Cape Gazette

The 19th Hole

A giant at 5', 5.5"!

By Gene Bleile | Sep 12, 2013

If there is one thing that I have learned over the last fifteen years playing golf, it’s that being over six feet tall and weighing 210 pounds does not mean you will hit your drive consistently over 250 yards down the fairway.

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Work on fixing your slice, work on fixing your hook and forget your height and weight. That’s the correct technique that will give you a consistent drive of 275-300 yards and a chance to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame. My garage is full of trick clubs from the late nineties that promised longer, straighter drives and a low golf score. Bottom line, take a lesson and spend your money wisely, no matter your size or gender.

Case in point, a future hall of fame golfer named Eugenio Saraceni, who stood only 5 feet 5.5 inches tall as a full grown adult, took on all comers and would often outdrive other future hall of famers.

On February 7, 1902 in Harrison, New York, Eugenio was born to poor Italian immigrant parents. Like many future hall of famers, he had to drop out of grade school to go to work to help support the family. His new job of caddie at the local golf course would change his life forever.

The rest of the story

Eugenio Saraceni, who later changed his name to Gene Sarazen, loved the game of golf at an early age. At age nine, his parents gave him a used golf club for his birthday and when he wasn’t working as a caddy, Gene was determined to teach himself the game.

At age 13, he shot his first round under 70, but his young career was put on hold when his father made him get a higher paying job in a carpenter shop. After two years of bad health from working indoors, a doctor recommended that he get a job outdoors.

This turn of fortune landed him an assistant pro job back at the local golf course, and at age eighteen he turned into a full time professional golfer.  Two years later, at the tender age of twenty, he won both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship,

The next year he won the PGA Championship (again) and by 1927 he played on the first Ryder Cup team, which defeated the Europeans 9 ½ to 2 ½. In 1931, he re-invented the sand wedge to the standard we use today and in 1932 used it to help win the British Open and the U.S. Open. When he won his third U.S. Open the next year, pro golfers, as well as amateurs, began using his newly designed club.

Arguably, the greatest golf shot of his career came during his first appearance at the 1935 Masters Championship. Behind by three shots on the par five fifteenth fairway, he hit a four wood for his second shot, which travelled 235 yards and rolled into the hole for a double eagle. With that shot, he tied the tournament leader (Craig Wood) and beat him in a thirty-six hole playoff 144-149, to win his only Masters Championship.

Nicknamed “The Squire,” he became a golfing legend around the world and played competitively until 1973. (Sidebar- At age 71, Sarazen played in the 1973 British Open and hit a hole-in-one on the famed “postage stamp hole” at the Royal Toon Golf Course.)

Sarazen finished his career with 39 PGA tour wins, including seven major tournaments. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 and died in Naples, FL in 1999 at age 97.

19th hole trivia

• In 1991, Ian Woosnam won the Masters to become the shortest winner ever. (Sarazen was 5 feet 5.5 inches, while Woosnam was 5 feet 4.5 inches.)

• When Sarazen won the 1935 Masters Tournament, he became the first golfer to win the professional Grand Slam (The Masters, The U.S. Open, The British Open and The PGA Championship.)

• In 1966, he was awarded the PGA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

• In 2000, Golf Digest ranked him the 11th greatest golfer of all time.

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