Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course, which is set to host its sixth U.S. Open this week, is one of golf’s iconic venues. Described as a “temple to the spirit of golf” and a course where “one slip can be fatal,” it’s not surprising that some of the most dramatic moments in the championship’s history have occurred over its hallowed grounds. To honor the 120th playing of the U.S. Open, the USGA Golf Museum and Library brings these past battles and triumphs to life with the following artifacts from its collections.
Bob Jones’ Putter, Calamity Jane II
Calamity Jane II, Bob Jones’ famous putter, played a major role in Jones’ victory in the 1929 U.S. Open. After a triple bogey on No. 15 in the final round, Jones came to the 18th hole needing a par to tie Al Espinosa and force a playoff. Pressure mounted when Jones missed the green and his chip left him a tricky 12-foot downhill slider. With crowds pressed around the green, Jones made what writer Grantland Rice coined, “Golf’s Greatest Putt.” Using Calamity Jane II, Jones sank the putt to avoid an epic collapse. It is still considered by many the most dramatic moment in Winged Foot history. Jones would go on to defeat Al Espinosa by 23 strokes in the 36-hole playoff, winning his third U.S. Open and seventh USGA championship.
Jones donated Calamity Jane II, used during 10 of his 13 major-championship victories, including the Grand Slam in 1930, to the USGA in 1938. It is considered the Museum’s first major acquisition and set the stage for more than 80 years of champions entrusting their legacies to the USGA.
Bob Jones’ Gold Medal, 1929 U.S. Open
Emblematic of a champion’s U.S. Open victory is the gold medal awarded to him along with custody of the U.S. Open Trophy for one year. On permanent display in the USGA Museum is the complete collection of Robert T. Jones’ l major-championship medals from 1919 to 1930, including the champion’s medal from the 1929 U.S. Open along with his Grand Slam medals from 1930. Jones donated them to the USGA in 1969 and they remain a testament to his incredibly prolific competitive career.
Billy Casper’s Putter, 1959 U.S. Open
Billy Casper’s putting was the defining factor of his victorious performance in the 1959 U.S. Open. Needing only 114 putts over 72 holes, including 31 one-putts with just one three-putt, Casper’s ability to read the challenging Winged Foot greens set him apart from the competition. Although intense rain, lightning and strong winds plagued the final round, Casper consistently converted missed greens into pars with the putter now included in the Museum’s collection. On the 68th hole, Casper’s 10-foot birdie putt gave him a three-stroke cushion and prompted Herbert Warren Wind to call him “The Man with the Devastating Putter” in his recap of the championship. Casper donated the Golfcraft Caliente Frank Johnston Model putter to the Museum in 1960.
Billy Casper’s Golf Ball, 1959 U.S. Open
The Museum collection includes hundreds of golf balls marking significant championship moments, such as the Wilson Staff golf ball used by Billy Casper during his run to the 1959 U.S. Open title. The 28-year-old outlasted some of the era’s defining figures, including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer, in addition to runner-up Bob Rosburg, who posted a blistering third-round 67 and finished one stroke behind Casper. Casper’s coolness and no-nonsense demeanor would carry him to a second U.S. Open title in 1966.
Hale Irwin’s Wedge, 1974 U.S. Open
This Wilson Staff Dyna-Power wedge was used by Hale Irwin as he battled Winged Foot’s contoured greens and architect A.W. Tillinghast’s trademark high-walled kidney-shaped bunkers in what sportswriter Dick Schaap dubbed the “Massacre at Winged Foot” in 1974. Irwin summed up how he conquered a course that seemed unconquerable following his final round: “When it really got tough, I played my best.” His performance on the 71st and 72nd holes confirmed his assessment: Irwin made two pars, sinking a 10-foot putt on No. 17 and hitting a solid 2-iron approach on No. 18 for a two-shot victory over Forrest Fezler. Irwin’s 7-over-par total of 287 was the highest winning U.S. Open score in more than a decade and has not been exceeded since. Irwin donated his wedge to the Museum in 1974.
Yardage Guide, 1974 U.S. Open
This caddie booklet was donated to the USGA Museum and Library by Kevin McCarthy, who used it while caddieing for Bert Yancey in the 1974 U.S. Open. At that time, contestants were required to use caddies provided by the host club unless there was a limited supply. In 1974 there was some variation: champion Hale Irwin had a local 16-year-old carry his clubs, while Jack Nicklaus’ longtime caddie, Angelo Argea, was on his bag. McCarthy recalled that his name was pulled out of a cap by Yancey, who would eventually finish third.
With the daunting West Course presenting an arduous challenge to the world’s best players, the hand-drawn diagrams of each hole with yardages paced out for important course features would have been of welcome assistance to Yancey.
Ticket, 1984 U.S. Open
This colorful grounds and clubhouse ticket from the 1984 U.S. Open represents the fan experience on-site at Winged Foot. Several past U.S. Open champions were in contention at the start of the final round, with Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, David Graham and Johnny Miller all positioned near the top of the leader board. As the afternoon continued, excited spectators followed eventual champion Fuzzy Zoeller and 1974 U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin in the final grouping. Sportswriters dubbed the fans “Zoeller’s zealots” for their dedicated and exuberant behavior. Zoeller, known for his charismatic and emotional performances, did not disappoint. The back-and-forth drama between Greg Norman and Zoeller over the final two holes was punctuated by the latter waving a white towel in surrender to what he believed was a birdie putt by Norman. Norman’s long par putt and Zoeller’s routine par forced an 18-hole playoff the following day. On Monday, Zoeller claimed victory by eight strokes with a 67, the lowest score recorded in a U.S. Open playoff.
Geoff Ogilvy’s Hat, 2006 U.S. Open
Before hoisting the U.S. Open Trophy as the 2006 champion, Geoff Ogilvy lifted his hat. After making his final putt on the 72nd hole, Ogilvy acknowledged the crowd and a battle well fought against a difficult course and stiff competition. However, at that point, Phil Mickelson was still in contention, so Ogilvy’s victory was no sure thing. Mickelson’s disastrous double-bogey 6 on No. 18 – immediately preceded by Colin Montgomerie’s 6 on the closing hole – secured Ogilvy’s victory by one stroke over Mickelson, Monty and Jim Furyk is remembered as one of the most shocking finishes in U.S. Open history. Ogilvy said following the championship: “It’s pretty hard to believe. Obviously, you dream about winning major championships, and to actually have it happen… It’s starting to sink in.” Ogilvy donated his hat to the Museum in 2006.
Geoff Ogilvy’s Final-Round Scorecard, 2006 U.S. Open
Geoff Ogilvy’s final-round scorecard from the 2006 U.S. Open shows his unwavering consistency over a course designed to test the world’s best players. Though his drives brought the heavy rough into play on several holes, Ogilvy avoided disastrous situations through solid course management and cool-headed decision-making to become the second Australian to win the U.S. Open. Described as a player who fights for every shot, Ogilvy’s 2-over-par 72 included a chip-in for par on No. 17 after his first two shots found the rough.
Victoria Nenno is the senior historian for the USGA Museum and Library. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.