Little Bits of History

United States Open Championship

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 4, 2015
Horace Rawlins

Horace Rawlins

October 4, 1895: The first United States Open Championship is held at Newport Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island. The modern game of golf originated in Scotland in the 1400s although there is a game called paganica which was played by the Romans. They had a bent stick and hit a stuffed leather ball. A similar type of game was played in China between the 8th and 14th centuries. That game had people with curved sticks hitting a ball into a hole in the ground. There were a number of other games of similar intent played on the continent, but the modern game came from Scotland. It was so popular King James II banned it in order to keep his knights off the courses and practicing their archery skills. James IV lifted the ban in 1504, as he was also a player.

The majors or the four most important games played by professionals each year, began with two British and two American games, the Open and Amateur Championships in Britain and the US Open and US Amateur. The Masters Tournament was introduced in 1934 and the popularity of professional golf increased throughout the 1940s and 50s. The four major tournaments became the Masters, the US Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. It is imprecise to give an exact year this shifted, but Arnold Palmer’s 1960 season is a possible start.

The first US Open, played on this day, was a 36-hole competition with just a single day of play. There were ten professionals and one amateur entered. The Open was won by 21-year-old Horace Rawlins of England. He had come to the US in January to take a position at the host club. His prize was $150 (out of a total prize fund of $335) and a $50 gold medal. His club was able to display the Open Championship Cup trophy after it was presented by the USGA. The Open was dominated by Brits until the 1911 competition when John McDermott became the first American to win the prize. He was also the youngest to ever win the open at the age of 19 years, 10 months, and 14 days.

The venue for the Championship changes each year. Most of the winners since 1911 have been Americans with only six other countries taking the top prize. The reason for this may be the pervasive nature of the game in the US. There were slightly more than 35,000 golf courses in the world in 2008 and half of them were in the US. The next highest country was the UK with 8%. The top ten countries in the world account for 83% of the courses with the rest of the world having just 17%. The 2015 US Open was played over four days in June at Chambers Bay located in the state of Washington. Jordan Spieth, a 21-year-old from Dallas, Texas won the Championship by a single stroke. His prize for winning was $1,800,000 of the total of $10 million purse.

Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character. – Arnold Palmer

I know I am getting better at golf because I am hitting fewer spectators. – Gerald R. Ford

Relax? How can anybody relax and play golf? You have to grip the club don’t you? – Ben Hogan

Golf is a day spent in a round of strenuous idleness. – William Wordsworth

Also on this day: Russian Surprise – In 1957, Sputnik I was launched.
Larger Than Life – In 1927, Gutzon Borglum began work on Mount Rushmore.
Thrust2 – In 1983, a new land speed record was set – over 1,000 km/h.
Smarten Up – In 1876, Texas A&M began holding classes.
The Orient Express – In 1883, the Orient Express lines increased.

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