The Origin of the Modern Majors

golf 101 smallWhat is the origin of the modern majors in golf?

When Bobby Jones had his unparalleled year in 1930, he won the four biggest tournaments of his day: The US Amateur, the US Open, the British Amateur and the British Open Championship. It was a shocking achievement that made Jones a sports hero on a par with Babe Ruth—greater even, for the Babe never got a ticker tape parade in New York.

People struggled for words to describe the event. Atlanta Journal sports writer O.B. Keeler, Jones’ unofficial biographer and publicist, dubbed it the “Grand Slam,” borrowing not from baseball, but from a bridge term.

It must be remembered that, at that time, tournament golf was as much an amateur’s game as a pro’s. Walter Hagen may have been the only man at the time making a full time living playing tournament golf (as opposed to working as a club pro) .

So in 1960, after having won the Masters and US Open, Arnold Palmer was asked about Jones’ achievement by Pittsburgh sports writer Bob Drum on the plane flight to England where Palmer was to play in the Open Championship. Drum apparently lamented the fact that Palmer could not match Jones’ achievement because golf now was a pro’s game and not an amateur’s. No one would ever win the Amateur and Open national championships again.

Palmer then speculated that in the age of the professional, a more realistic Grand Slam would be the Masters, the US Open, the Open Championship (British Open) and the PGA Championship.

Palmer lost on the Old Course by a single stroke to Australia’s Kel Nagle.

But the dream had been indelibly etched into the mind of the golfing public.


Originally published July 15, 2013

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2 thoughts on “The Origin of the Modern Majors”

  1. “Kel” Nagle was his name not Ken
    Kelvin David George “Kel” Nagle

    Kel Nagle also finished second to Gary Player in the 1965 US Open, losing to him in a playoff!


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