Quick, if I was to ask you to list the best golfers of all time, what names would populate your mind? Guys like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer would likely come up. But before Tiger, before Jack and before Arnold, there was Gene. Throughout the 20s and 30s Sarazen was one of the most dominant golfers on the planet.
At the age of 10, Sarazen took up caddying at local golf courses in New York and eventually began playing the game himself, and was self-taught. From his mid-teens, he continued hard to work on his game, and boy did it ever work. He turned heads all over the world when in 1922 (at the ripe old age of 20) he won both the U.S Open and the PGA Championship. These two major wins as a 20 year old turned him into a massive star. While he eventually returned to reality, he still enjoyed an extremely successful career in the sport.
In total for his career, Sarazen took home 39 PGA tour wins (7 of those being Masters) and is one of only five players to have won each and every major. Despite his 5’5 stature, Sarazen had more power in his shots than almost anyone on tour, with accuracy to boot. In fact, at the age of 71, Sarazen actually made a hole in one at the 1973 Open Championship.
In addition to his great play on the course, his influence on the game can be felt far beyond it. Sarazen (along with his rivals Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen) were the most dominant players of the era and all had a significant influence on the expanded interest in golf all around the world. Also, if you are ever stuck in the sand during a round of golf and reach for a sand wedge, you have Gene Sarazen to thank for it. That’s right, Sarazen invtened the modern sand wedge and first debuted it at the The Open Championship in 1932 (which he won).
As you can see, his resume and contribution to the sport is definitely that of an all-time great, but there is another (perhaps more famous) reason why he is so well known and beloved in the golf community. And this reason is the “shot heard ‘round the world”, which is one of the most famous shots of all time and helped put the Masters tournament on the map.
It was the Par 5 15th hole at the Masters, and Sarazen drilled a 235 yard shot with a 4 wood that found its way into the hole. This gave him the extremely rare double eagle 2 on the hole, and he is one of only four players to every hit a double eagle 2 at the Masters. He was able to make up three strokes in one swing and went on to win the Masters that year, in a 36 hole playoff, making it one of the best Master’s tournament ever.