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Harry Vardon

Harry Vardon
— Golfer —
Vardon, circa 1908–1914
Personal information
Full name Henry William Vardon[1]
Nickname Harry
Born (1870-05-09)9 May 1870
Grouville, Jersey,
Channel Islands
Died 20 March 1937(1937-03-20) (aged 66)
Whetstone, London
Nationality  Jersey
Spouse Jessie Bryant (d. 1946)[1]
Turned professional 1890
Professional wins 62
Best results in major championships
(Wins: 7)
U.S. Open Won: 1900
The Open Championship Won: 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1974 (member page)
Fred McLeod and Vardon at the 1913 U.S. Open

Henry William "Harry" Vardon (9 May 1870 – 20 March 1937) was a professional golfer from the Bailiwick of Jersey. He was a member of the fabled Great Triumvirate of the sport in his day, along with John Henry Taylor and James Braid. Vardon won The Open Championship a record six times[2] and also won the 1900 U.S. Open.[3][4]


  • Early years 1
  • World's best player 2
  • Tours United States and Canada 3
  • Twice runner-up in U.S. Opens 4
  • Overcomes tuberculosis 5
  • Death and legacy 6
  • Vardon Grip 7
  • Performance in the U.S. Open 8
  • Media depictions 9
  • Tournament wins (62) 10
  • Major championships 11
    • Wins (7) 11.1
    • Results timeline 11.2
  • Bibliography 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15

Early years

Born in Grouville, Jersey, Channel Islands, Vardon did not play much golf as a youngster, but showed natural talent for the sport as a young caddie in his teens. Harry and his brother Tom Vardon, younger by two years and also interested in golf, were very close. Their golf development was held back by poor family circumstances; and their father was not supportive of his sons' golf interest. Tom actually made the move from Jersey to England first, to pursue a golf career. Harry followed Tom to England in the spring of 1890, taking a job as greenkeeper at age 20, at Ganton Golf Club, in Yorkshire. Harry was the better player of the two brothers. By his early 20s, Harry developed a demanding practice program, the most ambitious seen to that time. He was the first professional golfer to play in knickerbockers – discarding the "proper" dress of an Englishman in an uncomfortable shirt and tie with a buttoned jacket.[5]

World's best player

Within a few years he became golf's first superstar since the days of Young Tom Morris. In 1896, Vardon won the first of his record six Open Championships (a record that still stands today). Vardon had great rivalries with James Braid and J.H. Taylor, who each won five Open Championships; together the three formed the 'Great Triumvirate', and dominated worldwide golf from the mid-1890s to the mid-1910s. These rivalries enormously increased the public's interest in golf.

Tours United States and Canada

He became golf's first international celebrity in 1900 when he toured the United States and Canada, together with Taylor. Vardon played in more than 80 matches and capped it off with a victory in the U.S. Open, where Taylor was second. Vardon wrote that while on this tour, he lost only two matches[6] while playing head-to-head against a single opponent, and both were against the Boston professional Bernard (Ben) Nicholls,[7] older brother of Gilbert Nicholls; the Nicholls brothers had recently emigrated from the British Isles.

Twice runner-up in U.S. Opens

Vardon was the runner-up at his next U.S. Open in 1913, an event portrayed in the film The Greatest Game Ever Played. He toured North America with Ted Ray that year, as he did once more in 1920. At the age of 50, Vardon was again the runner-up in his third and final U.S. Open appearance, in 1920.

Overcomes tuberculosis

During his career, Vardon won 62 tournaments; that was the most titles won by a single player to that juncture in golf history. He won the German Open in 1911 and the British PGA Matchplay Championship in 1912. Vardon popularised the overlapping grip that bears his name, one still used by over 90 percent of golfers. In his later years, he became a golf course architect, designing several courses in Britain, Llandrindod Wells Golf Club, Woodhall Spa and Radcliffe-on-Trent being notable examples. Following a bout with tuberculosis, he struggled with health problems for years, but turned to coaching and writing golf instruction and inspirational books.

Death and legacy

During his peak years, Vardon was known for his exceptional accuracy and control with all clubs, the greatest ever seen to that stage. However, after his comeback to the game following a prolonged absence while recovering from tuberculosis, he experienced serious problems with his short-range putting as a result of nerve damage to his right hand, and several commentators claim that he could have added to his list of majors had this disability not afflicted him.[5]

Vardon died in 1937 at the age 66, of pleurisy or possibly lung cancer,[8] at his home at 14 (now number 35) Totteridge Lane, Whetstone, London,[9][10] and is buried in St. Andrew's Church cemetery in Totteridge after a funeral service on 24 March.[1][11] That year, the PGA of America created the Vardon Trophy, now awarded annually to the player on the PGA Tour with the year's lowest adjusted scoring average. The British PGA also created the Harry Vardon Trophy which now serves as the award for the winner of the European Tour's Race to Dubai.

In 1974, Vardon was chosen as one of the initial group of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His most prestigious medals, including those from his six British Open Championships, are on display in a tribute to him at the Jersey Museum. In the annals of golf, he is considered one of the greats of the game. In 2000, Vardon was ranked as the 13th best golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.[12]

Vardon is often called "The Stylist", "Mr. Golf" and "The Icon of Golfing"; another nickname attached to him was "Greyhound".

Vardon Grip

Vardon was also well known for the Vardon Grip, or overlapping grip, the grip most popular among professional golfers. In the Vardon grip, one places the little finger of the trailing hand (the one placed lower on the club – right hand for a right-handed player) in between the index and middle finger on the leading hand (the hand that is higher on the club). The leading-hand thumb should fit in the lifeline of the trailing hand. Vardon actually took up this grip some time after Johnny Laidlay, a champion Scottish amateur player, invented it.

Performance in the U.S. Open

Statue of Vardon at the Royal Jersey Golf Club
on the Island of Jersey

Vardon played in the U.S. Open three times, 1900, 1913, and 1920. In 1900, the event was played at the Chicago Golf Club, and he won by shooting 313 (79-78-76-80). Vardon also won 70 exhibition matches that year.

In 1913 he finished in second place, losing to amateur Francis Ouimet in an 18-hole playoff necessitated by Vardon missing a 10-foot (3.0 m) putt on the final hole of regulation. Vardon shot eight-over-par 304 (75-72-78-79). Ted Ray also was in the playoff, but shot himself out of contention by shooting 78. In the playoff Vardon shot a 77 while Ouimet shot a 72. The event was played southwest of Boston at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, across the road from Ouimet's home. The golf world was shocked when Vardon and Ray lost to the 20-year-old amateur.[5]

Vardon played in the U.S. Open for the last time in 1920 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. He finished tied in second place, one stroke behind fellow Jerseyman, Ted Ray, missing a short putt on the final hole to force a playoff. Vardon shot eight-over-par 296 (74-73-71-78).

Media depictions

  • A biography of Vardon, published in 1991 and authored by his daughter-in-law, Audrey Howell, provides much intimate detail about the life of this champion.
  • English actor Stephen Dillane portrayed Vardon in director Bill Paxton's 2005 film The Greatest Game Ever Played. A book of the same name (upon which the movie was based), written by Mark Frost, goes into great detail depicting Vardon's life.
  • Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn portrayed Vardon in the 2004 film Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius.
  • Harry Vardon authored a golf instruction book, The Gist of Golf.

Tournament wins (62)

Major championships are shown in bold.

Major championships

Wins (7)

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1896 The Open Championship 4 shot deficit 83-78-78-77=316 Playoff 1 J.H. Taylor
1898 The Open Championship (2) 2 shot deficit 79-75-77-76=307 1 stroke Willie Park, Jr.
1899 The Open Championship (3) 3 shot lead 76-76-81-77=310 5 strokes Jack White
1900 U.S. Open 4 shot lead 79-78-76-80=313 2 strokes J.H. Taylor
1903 The Open Championship (4) 7 shot lead 73-77-72-78=300 6 strokes Tom Vardon
1911 The Open Championship (5) 3 shot lead 74-74-75-80=303 Playoff 2 Arnaud Massy
1914 The Open Championship (6) 2 shot deficit 73-77-78-78=306 3 strokes J.H. Taylor

1 Defeated J.H. Taylor in 36-hole playoff by 4 strokes
2 Defeated Arnaud Massy in 36-hole playoff: Massy conceded on the 35th hole

Results timeline

Vardon played in only The Open Championship and the U.S. Open.

Tournament 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
The Open Championship T23 T5 T9 1 6 1 1
Tournament 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
The Open Championship 2 2 T2 1 5 T7 3 T7 T5 T26
Tournament 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
The Open Championship T16 1 2 T3 1 NT NT NT NT NT
Tournament 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
The Open Championship T14 T23 T8 DNP DNP T17 CUT CUT T47 CUT

NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10


See also


  1. ^ a b c "Harry Henry William Vardon". Find a Grave. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "1896 Harry Vardon". The Open. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Woelfel, Rick (19 January 2011). "Harry Vardon – the one who taught us how to hold a club". Exegolf. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Scores of First Day's Golf Play". The Chicago Tribune. 5 October 1900. 
  5. ^ a b c  
  6. ^ "Vardon's Chief Matches and Records". The Tribune Almanac (1901). Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  7. ^ My Golfing Life, by Harry Vardon, 1933
  8. ^ Williams, Bill. "Harry Vardon -- A Career Record of a Champion Golfer". Retrieved 26 July 2015. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "The London Gazette, 4852 - Re: the Estate of Henry William Vardon, Deceased" (PDF). 7 July 1937. Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Funeral of Harry Vardon". The Times. 25 March 1937. p. 6. 
  12. ^ Yocom, Guy (July 2000). "50 Greatest Golfers of All Time: And What They Taught Us".  

Adapted from the article Harry Vardon, from Wikinfo, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

External links

  • Profile at golf legends
  • World Golf Hall of Fame profile
  • SoHG resources on Vardon
  • Vardon on Course Architecture
  • Bernard Darwin on the Style of Harry Vardon
  • Works by Harry Vardon at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Harry Vardon at Internet Archive
  • Harry Vardon at Find a Grave
  • Home of the Vardon Grip
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