.

His best finish in a major was tied for third, which Harrison accomplished in the 1939 PGA Championship and 1960 U.S. Open. In the 1939 PGA, match play at the time, he lost in the semifinals to eventual champ Byron Nelson. In the 1960 U.S. Open, when he was 50 years old, Harrison finished three strokes behind winner Arnold Palmer.

Perhaps Harrison's best shot at winning a major was the 1950 U.S. Open. He was the 36-hole leader and was one off the lead following the third round. But in the final round he scored 76 and finished solo fourth, one stroke out of a 3-man playoff (Ben Hogan was the winner).

At the 1954 Masters, Harrison had the lead after the first round. But then he shot 79 in Round 2. A 68 in the final round moved him into a tied-fourth-place finish, two strokes out of a playoff.

Harrison had nine Top 10 finishes total in majors. In addition to those already mentioned, he tied seventh in both the 1941 U.S. Open and 1942 Masters; tied 10th in the 1946 U.S. Open; and reached the Round of 16 (tied ninth) in the PGA Championships of 1946 and 1954.

Harrison is one of only six golfers in U.S. Open history ever disqualified for teeing off early. The 1940 U.S. Open, as was the norm at the time, ended with the third and fourth rounds both played on the final day. After finishing the third round, Harrison and five others, rather than waiting for the scheduled fourth-round starting time, went ahead and teed off, hoping to beat incoming rain storms. The USGA disqualified all six.

Harrison first played in a major at the 1936 U.S. Open, and last in the 1971 U.S. Open. He last made the cut in the 1967 U.S. Open at age 57.

More About Dutch Harrison

E.J. "Dutch" Harrison was much-admired among his peers on the PGA Tour, and many of them thought he should have won more than he did. (Just remember that 18 wins on tour is a good number — in the 2020s, still fewer than 50 golfers had reached that win total).

He was also among the most-popular players, with an understated sense of humor and folksy way of relating to others. The authors of a 1975 biographical encyclopedia of golf said that once, while golfing with the Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VII), Harrison "slapped the (duke) on the back and exclaimed, 'Attaboy, Dukie!'"

As he grew older, Harrison became one of the tour's best raconteurs, and younger golfers loved to sit in the locker room and listen to his stories. But younger golfers were also his targets in another of his interests: winning money.

Byron Nelson once explained: "We also used to kid Dutch because he'd always get a (money) game with a couple of new players in practice rounds. He didn't practice with Hogan or Snead. He'd say, 'Those kids need some seasoning'."

Sam Snead and Tommy Bolt liked to tell stories about Harrison's "shot-softening act," in Snead's words, when he played younger golfers for money.

"He was a master of the soft shot," Bolt explained. "It'd look like he knocked the blood out of a 1-iron and it'd flutter out there 165 yards and die next to the hole. He made it look so good the guy he was playing would bust a 2-iron, and he'd have to call a taxi to take him to his ball."

Snead, in his book The Education of a Golfer (affiliate link), wrote that "Dutch Harrison, the Arkansas Traveler, never went in much for needles, but he had a disguised, shot-softening act that threw more opponents into a faint than anything since Walter Hagen's time." Snead then described the same thing as Bolt, ending by saying that Harrison's foe would "plow right over the green and everything behind it," tricked by Harrison into hitting much more club than needed.

Harrison's short game was esteemed enough that he wrote the chapter on the pitch-and-run in the 1960 golf instruction book Pro Pointers and Stroke Savers (affiliate link). And short-game wizard Paul Runyan once said that Harrison was the best he'd ever seen at getting up and down out of thick, greenside rough.

His long game was more about versatility with every club rather than greatness with any one club. In the book Bringing the Monster to Its Knees (affiliate link), author Ed Gruver wrote of Harrison:

"Harrison's skill with a golf club allowed him any shot he desired. Asked once what club to use to hit a certain type of shot, Harrison grabbed his 5-iron and executed a series of shots that varied from a soft lob that traveled 80 yards to a drive that flew more than 200 yards."
Harrison got into the game as a caddie at Little Rock (Ark.) Country Club in the mid-1920s. He started playing golf left-handed and won a local tournament, but switched to right-handed after two years. And just two years after that, in 1929, he won a state amateur tournament in Arkansas. In 1930, Harrison turned pro.

Harrison played tournaments here and there during the early and mid-1930s, and worked at several clubs during the time. (His "Arkansas Traveler" nickname stemmed from his propensity to change club pro jobs frequently.)

He first tried play a full season of tour golf in 1937. His PGA Tour breakout year was 1939, when he won once, finished second once and third twice, and posted 15 Top 10 finishes. That first career PGA Tour victory happened in the 1939 Bing Crosby Pro-Am. It was just 36 holes at the time, but Harrison beat Byron Nelson and Horton Smith by a stroke.

Harrison didn't win again on the PGA circuit until 1944, in part because he spent three years as an Army Air Corps staff sergeant during World War II. (He still managed to play in tour events during the war except for 1943, when the tour was mostly shut down.)

After the war, Harrison became a consistent winner on tour. For the period 1944-58, he posted wins in 11 out of 15 years. He had three victories in each of 1947 and 1955. He reached 20 Top 10 finishes in both 1946 and 1948.

While Harrison never won a major, he did have big wins. His most-important tournament victories included the Texas Open in 1939 and 1951; the Canadian Open in 1949; and, in 1953, both the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach and the Western Open. His final PGA Tour victory was in Mexico at the 1958 Tijuana Open (better remembered as the Agua Caliente Open).

He won the Vardon Trophy in 1954, leading the tour in scoring average.

Harrison's best finish on the tour's season-ending money list was sixth, which he recorded in both 1949 and 1953. He finished eighth in 1948, ninth in 1950 and 10th in 1946. But Harrison always supplemented his tournament income with exhibitions and with money matches against fellow pros or anyone else who wanted to challenge him. He sometimes claimed (or others claimed on his behalf) that he won more money that way than by tournament play. This led to yet another nickname: Harrison was sometimes referred to as "golf's unofficial money leader."

Harrison was part of Team USA in the Ryder Cup three times with an overall match record of two wins, one loss. In the 1947 Ryder Cup, Harrison defeated Fred Daly in singles, 5 and 4. In the 1949 Ryder Cup, Harrison and partner Johnny Palmer lost in foursomes. But in singles, Harrison beat Max Faulkner, 8 and 7. Harrison was named to the squad again for the 1951 Ryder Cup, but did not play any matches that year.

The 1989 book The History of the PGA Tour (affiliate link), written by sports journalist Al Barkow on behalf of the tour, credited Harrison with 18 career wins on the tour, 21 second-place finishes, 24 third-place finishes, and 213 Top 10 finishes. A statistical formula developed by Barkow (one that certainly would be argued over and picked over today) rated Harrison (through 1989) as the 16th-best golfer in PGA Tour history, and the eighth-best PGA Tour golfer of the 1946-59 period.

Today, one never hears Harrison discussed as one of the tour's greats, because today we put far more emphasis on the major championships. And Harrison never won one. After Harrison's death, Ben Hogan said, "He was a heckuva good golfer, and I might say he didn't win as much as he should have. I thought he was a lot better player than his record showed. He should have won more of the major tournaments."

Harrison's last Top 25 finish in a PGA Tour event was in the 1969 Canadian Open at age 59.

As a senior golfer, Harrison won the U.S. National Senior Open (not to be confused with today's U.S. Senior Open, which the USGA launched only in 1980) in 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1966. He did not, though, win the biggest senior title of the era (and one of the five senior majors today), the Senior PGA Championship. Harrison finished runner-up twice in the Senior PGA, in 1962 and 1966.

A "who's who" book published in 1976 noted that Harrison, in his later years, "became a commentator on televised golf and watchers may still recall his Arkansas accent and form of address: 'Mistah Bob'."

Harrison suffered a stroke in 1973, but continued working another year. He retired from his club pro job in 1974. He was 72 years old when he died of heart failure in 1982.

In 1991, actor and comedian Bob Hope wrote the foreward for a biography of Harrison. The book, by author Beach Leighton, was titled, Mr. Dutch: The Arkansas Traveler (affiliate link).

A partial list of clubs where Harrison worked as head professional over the years includes West Shore Country Club in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and Country Club of York (Pa.); Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri; Olympic Club in San Francisco; plus clubs in Illinois and Oklahoma. In 1964 he became pro at Forest Hills in St. Louis, and he remained at that club until his retirement and in St. Louis until his death.

Harrison is a member of the PGA of America Hall of Fame, Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame, Gateway PGA Hall of Fame and Philadelphia Section PGA Hall of Fame.

From 1950 through her death in 1972, Harrison was married to the former Thelma Akana. Akana Harrison was a native Hawaiian who had served as a senator in the Hawaii Territorial Legislature, prior to statehood. She was the first-ever woman to win re-election to that legislature.

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Alliss, Peter. The Who's Who of Golf, 1983, Orbis Publishing.
Associated Press. "Dutch Harrison, Golfer, Dies; Member of the Hall of Fame," New York Times, June 20, 1982,
Barkow, Al. The History of the PGA Tour, 1989, Doubleday.
Elliott, Len, and Kelly, Barbara. Who's Who in Golf, 1976, Arlington House Publishers.
Forest Hills Country Club. "Our Story," Dutch Harrison,
Goldom. "Harrison, Dutra Elected to PGA Hall of Fame," October 9, 1962.
Gruver, Ed. Bringing the Monster to Its Knees, 2021, Lyons Press.
King, George. "Harrison Takes Senior Golf," Las Vegas Sun, October 3, 1966.
PGA of America. Senior PGA Championship 2018 Media Guide.
PGA Tour. 1981 Senior PGA Tour Media Guide, Harrison, E.J. "Dutch."
Scharff, Robert. Golf Magazine's The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1970, Harper and Row.
Snead, Sam, and Stump, Al. The Education of a Golfer, 1962, Simon and Schuster.
Sommers, Robert T. Golf Anecdotes, 1995, Oxford University Press.
Steel, Donald, and Ryde, Peter. The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1975, The Viking Press.
Trenham, Peter C. "A Chronicle of the Philadelphia Section PGA and its Members,"
Trinkle, Jim. "Dutch Harrison's Lifelong Pigeon Hunt," Golf Digest, June 1972. Tucson Daily Citizen. "Harrison Wins Again," UPI, November 2, 1964.

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