Nicknamed “The Squire”, Gene Sarazen will go down in history as one of the world’s top golf players. Renowned for his golfing chops, not to mention his knickers, he’s fondly remembered and celebrated by other professional players and golfing enthusiasts alike.
So in his honor, we’ve compiled together ten facts you should know about Gene Sarazen. Read on below and enjoy!
He Was Very Sickly As a Child
Sarazen didn’t have it easy growing up. Born to poor Sicilian immigrants, he was very frail as a kid. In fact, he almost died of pneumonia at one point! Luckily, he managed to pull through thanks to some doctors.
To prevent future health complications, doctors recommended he spend more time outdoors to strengthen his lungs. Little did the doctors know that their advice would help give birth to Sarazen’s passion for golf.
He Initially Planned to Be a Farmer
Gene Sarazen earned his nickname “The Squire” for a peculiar reason. Back then, golf wasn’t as popular in the US as it is in Britain. So naturally, Sarazen didn’t think too highly of the sport during that time. Instead, he bought a farm and prepared himself to live a life as a farmer.
Now people used to call farm owners squires during that era. As Sarazen became increasingly popular during his golfing career, fans and other players began dubbing him “The Squire” for his earlier farming endeavors.
He Taught Himself How to Play Golf
Sarazen came from a poor family, so he decided to work to help his parents make ends meet. And as luck would have it, he started out by working as a caddie for various local golf clubs. He was ten at the time.
This caddying job not only helped Sarazen financially support his family, but also introduced him to the wonders of golf. Enchanted by the sport, he began learning about it. Despite essentially being self-taught, he gradually managed to develop his skills enough to pursue a professional career. And the rest, they say, is history.
He’s One of the First Golfers to Use the Interlocking Grip
At 5 ft 5 1⁄2 in (166 cm), Sarazen is quite short-statured for a golf player. And like other short male golfers, he had to deal with several handicaps tall players don’t have. One of these is how he holds his shorter clubs.
To match the swing torque and ball speeds of his taller rivals, Sarazen opted to hold his clubs using the interlocking grip. He was one of the first golfers to regularly adopt this grip style, which was considered unorthodox at the time. And thanks to it, he managed to become one of the longest hitters of his era.
He Always Wears Knickers While Golfing
Every golfer has his or her own quirks, and Sarazen is no exception. Throughout his career, he appeared on tours and matches wearing knickers. Also known as plus-fours or breeches, knickers have been around since the 17th century. Easy to put on and quite comfortable, golfers and other sportsmen have taken a liking to it during the 19th century.
Anyway, Gene Sarazen’s knack of wearing knickers every game became one of his most endearing habits. Even today, many golfers still follow Sarazen’s example, donning a pair of breeches to optimize their play.
He Made “the Shot Heard ‘Round the World”
For many golfers, all it takes is one swing to define their career. Sarazen made his mark in golfing history by making the “the shot heard ’round the world”.
It was during the final round of the Masters Tournament in 1935. At the time Sarazen was behind Craig Wood by three shots. But then, he managed to pull off a double eagle by striking a spoon 232 yards into the hole. This allowed him to tie with Wood until the 36-hole playoff, where he emerged victorious by five shots.
Today, this double eagle remains one of the most famous golf swings in golf history, and no other player has replicated or beaten it. The Sarazen Bridge at the Augusta National Golf Club was named in its honor.
He’s The First Ever Career Grand Slam Golfer
Completing the Career Grand Slam is no mean feat, especially since it involves winning all the major golfing tournaments within one’s career. As of this year, there are only five male golfers who managed to pull it off. These are Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Gene Sarazen.
Though he only managed to complete it once, Sarazen’s Career Grand Slam is notable because he’s the first one to pull it off. He won the Masters Tournament in 1935, the U.S. Open in 1922 and 1932, the Open Championship in 1932, and the PGA Championship in 1922, 1923, and 1933.
He Allegedly Invented the Modern Sand Wedge
Like certain other professional golfers, Sarazen has his own controversial moments. One of these is his claim that he invented the modern sand wedge. Calling it the sand iron, he whipped out this club at 1932 The Open Championship in 1932.
Sarazen had apparently struggled with his sand play in previous games, so he decided to weld solder on the lower back of one of his clubs. This gave the club additional weight and power, allowing Sarazen to punch it through thick sand more easily.
Sarazen’s claim is disputed by many people who claim that it was Edwin Kerr McClain who actually invented the modern sand wedge (he patented a similar club in 1928). At any rate, Sarazen’s (or McClain’s) wedge design and technique has been subsequently adopted by other players today.
He Was Rivals With Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen
During the 1920s, golf in the US was mostly dominated by three players: Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, and Gene Sarazen. To this day, their rivalry is a hot topic among professional and amateur golfers. And some of the match-ups are remembered fondly by many experts.
Additionally, this three-way rivalry helped pave the way for the US to become a dominant golf country (more on this in a bit). And thanks to their performances, various sporting goods flocked to Sarazen, Jones, and Hagen to ask them for their endorsements.
He Helped Make the US a Dominant Golf Power
During the 20th century, golf wasn’t as popular in the US as it is in the UK. Despite the sport being introduced as early as 1739, it was only during the 1800s when golf became a mainstream sport in the US.
Thanks to Sarazen, Jones, and Hagen, golf became more popular in the US. In fact, they promoted the sport so well that the country eventually became the leading golf power in the world. Aside from helping found many of the tournaments and clubs, they also helped design many drivers, putters, and other equipment used today.
Play Golf Like Gene Sarazen
To become a better golfer, you need to get to know better players. By reading the facts about Gene Sarazen above, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of his play style, mindset, and what-not. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to gradually improve your game.
If you’re resolving to play like Gene Sarazen today, then type “I’ll play like Sarazen!” in the comments section below. Oh, and for sticking with us until the end, here’s a bonus:
BONUS: His Actual Name is Eugenio Saraceni
Born to Sicilian parents, Gene Sarazen was initially christened Eugenio Saraceni. However, as he embarked on his professional golfing career, he decided to Anglify his name. He argued that Gene Sarazen is excellent for a golfer than Eugenio Saraceni (which he thinks is a better name for a violinist).